Better cropping algorithms or not, telephoto is more useful than ultra-wide
Google just launched the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro during its October event. There weren't many surprises, thanks to all the teasers and leaks that have been our constant companions ever since Google I/O in May, and it's almost certain that the new Google phones will become some of the best handsets in the Android world. Now that the event is over, and we went hands-on with the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, I want to love the smaller and more premium phone for its form factor, build quality, and value proposition. However, it's missing one key feature for me: a zoom camera lens.
Themed icons may look beautiful, but who are they for?
Android 13's new themed icons want to give you a more consistent look on your homescreen. Rather than allowing all apps to showcase themselves with their colorful icons, the new optional mode for Google Pixels and the other best Android phones creates a monochrome look that's supposed to give you a consistent homescreen. As beautiful as this can look when all your favorite apps support it, there are still many issues with themed icons. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I like shiny things as much as anybody else, but let's worry about the basics first
It's hard to believe Google hasn't made a smartwatch until now. Wear OS launched all the way back in 2014 (as Android Wear), and in the intervening eight years, just about every Android device manufacturer you can think of has given it a shot. Samsung, Motorola, LG, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Sony have all released at least one Android-powered smartwatch — not to mention the likes of Fossil and Mobvoi, who seem to offer a new model every few months.
Polished metal and curved screens look great on display, but they're functional downgrades from the smaller, cheaper model
After months of leaks and early teases, Google's latest Pixel phones are finally official. My early impressions so far are pretty positive; despite the apparent similarities between generations, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro deliver plenty of refinements over last year's offerings. That said, holding both sizes together makes one thing all too obvious. The design flourishes Google has kept exclusive to the Pixel 7 Pro aren't just pointless — they actually make the smaller phone more appealing.
Unless the Pixel Watch offers a significant advantage over other Wear OS watches, it’s doomed
Google first teased the Google Pixel Watch during Google I/O in May 2022, and it's just about to launch. It will be released alongside the Google Pixel 7 on Thursday, October 6. As always, we've learned a lot about what should become one of the best Android watches, thanks to Google's preemptive marketing and some substantial leaks.
Seamless updates aren't all they're cracked up to be
Updates on Google's Pixel phones are too slow. Before you get your pitchforks, let us explain what we mean. One of the benefits of buying a phone like the Google Pixel 6a or Pixel 6 is getting updates before other OEM devices. Still, installing them takes too long. Seamless updates are heralded as the best thing to happen to software upgrades, and phones that lack the feature are often mocked for the omission. But we're glad Samsung and a few others have refused to implement it.
It only took six years and several failed attempts to get there
The Pixel 7's launch event is just one week away, and the expectations around this phone couldn't be higher. No matter how much we learn before the event — including from Google itself — it seems obvious the Pixel 7 is destined to mark itself as one of the best Android phones around. Despite this, it still feels like the Pixel brand struggles to carve out an identity for itself, even after over half a decade of releases. It's a problem that has likely plagued sales numbers for the series, too — after all, we know most of the phones haven't been runaway successes. To that end, it's worth revisiting what each Pixel brought to the table, and how the Pixel 6 onward serves as a new beginning for the lineup.
The Nest Audio is a great little unit, but the new Echo Dot really puts the 'smart' in smart speaker
When the Nest Audio was released in 2020, I gave it a glowing review. At the time, in the context of other Assistant-equipped smart speakers on the market, I couldn't find much to complain about: it was a better version of the Google Home speaker it replaced, with a modern look and great sound for its size, and it was offered at a very reasonable $99 price point — $30 cheaper than its predecessor was at launch. To this day, it's one of our favorite smart speakers. But at its Devices & Services Event today, Amazon announced new versions of its Echo Dot speakers — and updates to existing devices — that are making me question my whole Google-based smart home setup.
Android turned 14 today, but we almost forgot because Google Calendar still doesn't let you set birthday reminders
Why offer a birthday calendar and then stop short of adding reminders?
It's Android's 14th birthday today, but if Android was a friend that I added to Google Contacts, I may have completely forgotten about it. You see, Google Contacts lets me fill in all kinds of details about my friends, colleagues, and family. Along with addresses, phone numbers, and email details, I can also fill the contact card with relationships, anniversaries, and—you guessed it—birthdays. These conveniently show up in Google Calendar under a special Birthdays calendar, which neatly ties in with all the other appointments, reminders, and blocked time slots I have.
Android did it first — and better
As Android users, mocking Apple for claiming a years-old feature as some revelation is a tradition as old as time. Each September, when the company takes the stage to announce a new iPhone lineup, it occasionally takes something from Android only to hail it as a groundbreaking feature years in the making. As tempting as it might feel to joke about the Dynamic Island this year — the name's just asking for it — it's the always-on display that makes Apple look truly late to the party. Unfortunately for anyone considering the iPhone 14 Pro, the always-on display isn't just bad — it's a complete misunderstanding of what an always-on display should accomplish.
