June 5, 2023
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro were the best smartphones of 2022

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro were the best smartphones of 2022

Smartphones have reached a point of stagnation, with upgrades generally being quite minor year over year. In 2022, there wasn’t much to get excited about, but two devices really stood out. Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro were, for several reasons, the best smartphones of 2022.

Google has always struggled with its smartphone efforts. Every Pixel device to date has usually had one major flaw somewhere it detracted from the experience and, frankly, generally prevented this device from being considered the “best” smartphone of the year.

In 2021, Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro showed strong performance, but signal strength issues, broken features in updates, and the continued excellence of Apple and Samsung’s flagship phones prevented Google to really shine. Last year, I would have considered the iPhone 13 or the Galaxy S21 series the best smartphone of the year despite how much I loved the Pixel 6 Pro.

In 2022, however, things looked drastically different. Finally, Google seems to figure out how to build a flagship smartphone. And our readers agree. In a recent poll, the Pixel 7 Pro won 40% of the vote for “best smartphone of 2022”.

Why the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are so great

For me, there are a few key reasons why the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro stood out this year, and it starts with their value. The Pixel 7 starts at $599, far cheaper than comparable devices from Apple and Samsung. Since its debut, this value has been the reason the Pixel 7 has been my go-to recommendation for pretty much anyone looking for a new phone. It’s just such a good deal.

And that value holds true on the Pixel 7 Pro. $899 is a great price for a device that effectively competes with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro. You might not get the same raw power punch on Google’s phone, but the experience is pretty similar overall for up to $300 less. The only real issue with the Pro’s price is that the standard Pixel 7 is so much cheaper. When all you get extra on the Pro is a telephoto lens, macro shooting, a slightly faster display, and extra RAM, it can be a bit hard to justify the $300 upgrade.

But the Pixel 7’s excellent overall value only matters if the underlying functionality is just as good, and this year it has been.

pixel 7 pro screen

With the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, Google has addressed many of the previous generation’s issues. One of the biggest issues the Pixel 6 series had was with signal strength, but the Pixel 7’s cellular modem has improved a lot this time around, which improves signal strength and speed.

Related: Google Tensor G2: How did signal strength and speed improve on the Pixel 7?

Additionally, Google hasn’t had the same major issues with updates on the Pixel 7 that happened early with the Pixel 6. Where the 2021 release saw decimated signal strength caused by updates and other major issues, the first few months of the Pixel 7 series have been pretty rock solid for the most part. There were no major bugs, issues or complaints. Everyone from users to reviewers seem pretty happy with the Pixel 7 series. That’s not to say they’re perfect – there are always isolated issues that plague a few people – but overall these are the Google’s first phones in a long time that are pretty much free of issues.

And it’s all on top of the usual perks of using a Pixel phone. Great photos, fast software and useful features like the call screen finally have a chance to be what makes a Pixel phone great, rather than what makes you want to ignore its flaws.

Apple and Samsung kind of dropped the ball

What could really give Google its chance in the spotlight with Pixel 7 is the disappointment of its competitors in 2022.

Looking first on the Android side, there really hasn’t been as much that’s been all that exciting this year, at least in the United States. OnePlus has clearly shifted much of its focus to other markets, and Samsung has pretty much maintained the status quo.

The Galaxy S22 and S22+ were very solid devices overall, but there was nothing particularly exciting or any real improvements over the last generation besides a slightly improved camera setup. The Galaxy S22 Ultra revived the legacy of the Galaxy Note, which was nice to see, but the device as a whole didn’t break new ground. And the hardest part was that it all came at the same high price. The base Galaxy S22 costs $799, and the series peaked at $1,199 for the S22 Ultra. Those prices are a little hard to swallow when you get 95% of the same features and quality with Google’s devices for $200-$300 less.

samsung galaxy s22 plus

And on Apple’s side, the big failure this year was with the camera situation, at least in part.

The company’s flagship iPhone 14 Pro moved to a new 48MP main camera, which proved to be a difficult transition. iPhone 14 Pro reviewers have widely discussed the camera not being as reliable or predictable as older iPhones in many cases and often falling well behind the Pixel series and Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra . In a blind test, user votes left the iPhone 14 Pro at the bottom of the list.

It’s on stills, at least. The iPhone still dominates the smartphone market when it comes to video quality. While Google has made some upgrades there, Apple still leads by a wide margin.

But it’s hard to complain about this discrepancy when considering the value proposition. The iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999 and the comparably sized iPhone 14 Pro Max starts at $1,099, $200 more than Google’s Pixel 7 Pro. There are tons of valid reasons to get an iPhone over a Pixel, but if you’re just looking to buy a phone without going through all the drama surrounding the Android vs iPhone debate, it’s hard to make a point here.

What can be improved on the Pixel 8?

How can Google repeat this in 2023? It’s hard to say, really. Apple is sure to bounce back on the camera side with next year’s iPhone 15 series, and Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series will greatly benefit from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Google and its Tensor chips will not be able to replicate the upgrades Qualcomm will deliver.

But Google is rumored to be making camera upgrades to the Pixel 8 series, while also making its affordable flagship a bit smaller. We don’t know much about Tensor G3, but we do know Google’s strategy. The company doesn’t really care about having “the best” chip in gaming. It’s about building something that will serve the Pixel’s goals of being useful. Raw Power probably won’t see any major upgrades, but instead we might see better overall efficiency, much like we did when moving from Tensor to Tensor G2.

Personally, I doubt 2023 will see a Google Pixel phone as “the best” of the year, but 2022 has given Google its chance to shine. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are perhaps the best Pixel phones since the original, and they’ve been a bright spot in an uneventful year for smartphones.

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