Taking a look back at seven days of news and headlines across the world of Android, this week’s Android Circuit includes the first reviews of the Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7, and Pixel Watch, a closer look at the Tensor Mobile G2 chip in the Pixels, the latest details on the Galaxy S23, HMD Global looking for a new CEO, OnePlus Nord N300 details, Android 12L on the Surface Duo, and Microsoft’s latest support for the Android open source project.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
Pixel 7 Pro Review
After a long period following the reveal at Google’s I/O event in the summer and last week’s formal launch, the new Pixel smartphones are available, which means the first in-depth reviews are also in. Starting with the Pixel 7 Pro, it’s clear that Google has been inching up the various specifications. These many small steps may not be enough to justify a direct upgrade from the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, but they offer a great entry point to the Pixel program:
“The Pixel 7 Pro builds on the success of last year’s model, with meaningful upgrades to its camera that put it on a level with the most capable and expensive models from Samsung. It is a well-made phone with a great screen, good performance and reasonable battery life. The faster fingerprint scanner is welcome, as is the fast but less secure face recognition for unlocking the phone. Google’s smart systems from in-line dictation to unblurring tech are thoroughly impressive, and you will get at least five years of software support from release.”
Pixel 7 Review
While the geekerati will focus on the 7 Pro, the Pixel 7 is going to get a lot of attention from consumers as it balances the inclusion of Google’s faster Tensor Mobile G2 chipset with a slightly lower spec sheet. For many, the value choice will be the Pixel 7:
“With the $599 Pixel 7, Google has crafted an absolutely stellar smartphone with most of the features offered by the more expensive Pixel 7 Pro, but for $300 less. Stepping up to the larger Pro primarily nets you a faster, sharper screen and a powerful telephoto camera, which might not be worth the extra money for many users. Moreover, the Pixel 7 edges past the Galaxy S22 on camera and battery performance for $200 less, even if it falls a little short on cell connectivity. “
It’s All About The Tensor
As noted, the most significant change in the Pixel package is the second generation of the Google-designed Tensor Mobile chipset. While the various main processor cores remain similar, it’s the ancillary processors which will improve the machine-learning capabilities of the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro.
“Where the chip gets a notable step up is in the GPU, the imaging DSP, and the modem, while the Google Tensor Processor (TPU) is labelled as ‘next-generation’. This is the aforementioned magic, because the TPU allows for much more efficient and faster machine learning and AI processes to be run on hardware rather than software for as much of the process as possible.”
Pixel Watch Review
Also going on sale was Google’s first WearOS device. The Pixel Watch is a first-generation product from Google. Even if Android Wear/WearOS has been around for some time, the direct experience of selling hardware is difficult to replicate in testing. It might not be a home run, but the Pixel Watch is definitely on base:
“I’m hesitant to say this is the best Wear OS smartwatch just yet. Samsung’s watches, even though they exclude non-Samsung phone owners, deliver a more polished overall experience. And, we’ve yet to see what Fossil’s next-gen smartwatches powered by the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon W5 Plus platform will look like. But even with all my gripes and quibbles, the Pixel Watch gives me hope that Wear OS has brighter days ahead. The Pixel Watch was a good start. The Pixel Watch 2 will be better. “
Galaxy S23 Battery Leak
For all of the talk of the Pixels, the benchmark for Android smartphones is the Galaxy S range from Samsung. The next handsets are expected early in 2023, but details are already coming out of the supply chain. New details on the battery indicate everything is on course, but with a similarly sized battery the S23 family is not going to deviate too far from the current design
“Popular tipster Ice Universe (@universeice) has shared a picture of a battery. He claims that it belongs to the Galaxy S23 Ultra. Although the text on the battery doesn’t mention its capacity, the tipster claims it is a 5,000mAh unit, just like the phone’s predecessors. The image looks like it has been taken from a certification database, which further suggests that the launch of the Galaxy S23 series is on track.”
(IceUniverse via SamMobile).
HMD Global Looking For New CEO
HMD Global’s CEO, Florian Seiche, is standing down from the company. Launched in 2016, Seiche took the CEO reigns in 2017. In the last five years, HMD Global’s Nokia-branded handsets have established themselves as strong players in the mid-range Android market and the still-interesting feature phone market. Seiche writes:
“And what a journey it has been. Together, we have continued to innovate and clearly lead the global feature phone market including many much-loved iconic Nokia “Classic” designs. Our efforts across our unique Android smartphone and tablet proposition focused on realizing our vision of ‘Connecting the world without costing the earth’”
OnePlus Still Leaning Into Fast Charging
OnePlus has confirmed a handful of details about its upcoming Nord N300 mid-range smartphone, and the standout feature is fast wireless charging. It might not be as zippy as the flagship OnePlus 10T, but at 33W this is going to be a relatively unique feature at this price point:
“The Nord N300’s charging speed will likely be mere minutes under an hour, though OnePlus isn’t divulging too many details as of yet. As a frame of reference, the Pixel 7 Pro charges up to 23W. That isn’t necessarily speedy, but it’s about average for flagships nowadays. Comparatively, the OnePlus 10T is capable of 125W charging, which can get a phone up to 100% in what feels like no time at all. The previous generation N200 was only capable of 18W charging, so this is a huge step.”
Android 12L on Surface Duo
Android 13 may be rolling out on new handsets and showing up on OtA updates in the next few months, but the tablet and foldable are looking forward to the tablet-optimised version of Android 12 in the form of Android 12L. It also has hooks for multi-screened devices, which should improve that delightfully different Surface Duo. We’ve got a look at 12L running on the Duo, and it’s eerily familiar to something else.
“Microsoft has given us a first look at the upcoming Android 12L release for Surface Duo, which features a new design that’s more reminiscent of Windows 11’s Fluent design language. It features an updated notifications panel, new blur effects, and a redesigned Settings app with Windows 11-style icons… This is part of an effort to better represent the Surface Duo as an extension of Windows PCs, while still being a familiar Android experience.
Let’s end up with another little nod from Microsoft, as it adds the open source Android as an option to its cloud management platform. It is limited at the moment, but it opens up possibilities for custom ROMs and Android flavours that do not rely on Google:
“Microsoft has built a new way to manage devices that run AOSP that do not have access to GMS capabilities. This new platform for corporate devices brings devices that run AOSP alongside other mobile and desktop endpoints, all now managed under one cloud connected platform.”
Android Circuit rounds up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!