What’s new in Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones

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NEW YORK — The world of smartphones is still largely governed by two names: Apple and Samsung. It’s been that way for years. And yet, Google is still trying to break the status quo.

Along with its first Pixel smartwatch and a new tablet that doubles as a smart home speaker, the company unveiled its $599 Pixel 7 and $899 Pixel 7 Pro smartphones in New York on Thursday. Like most phones introduced this year, these new Pixels come with unsurprising upgrades – think brighter screens and better cameras. But what’s more interesting is that Google is trying to address some of the mundane annoyances of phone life that we’ve just learned to tolerate.

Some of these new tools are intended to help you spend less time navigating phone menus when calling customer service. Others try to improve the sound of your phone calls or recover old photos that aren’t quite right.

Many smartphone launches are characterized by big promises and promises, but much of what has gone into these new devices feels surprisingly practical. And frankly, it’s a bit refreshing.

But it also leaves Google in a seemingly tense position: it must act as the gatekeeper to the underlying open-source. Android software that powers billions of devices around the world, while building some really useful Android features that many of those people will never get to use. And that has some industry watchers wondering if Google is playing its cards right.

“Google has incredible resources and could put huge sums of money behind Pixel – but it needs to strike a fine line,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at research firm CCS Insight. “Weakening established Android phone makers makes no sense when Apple poses such a huge threat to the entire ecosystem.”

Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, said last year’s Pixel 6 models – which had their own set of exclusive features – were the “best-selling” generation of phones in the company. business to date. According to research firm Canalys, Google has really shipped a lot more Pixels, although the company’s North American market share is still hovering around 2%. (Meanwhile, Apple and Samsung count for 78% of the North American smartphone market.)

Google may still lag behind its biggest rivals when it comes to smartphones, but it might be worth paying attention to some of the features packed into these new phones. After all, functionality is sometimes replicated on other devices – Pixels had a car crash detection feature in 2019, long before iPhones had one.

We’ll be putting the practicality of the Pixel 7 to the test soon, but just in case Apple and Samsung are looking for inspiration, here’s our quick guide to the Pixel 7 features we want to see happen. everything Telephone (s.

Make customer service calls quickly

Every time I call my credit card company or United Airlines, the same thing happens: I get lost in the menus. Why was I supposed to press 2 again?

If that sounds familiar, calling from a Pixel phone might take the pain away. Instead of just sitting there and endlessly prompting voice prompts, the Pixel can display these menu options right on the screen – all you have to do is read them and tap the one you actually want. . (Or, you know, mash “0” until you finally get a person on the line.

The catch: This only works for US toll-free numbers, and since Google has to collect all this menu data itself, it may not work for all the companies you want it to.

Retouch your old photos

If there’s one thing Pixel phones are known for, it’s their cameras. These new models come with the sensors and intelligence to take awesome images, but what about those photos you took a long time ago and canceled because they were too blurry?

Owners of Google’s new Pixel 7 phones who use the company’s Google Photos service can use a new Photo Unblur feature to recover those otherwise dull photos. You can adjust the intensity of the blur effect to your liking, and in early demos the feature even managed to make images of old family photos slightly easier on the eyes.

The catch: The algorithmic tools Google uses here can’t make these images perfect – they’re essentially making an educated guess about what the photo was supposed to look like.

Transcribe voice messages

Filming around voicemail instead of typed text is more common than before, but listening to your friend’s endless recordings takes a lot longer than just skimming through words.

If someone starts unpacking their drama at length in one of those voicemails, the Pixel will let you see a transcript of the recording instead so you can respond more quickly with a “it stinks, I’m sorry. “.

The catch: This feature only works on Pixel phones. So you can’t view these transcripts if you send or receive messages from the Google Messages website.

Improve the sound of your calls

Google says the Pixels will rely on machine learning to reduce the background noise you’ll hear when talking to someone on the phone. (If you’ve ever chatted with someone standing on the corner of two busy streets, you know exactly how bad phone calls can sound.) Although traffic was one of the factors engineers had to consider. mind when creating this feature, the company says it’s also useful for drowning out excited dogs in the background.

The catch: This feature won’t be coming to Google’s new Pixel phones until December.

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