With the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro launch, Google unveiled a suite of functions and features that, at least for now, will be exclusive to the brand-new handsets. Older models will get a few of these through updates and Pixel Feature Drops. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro build upon the foundations laid with the rebirth of the Google smartphone series with the launch of the Pixel 6 series last year. Groundbreaking changes are kept to a minimum. Instead, refinement is preferred.

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Clear Calling

Clear Calling uses machine learning to intelligently filter out background noise when you make voice calls. Sadly, it is not yet available on Pixel 7 or 7 Pro but is expected to roll out over the coming months.

Google’s demo of the feature claims that your voice is enhanced while the caller volume and voice are honed so that you can hear them better through the earpiece or even device speakers when calling hands-free. We’ll just have to wait to hear for ourselves if this is the upgrade that it has been touted as, but it is available as part of the latest QPR Beta for Pixel 7 series.

Audio Message Transcription

Expanding upon the early Live Caption capabilities added way back with the Pixel 4, Audio Message Transcription goes further once again. It is very similar in nature to Live Caption for Calls, which was added back with the March Pixel Feature Drop. For voice messages received in the default Google Messages app, you can toggle an option that will let you see a short transcript of any audio message received when using RCS Chat.

You can’t see transcriptions of your own audio messages, but any incoming audio is quickly processed and turned into text. In our experience, the transcription is not perfect but accurate enough to fully understand the context and content of an audio message. At launch, it supports English, Japanese, German, and French with more languages coming later down the line.

Voice-typing emoji suggestions

The super-accurate Assistant-powered voice typing is improved once again with Pixel 7. It’s said to be up to 2.5x faster, but the biggest inclusion is the ability to add emoji suggestions based on what you have just said. Context-based emoji will appear in the text suggestion bar for even easier adding, but you can just call out an emoji if you wish.

Face Unlock

We actually expected Google to add software-based Face Unlock to the Pixel 6 series. Sadly, that was not to be and although not as secure as 3D Face Unlock, it’s a welcome addition. The upgraded selfie camera enables face scanning on your Pixel 7 or 7 Pro to fully unlock your phone. It can be used alongside the in-display fingerprint scanner, but cannot be used for payments.

In practice, it’s very quick and even easier to enroll your face/features. It’s also worth noting that the upgraded in-display fingerprint scanner only allows four fingers to be registered alongside a single face “print.”

Google One VPN

Coming likely with the December Pixel Feature Drop, Pixel 7 (and 7 Pro) owners will gain access to a free VPN as part of the on-device security suite. We’re not expecting any added functionality; in fact, it’s highly likely that this will be the same VPN service you’ll find if you have ever or currently subscribe to the 2TB Google One tier.

For those unaware, the Google One VPN adds an extra layer of security by moving your data through an encrypted channel. This does come with a minor speed loss when using Wi-Fi and mobile data networks, but this is often negligible for the added security benefit.

Google has said it’ll be available for the entire lifespan of the Pixel 7 series. That means five years of protection for everything on your device. Plus you’re not forced to use the service at all. Enable and disable as you see fit.

Photo Unblur

Part of Google Photos more so than the camera system, Pixel 7 features the ability to adjust or fine-tune your images with the help of machine learning. For older photos that lack clarity, you can apply the filter and effectively bring these images back to life.

It doesn’t even matter if the image was taken on a Pixel. You can apply the Photo Unblur process to any image in your Google Photos library or, even, with downloaded images. The process can be adjusted and dialed up or down. That’s important as it isn’t quite perfect depending on the image you choose.

Screen resolution

On Pixel 7 Pro, there is a brand-new toggle that lets you adjust the screen resolution from 1080p FHD+ to 1440p QHD+. Because the regular Pixel 7 is capped at 1080p, as you’d expect, the option does not exist.

Some might hope that this extends the Pixel 7 Pro lifespan, but it simply stretches a 1080p image across the 1440p capable screen. Display pixels are still lit, so it’s unclear if there are any battery benefits, and in our experience, it makes little to no difference.

