Beyond Pixel 7 Hardware: Google's Flagship Phones Also Have Useful Perks
More than just the hardware, Google's Pixel phones get a variety of additional perks worth keeping in mind.
Sareena DayaramSenior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
ExpertisePhones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, fitness trackers, mobile accessories, gaming phones, budget phones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, mobile accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
Google's Pixel 7 phone lineup, including the $599 (£599, AU$999) Pixel 7 and the $899 Pixel 7 Pro, is hard to miss. Both phones standout with the signature "camera bar" first seen on the Pixel 6 series, and each includes hardware exclusives like the Tensor G2 chip which power a customized version of Android 13. But Pixel phones also receive numerous perks and extras from Google that might be easy to overlook among more popular features like the phones' photography prowess.
These include services Google usually charges extra for, but come free as part of owning a Pixel phone. A big one that's no longer offered on new Pixel devices is unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos, but if you're still holding onto a Pixel 5 or earlier you'll likely retain some degree of that benefit. Even without that service, Google keeps adding new perks that are worth keeping in mind if considering a new Pixel phone.
Google has announced that its new Pixel 7 lineup will be its first phone to the Google One VPN service as part of the phone's purchase. The VPN will become available later this year, and is otherwise offered as part of a $10 monthly Google One plan.
There are some limitations to the perk: Some data won't be transmitted through the VPN and the benefit will only be made available to select countries including the US, according to a company tweet. All of Asia is presently excluded, for instance, except for Taiwan.
Back to phone basics
With the Pixel 7, Google improved on one of the most foundational phone features: the actual phone call. At its Made by Google event, the company introduced a feature called Clear Calling, which uses AI to reduce background noise and allow for a more comprehensible call, especially in loud environments. Clear Calling is expected to rollout in the coming months.
Google also upgraded its Direct My Call feature, which is designed to reduce call wait times. Instead of having to wait and listen to an operator tell you menu options, the feature now transcribes automated phone menus on-screen before they're even spoken.
Unblur faces and more
The Pixel 7 series is introducing a powerful photo editing feature called Photo Unblur. As the name suggests, it sharpens blurry photos -- including ones that weren't originally taken on a Pixel phone. In her Pixel 7 review CNET's Lisa Eadicicco found it was able to revitalize a nearly 10-year-old photo. For now this feature is exclusive to the Pixel 7 line, but last year's Pixel 6 already had a Face Unblur tool that did similar work, albeit limited to faces.
Fresh Android OS updates
Google has pledged to make updating Pixel phones a priority, promising three years of software updates and five years of security updates. Although that's one year less of software updates than what Samsung's Galaxy S22 phones receive, Pixel phones are the first to receive a new Android OS version whenever they roll out.
On top of those prioritized software updates, Pixel phones also get the occasional "Feature Drop," where the phones gain new software features without necessarily getting a full Android software update. Another perk of getting these software updates straight from Google is no bloatware. Pixel phones barely have any bloatware or other third-party services forced onto them by wireless carriers.
Pixel Pass if you want to bundle more Google services
Google offers a subscription-style method of buying the Pixel 7, which bundles together phone repair services and several other Google services. Dubbed the Pixel Pass, the service debuted with last year's Pixel 6 line, and includes 200GB of cloud storage on Google One, Preferred Care for repairs and replacements, YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium for ad-free media streaming and the Google Play Pass app subscription service. Pixel Pass also allows subscribers to trade in their phone every two years for an upgrade to a new Pixel phone.
We did the math on Pixel Pass last year, and found that it does save money if you wanted to subscribe to YouTube Premium and get a device repair program directly from Google. Other services, like the 200GB of Google One and the Google Play Pass, are less expensive and less of a deciding factor.
Google Fi is always an option
While not a massive force in the wireless carrier market, Google does offer its own cellular service for mobile devices. Called Google Fi (not to be confused with Google Fiber), this MVNO-style system offers pay-as-you-go data plans. It also uses technology that enables seamless switching between Wi-Fi and cellular networks during voice calls.
All Pixel phones come in versions specifically designed to operate on Google Fi, which are sold on Google's store alongside models that are unlocked or for specific US carriers.
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