Thank you, Pixel 7. Thank you for helping end 2022 on a fun note that otherwise would have left me asleep, tossing and turning in bed while trying to flip my brain over to the idea that maybe 2023 will be more exciting and less disappointing.
When 2022 kicked off, things started off on an unusual note, possibly setting the tone for the rest of the year. You may recall that OnePlus was quick to announce the OnePlus 10 Pro, only it did so for China only without word of when it might show up in the US. Since OnePlus was mostly known as a brand with a focus on the US, this was weird.
The phone eventually launched in the US in April and I liked it quite a bit. It was one of my early favorites of the year, but OnePlus only initially launched the lowest spec model and left us with question upon question about software plans. We now know that OnePlus phones will just run ColorOS from OPPO and are nothing like the experience that once helped us truly enjoy the brand.
As much as I liked the 10 Pro, when we write about OnePlus phones, our readers are quick to voice their displeasure in the slide the brand has made from smallish and feisty Android player who catered to a niche enthusiast audience, to a phone company that has fully adopted a bigger, Samsung-esque persona.
I’m still going to pull for OnePlus to get it together because they make great performing hardware and there are too few players as it is. But man, they gotta change directions in a hurry.
But backing back up for a second, Samsung wasn’t far behind OnePlus in announcing their first phone of the year, the Galaxy S22. This was almost a big deal, thanks to the Galaxy S22 Ultra reviving the Galaxy Note brand. And as good as the S22 Ultra was, it really was just another Note phone without anything groundbreaking and few differences from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, a phone that had launched a year earlier.
Look, I know that’s going to annoy some people, because people love the S22 Ultra and also the old Note series. I’m just saying that it wasn’t interesting – it was a rebrand of an old brand into the still-alive brand.
As for the S22 and S22+, they were nice. The S22 was a non-starter because it had the worst battery life of a phone since the Pixel 4. The S22+ was actually solid and I used one for a while leading up to the Pixel 7 launch. But let’s be honest, neither of the S22 phones were “new” or different or exciting. This was the 2nd year in a row of this design.
If we stick with Samsung, you all know about the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, another two really impressive foldable phones. They are the best foldables in the business and I even convinced my wife to switch off of her Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and onto the Flip 4. She loves it (I think) and tells me all of the time about the comments people make about how cool it is. But like the S22 series, there wasn’t much new. If I were to tell you to list out the big differences from the Fold 3 and Flip 3 to this year’s models, that list isn’t going to be long.
Basically what I’m getting at with Samsung’s 2022 line-up is that we got a lot of refinement and not a lot of excitement.
Moving on from Samsung now, we have to talk about the biggest disappointments of 2022. There are two and they also happened to be devices I was most looking forward to because they were new. I’m talking about Nothing and OSOM.
2022 was going to be a year that included two new phone makers, which is a big deal in an industry that rarely sees a new name pop-up. I was genuinely excited about these two companies. I was itching to try a new phone from a company that wasn’t named Samsung or Google or OnePlus or Apple or Motorola. And then, well, you know what happened.
Nothing released the Phone (1), a mid-ranger that was less mid-range than other mid-rangers and would never make its way to the US. The phone launch was filled with an obnoxious level of trollout feature hype and then landed with a rear panel light gimmick that no normal person will ever see, because normal not-insane people don’t put their phones face down on any surface. Its software was lacking, the camera was bottom tier, and again, you couldn’t buy one in the US.
When it comes to OSOM, the story is even sadder. For those not familiar, OSOM is a phone company run by a whole bunch of the former Essential crew, which made one of those rare phones, as flawed as it was, that we mysteriously loved. But because OSOM said all of the right things for a couple of years in the lead-up to their first phone’s launch, we had high hopes. We thought this might be the revival of an Essential Phone 2 without all of the Essential Phone’s problems.
When OSOM really started to pitch their upcoming phone as having a privacy focus, we were worried it might go crypto. I said semi-jokingly in one article that if it did flip to crypto, we’d never talk about it again. I guess I’m breaking my rule, but this part of the 2022 story needed to be mentioned again.
In case you missed it, because we haven’t mentioned it since the news dropped, OSOM went crypto bro with their first phone and let a company named Solana brand it. It is now known as the Solana Saga. The phone is scheduled to release for $1,000 in 2023, and yeah, we don’t really have much to say about it anymore.
We also got a Pixel 6a in there, a couple of new Motorola phones, another OnePlus phone, and that’s sort of it. None of it was a big deal. 2022 almost ended by putting us to bed.
Thankfully, as you know by the opening, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro saved it all. For me personally, it’s the Pixel 7 specifically that made 2022 end on a high note. I love this phone. It’s priced in a way that no other phone can match it currently. It has an amazing camera and performance and software experience that top them all. Its design is much more refined this year too, in a way that leaves it feeling premium beyond the price you paid for it. If you want more details on all of that, you should read my review.
But how I knew this Pixel 7 had really won me over was the minute I pushed “Publish” on that review. For most of the year, whenever I finished up with testing a phone, I almost always immediately put it down and reached for something else. Nothing this year could hold my attention.
For example, when I finished with the S22 Ultra I switched to an iPhone 13 Pro. When I finished with the OnePlus 10 Pro, I switched off it then back onto it and then onto a Galaxy S22+. Then I tested a Motorola phone before going back to the iPhone – same for the Pixel 6a. With the Flip 4, I actually thought it might be the phone going forward, but then the iPhone 14 Pro dropped and I made the trade-in swap to give it some run. I haven’t touched the Flip 4 since.
The Pixel 7 landed on my front porch for review in early October and I haven’t put it down. I finished my review a week ago, after testing it for almost a month, and briefly reached for something else before switching back within a couple of hours to the 7. I’m addicted to it. I’m addicted to the camera and the smoothness. It probably also helps that I’m loving the Pixel Watch attached to it, but it’s also the size and its goofy yellow color and the fact that a Pixel Feature Drop is around the corner. I don’t have any complaints about the Pixel 7 today.
You may be asking, “Well what’s so exciting about it, though? Isn’t it just like the Pixel 6?” You are right in thinking that. The Pixel 7 isn’t reinventing the smartphone or dramatically changing over last year’s Pixel line. But what Google has done is finally get it right. They finally made the phone we hoped they could. And that’s why it is exciting. We finally get to see where the phone from Google can go instead of worrying so much about what went wrong (again).
I hope I didn’t offend all of the Samsung fans in the building, because the phones they released in 2022 were excellent phones, they just didn’t do anything new. I don’t know if 2023 will be any different, but what I do know is that the Pixel 7 has stolen the show and I’m not sure anything on the horizon can steal it back.