The sooner Android accepts RCS is dead, the sooner we can choose the next messaging platform that matters
As the rest of the world has proven, cross-platform messaging is achievable — even without RCS
Last week, the world watched as Apple announced its newest phones. As silly — though no less intriguing — as the Dynamic Island might be, the iPhone 14 series fails to fix one of the biggest issues with modern smartphones: messaging. A day after Apple's keynote, Tim Cook took the stage at Vox's Code Conference, confirming the company's position on RCS: it's not interested, and if you want to send your mom high-res videos, you're better off buying her — or yourself — an iPhone.
Meanwhile, you can use Google Messages on your Android phone to schedule your SMS
Apple launched iOS 16 with much fanfare this week, and it's going head to head against Android 13. Both companies have equipped their latest offerings with all the machine-learning smarts you could imagine. They come with improved dictation, helpful image-to-text tools, and more. But there's one thing that's missing on iOS, and it's something that's taken for granted on the Android side of things. You can't use iMessage to schedule texts. Instead, you'll rely on a workaround that has you set up a calendar and an automated shortcut.
Don't be surprised when Android manufacturers follow Apple's move
Apple just unveiled its iPhone 14 lineup, and overall, it looks awfully familiar to last year's phones. Despite some minor, iterative upgrades, there's one big difference Android users should note — and no, it's not the iPhone 14 Pro's "Dynamic Island" hole punch. The SIM card tray is no more in the US, with buyers forced to rely exclusively on eSIM from here on out. It's a sign of the times in the smartphone industry, as Android manufacturers will likely follow suit over the next several years.
These are the gadgets that stood out to us in Berlin
What used to be the Berlin radio show has become the inimitable IFA, and you'll find anything and everything here if it's on a PCB. There have been many changes to the show over the years, especially with the recent shows being disturbed by world events. Still, our editor Manuel Vonau was on the ground at IFA 2022, and the team has discussed at length what the highlights of the show have been. We've marked our ballots and are ready to announce Android Police's Best of IFA 2022.
With less competition than ever in the US, Sony fumbles on pricing
This week at IFA was a chance for smartphone companies to shore up their plans for the rest of 2022. Most of these announcements focused on the budget and midrange space, an effort buoyed by companies like Samsung and Honor as they expand pre-existing models into new regions. Only one company announced something worthy of the term "flagship," but no matter how eye-catching Sony's Xperia 5 IV looks, it's doomed to fall short of its market-changing potential.
Google's latest flagship will get fewer Android updates than the Samsung Galaxy A53
A core strength of Google's hardware lies in its fast and reliable software support. Pixel devices receive new Android versions before the competition, and until recently, Pixels would receive these updates longer than other Android devices. The mobile landscape is changing, and the software benefits afforded to the Pixels aren't as significant as they once were. Some might even suggest what was once unthinkable: While they're among the best smartphones available, Pixels are no longer the best Android phones to buy for long-term software support.
Professionals are putting all the power of our common gadgets to use
Smartphone cameras may be making impressive progress thanks to computational photography and plenty of innovation in sensor technology, but they're still not usually chosen for shooting professional photos and videos like we see in the movies we rent and stream. Dedicated cameras with large sensors and top-tier lenses remain the obvious choice at that level, but smartphones and tablets have been creeping into the production process. Gear makers are regularly inventing new ways to turn our pocket-sized gadgets into indispensable accessories for photography and filmmaking.
It's tough to beat holding a memory in your hand
I've never been much of a photographer. When my friends and I got our first smartphones in high school, we weren't the kind to pose for photos. I don't think any of us had Instagram accounts, so any pictures we captured stayed on whatever device was in our pockets at the time.
Foldables let you bend the phone to get that low wide-angle shot, instead of your body
Photographers can be pretty tech-obsessed. Once you're intimately familiar with the effects that different hardware and changes have, you can visualize how minor improvements could manifest in photos. But even the most seasoned shutterbugs will tell you that, beyond all the specs and gadgets, the most important thing is to have a camera with you and to use it well. And that's why, even though Pixels are my favorite cameras, I really like using folding phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 for photos.
Jack of all trades, master of none is how I like my cameras
For a long time, answering the question "Which smartphone takes the best photos?" was easy: the latest Google Pixel. Times have changed, and now there's fierce competition in the mobile photography realm. While the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are still some of the best cameras, the answer to the question comes down to personal preference rather than imperial metrics. Some prefer photos that are as accurate to real life as possible or the high-contrast look from a Pixel. As mobile photography week continues, I'd like to talk about why the flexibility afforded by the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra's camera system makes it my favorite.