Expanded Quick Phrases

Another one of the Pixel 7 features that might seem vaguely familiar is the expansion of Quick Phrases. In basic terms, you can use your voice to perform basic tasks on your device. Things like dismissing or answering an incoming call. There’s no need for a wake phrase as your Pixel will show text prompts that will work without needing to activate the Assistant.

You can now completely silence an incoming call or alarm alongside the existing answer/dismiss options that were added originally. For alarms, you can say “stop” or “snooze” to cancel those too.

Google Recorder 4.0

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The Pixel 7 series is running Google Recorder 4.0 and brings the ability to change the playback speed. When viewing a saved recording, open the overflow menu and you’ll find “Playback Speed” with the increment immediately noted.

At a Glance updates

If you use the Pixel Launcher, then you’ll be pleased to hear that with Pixel 7, there are yet more updates and upgrades to what it can do. At a Glance is a pretty smart widget, but it’s basic at best. With Pixel 7, it features new options, some of which are coming soon.

The most notable you might spot right away is expanded weather alerts that might show low-high temperature conditions or upcoming forecast snippets. Nest camera package delivery alerts are also coming, alongside details on travel arrangements. Things like baggage reclaim information are said to be coming soon.

Pixel Buds Spatial Audio

Google has yet to roll out spatial audio for the Pixel Buds Pro, but when available it will be exclusive to eligible Pixel phones. Technically there is nothing that would limit the functionality to the Pixel 7 series, but if limitations are in place it’ll be available on the latest and greatest devices first.

Spatial Audio is not new technology. In fact, it has been around for a while. This goes beyond stereo audio and mimics sound within a 360-degree field. This can give the audio a feeling of position within your listening field and creates an immersion often not possible with regular audio.

Cough and snore detection

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Digital Wellbeing on Pixel 7 has a couple of new features baked into the familiar Bedtime Mode. You need to have a bedtime schedule set before this is available, but once done your phone can detect coughing and snoring while on charge at your bedside.

Often this requires a wearable or secondary device to work. This makes it a valuable tool for those that prefer not to wear a fitness band or smartwatch when sleeping. When active, your Pixel 7 listens for changes in your breathing and you’ll get a breakdown of your sleep.

Within the Digital Wellbeing app you’ll see just how many times your smartphone detected that you coughed while sleeping or if you were snoring. The only downside is that this function may detect the snoring of others in your bedroom. This makes it an imperfect solution, but a welcome addition nonetheless.

New wallpapers

As is customary, when Google launches a new Pixel, there are a number of exclusive or timed-exclusive wallpapers. Within the “Wallpaper and style” app on Pixel 7, there is a new section called “Feathers” that features a number of bird-based macro shots. All in all, there are 12 to choose from in various colors and styles. You can download these already without a Google Wallpapers update right here.

Camera functions

Last year the Pixel 6 series introduced a brand-new camera system that included major upgrades. With Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, Google has decided to tune and hone the improved set up for 2022. Software is still the key component and that even means new functions and features for the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro.

Macro Mode

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There is no dedicated macro camera available on the Pixel 7 Pro. However, Google has added the ability to take closeup shots by utilizing the marginally altered ultra-wide angle lens. This added field of view bump from 114 degrees to 126 degrees helps enable this mode. Sadly, it’s limited to the Pixel 7 Pro.

You can take pictures up to 30mm or 3cm from a subject. When getting close, the camera shows a small yellow flower icon to indicate that Macro Mode is active. You may also see a circular text prompt along the top portion of the viewfinder. Tapping the yellow flower icon quickly deactivates or re-activates Macro Mode.

4K 60fps with all lenses

For the first time on Pixel, you’re able to shoot 4K 60fps footage on every on-device lens including the selfie camera. When using the rear camera setup, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are among one of the few to allow you to switch between camera while recording this high frame rate mode.

Cinematic Mode

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One of Google’s showcases for the enhanced Pixel 7 video was the brand-new Cinematic Mode feature. Think of this as Portrait Mode for video as it adds fake background blur effects in an attempt to mimic the bokeh fuzziness often associated with high-end cinema cameras. The result is average at best with sometimes poor edge detection ruining the “look.” It is also capped at 1080p but at the often cited “cinematic frame rate” of 24fps.

