Google’s Pixel phones have long been highly regarded for their camera performance, and the Pixel 6 series is no different – in fact, they’re the best performing to date. And yet, I’m excited for the Pixel 7 because it looks to fix one of my biggest complaints with the Pixel 6’s camera, the blurry photos that have plagued my library over the past several months.

The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro introduced a whole new design language for Google’s smartphones, and it’s a great look in my opinion. The two-tone colors, the matte black rails on the Pixel 6, it’s all quite nice. 

But the distinct feature of Google’s design is the “camera bar,” which runs across the entire back of the device horizontally and houses all of the camera hardware. The two or three camera sensors, the flash, the autofocus hardware, it’s all in that one spot which doesn’t cause the phone to rock on a table, or stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the design. 

However, as my own Pixel 6 Pro has aged, I’ve noticed a flaw to the camera bar’s design. 

While quite the looker, this camera bar gets dirty quick

Smudges across the camera bar tend to ruin photos taken by the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, leaving an almost foggy look to the almost blurry shots, with a distinct “halo” effect around lighting. The before and after for taking a shot with a dirty lens versus a clean one is drastic, as you can see below.

Now, smudges are a pretty common problem for any smartphone lens. After all, they’re all covered in basically the same glass. The culprit for this problem being especially bad on the Pixel 6 Pro seems to be just how big the camera bar is, and the fact that there’s nothing stopping smudges and other debris from building up across the entire area. Most smartphone cameras at this point have distinct lenses that naturally limit how smudges build up.

In my own case, I think this comes mainly down to skin oils. Pulling the Pixel 6 Pro from my pocket often sees me touching the lens, and since there’s no distinct feeling for where the camera lens is specifically, I can’t naturally avoid the lenses. And this is a problem that’s just gotten more common over time, as the coatings that were naturally on the lens have slowly rubbed away.

Another reason for this might be how the Pixel sits on a table. Especially if you have a case on, the camera bar’s glass is generally going to be touching the surface, which can easily lead to debris building up quickly and smudgy photos as a side effect.

What can be done? On the existing Pixel 6, there are some easy fixes here – glass protectors exist for the rear cameras and are often included with a pack of screen protectors. Further, there’s also the option of applying a skin over the camera bar, such as one from dbrand.

But this fall, the bigger fix will arrive from Google. The Pixel 7’s design language should put an end to this problem.

Pixel 7 Pro

The updated design of the camera bar with an aluminum cover and distinct camera cutouts will almost surely help naturally cut down on how often the glass picks up smudges, both in terms of users touching the lenses and the lenses themselves touching surfaces when the phone is put down.

Do you face this same problem with the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro? Drop a comment below and let us know!

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

Find him on Twitter @NexusBen. Send tips to schoon@9to5g.com or encrypted to benschoon@protonmail.com.