Google Pixel 7 is a great phone — but there’s one reason not to upgrade

Google Pixel 7 review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There's a lot to admire about the Google Pixel 7, starting the new Tensor G2 silicon that powers many of the unique experiences only available on Google's latest phone. It's Tensor, after all, that's behind Photo Unblur, one of the best features I've seen on any phone this year. Throw in Google's typically excellent cameras, and you've got a phone that most people would be happy to call their own.

Well, they'd be happy until they tried going some time between phone charges. That's when the Pixel 7's biggest flaw reveals itself — its battery just doesn't last long enough. And that one flaw might be reason enough to pause and think twice about whether the Pixel 7 is the best phone you can get.

Here's what has me so concerned. On our custom battery test — in which we have phones surf the web until they run out of power — the Pixel 7 averaged a result of 7 hours and 21 minutes across multiple tests. The average smartphone lasted 90 minutes longer on that test. That's simply not a good result for a flagship phone looking to steer your attention away from either the iPhone 14 or Galaxy S22.

The caveat to this result is that our test is fairly demanding and not necessarily a reflection of everyday use when people use their phone in drips and drabs, leaving the device in standby mode during significant portions of the day. Leave your phone idle in your pocket, as many of us do during the day, and you'll experience better battery life than we saw in our test where a phone's screen is in constant, steady use.

Still, that "battery life is better in everyday use" line of reasoning only takes you so far. Yes, when I'm not using my Pixel 7 regularly, the battery holds out for longer. But during my testing, when I played games, took photos and watched videos, I watched that percentage dwindle in a way the batteries on my iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 do not.

It's also not as if the Pixel 7 is the outlier among Google's recent smartphone releases. The Pixel 7 Pro, released at the same time as the standard Pixel 7 model, also struggled in our battery test. It lasted 9 hours and 21 minutes — better than the Pixel 7, sure, but you'd hope that a 5,000 mAh battery could clear that low bar. The Pixel 7 Pro still finished our test half-an-hour worse than the average phone.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Battery sizeBattery life (Hrs:Mins)
Pixel 74,355 mAh7:21
Pixel 7 Pro5,000 mAh9:21
Pixel 6a4,410 mAh6:29
Pixel 64,614 mAh8:13
Pixel 6 Pro5,000 mAh7:49
Pixel 5a4,680 mAh9:45
Pixel 54,000 mAh9:29
Pixel 4a 5G3,8985 mAh8:12
Pixel 4a3,140 mAh8:55
Pixel 42,800 mAh8:03
Pixel 4 XL3,700 mAh9:42
Pixel 3a3,000 mAh11:59
Pixel 3a XL3,700 mAh11:41

But that's been Google's pattern with other smartphone releases. The Pixel 6a that came out earlier this year? It finished nearly 3.5 hours behind the average phone. The Pixel 5a just about hit the average time, while the Pixel 5 was about 30 minutes behind. You'd have to go back to the Pixel 3a and 3a XL — two devices released in the days before 5G networks — to find Google phones that earned a place on our best phone battery life list for their longevity.

Certainly 5G connectivity can be more demanding, and based on our test results, we'd suggest Google hasn't found a way to manage those demands just yet. There's also the fact that Tensor is a relatively new chipset, and Google still may be fine-tuning power management features that Qualcomm and Apple have long since figured out for their mobile silicon. Perhaps there are even software tweaks Google can make to squeeze more life out of the Pixel, without users having to turn to the phone's Extreme Battery Saver mode to extend the longevity of their phone.

Whatever the cause, I hope Google figures it out in plenty of time before their next phone release, be that the Pixel 7a, Pixel 8 or more fancifully rumored phones like the Pixel Fold or Pixel 7 Ultra. Google makes really good phones with one consistent flaw. And it's time for that flaw to be vanquished.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • nobody9
    Battery life is perfectly fine for me (1.5 - 2 days). I've always turned off Smooth display (variable screen refresh) and always-on display, as neither of them is worth the battery drain on any device in my experience. YMMV.
    Reply