10-bit HDR limited to 4K 30fps

Last year the Pixel 6 series was limited to 8-bit HDR for video recording. This time around the Pixel 7 series features the ability to record 10-bit HDR video. HDR video offers higher contrast or, in basic terms, a greater color and brightness range than conventional video content.

The end result should be better color separation within a scene and more immersion. This is limited to 30fps at 1080p and 4K resolutions and is output in h.265 or the HEVC format making playback on other devices potentially an issue.

Night Sight countdown

Night Sight mode is said to have improved on Pixel 7, and while that’s up for debate, you do have more granular controls over the length of regular exposures using the low-light photography mode. When using Night Sight, you’ll spot a tiny counter to the right of the in-camera zoom controls. Tapping this opens a mini slight exposure length controller.

You’re able to adjust this to increase exposure length for Night Sight or disable it entirely and use the default settings. Without a tripod, this can be up to six seconds in our testing but can range depending on scenario anywhere from two to three seconds.

Clearer indicators for camera modes

To help aid your camera usage, there are more prominent upper-left indicators for modes including the resolution, frame rate, and even the camera mode. In previous versions of the Google Camera app, you would see a gear icon instead.

Motion Mode has a new icon on the shutter presumably to indicate the increased exposure length. Long-pressing the last shot preview also brings up the ability to move recently taken photos and videos to the Locked Folder on your device. This section requires a passcode or biometrics to access.

Guided Frame

To help those with visual impairments, a new Guided Frame accessibility feature comes pre-installed on Pixel 7 series as part of the TalkBack service. You’ll need to activate this in the Accessibility section, but when using the selfie camera you’ll get audio cues for better framing an obvious subject tracking for those with lesser visual impairments.

Enhanced Super Res Zoom

Zoom has received an upgrade on Pixel 7 with the Pro gaining an improved 5x telephoto zoom lens that is able to capture images at up to 30x zoom level. The Pixel 7 has improved 2x zoom using the main lens courtesy of software improvements when using the 50-megapixel main sensor.

To help with zoom control, a new granular indicator will appear when you start to pinch to get a closer look at a scene using the viewfinder. What’s more, when hitting specific levels such as 2x, 5x, 10x, 15x and above, you’ll get haptic feedback to help pinpoint the right zoom level.

Real Tone improvements

Google has expanded upon skin tone recognition and processing to ensure that everyone is accurately represented when images are taken with the Pixel 7 camera system. Improvements to the feature mean that Pixel 7 is better at reflecting the nuances of all skin tones in even more lighting scenarios and conditions with direct integration in Night Sight and Portrait Mode.

What features will I get on my Pixel?

Only a few of the Pixel 7 features will make it to older models. Some are limited by hardware, which means that only more recent smartphones will be able to enjoy the new additions. Here’s what we know:

  • Audio Message Transcription will come to all currently supported Pixels down to the Pixel 4a at some point soon.
  • At a Glance enhancements will also come to all currently supported down to the Pixels 4a at some point soon.
  • Expect Google Camera 8.7 UI tweaks to come to all supported Pixel devices in the coming weeks and months to ensure that any mode icon changes and functions make sense to end users.
  • Spatial Audio for Pixel Buds Pro is coming to Pixel 6 and 6 Pro with a Feature Drop.
  • It’s not yet clear if Face Unlock will make the jump from Pixel 7 to the Pixel 6 Pro. The selfie camera and usage of the Tensor processor, plus ongoing work to enable the feature are certainly signs that it could arrive. However, there it seems unlikely at this late stage unless Google adds the functionality via a Feature Drop.
  • The enhanced Real Tone tuning and refinements are coming to the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, and 6a later down the line as Tensor is required for the enhanced image processing.
  • Clear Calling and Guided Frame functions are also set to be limited to Tensor-powered devices including the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, and 6a. Google has yet to confirm when these options will arrive on older models.

Any features not mentioned are set to remain exclusive to the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. However, Google has been known to add functionality much later down the line for older handsets capable of accessing selected software features.

What do you think the best new functionality is as part of the Pixel 7 or 7 Pro? Is there a killer feature that you think should be made available to older models? Let us know down in the comments section below.

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About the Author

Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter: @iamdamienwilde. Email: damien@9to5mac.com