Thank you, Pixel 7. Thank you for helping to end 2022 on a fun note that would have otherwise left me sleepy, tossing and tucking into bed while trying to wrap my brain around the idea that 2023 will be more exciting and less depressing.
As 2022 began, things began on an unusual note, perhaps setting the tone for the rest of the year. You may recall that OnePlus quickly announced the OnePlus 10 Pro, only for China with no word on when it might show up in the US. Since OnePlus was mostly known as a brand with a US focus, this was strange.
The phone finally 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 launched the lowest-spec model initially and left us with questions about software plans. We now know that OnePlus phones will only run ColorOS from OPPO and nothing like the experience that once helped us truly enjoy the brand.
As much as I loved the 10 Pro, when we write about OnePlus phones, our readers are quick to express their displeasure that the brand has evolved from a small and unassuming Android player who caters to a niche enthusiast audience, to a phone company that’s entirely a big, Samsung- esque personality has taken on.
I’m still going to pull for OnePlus to integrate because they make great performing hardware and there are very few players like it. But people, they have to change direction quickly.
But backing up for a second, Samsung wasn’t far behind OnePlus in announcing their first phone of the year, the Galaxy S22. It 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 was really just another Note phone with few differences and few differences from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra launched a year ago.
Look, I know this will upset some people, because people love the S22 Ultra and the older Note series. I’m just saying it wasn’t attractive – it was a rebrand of an old brand that was still alive.
As for the S22 and S22+, they were excellent. The S22 was a non-starter as 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 for the Pixel 7 launch. But let’s be honest, none of the S22 phones were “new” or different or exciting. This was the 2nd year in a row of this design.
If we’re sticking with Samsung, you all know about the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, two other really impressive foldable phones. They are the best foldables in the business and I even convinced my wife to ditch her Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and switch to the Flip 4. He likes it (I think) and always tells me how people comment it’s cool but like the S22 series, there wasn’t much new. If I were to list the major differences between this year’s models from the Fold 3 and Flip 3, the list wouldn’t be long.
Basically what I’m getting at with Samsung’s 2022 line-up is that we’ve got a lot of refinement and not a lot of excitement.
Moving on from Samsung now, we have to talk about the biggest disappointment of 2022. There are two and they were also the devices I was looking forward to the most because they were new. I’m talking about nothing and OSOM.
2022 is going to be a year that includes 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 not known as Samsung or Google or OnePlus or Apple or Motorola. And then, well, you know what happened.
Phone (1) revealed nothing, a mid-ranger that was less mid-range than other mid-rangers and would never make it to the US. The phone launch was filled with an outrageous level of trollout features and then landed with a back panel lighting gimmick that no normal person would ever see, because normal non-crazy people don’t put their phones down on a surface. Its software was lacking, the camera was subpar, and again, you couldn’t buy one in the US.
When it comes to OSOM, the story is even sadder. For those not in the know, OSOM is a phone company run by a whole bunch of ex-Essential crew, that created one of those rare phones, as flawed as they are, that we mysteriously love. But since OSOM said all the right things in the years leading up to the launch of their first phone, we had high hopes. We thought it could be an Essential Phone 2 revival without all the problems of the Essential Phone.
When OSOM started touting their upcoming phone with a privacy focus, we were worried it might be crypto. I half-jokingly said in an article that if it flips to crypto, we’ll never talk about it again. I guess I’m breaking my rules, but this part of the 2022 story needs to be mentioned again.
In case you missed it, because we haven’t mentioned it since the news broke, OSOM went crypto bro with their first phone and let a company called Solana brand it. It is now known as Solana Saga. The phone is scheduled to release in 2023 for $1,000, and yes, we don’t have much else to say about it.
We’ve got a Pixel 6a in there, a few new Motorola phones, another OnePlus phone, and that’s about it. None of this was a big deal. 2022 is almost done putting us to bed.
Thankfully, as you know by opening, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro saved it all. For me personally, it was the Pixel 7 in particular that ended 2022 on a high note. I love this phone. It’s priced in a way that no other phone can match. It has an amazing camera and performance and software experience that tops them all. Its design has been refined a lot this year too, in a way that feels premium beyond the price you pay for it. If you want more details about all that, you should read my review.
But how did I know that this Pixel 7 really won me over the moment I hit “publish” on that review? Most of the year, whenever I’m done testing a phone, I almost always put it down and reach for something else. Nothing could hold my attention this year.
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 it off, then back on it, and then on a Galaxy S22+. Then I tested a Motorola phone before switching 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 traded-in to give it a bit of a 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 about a month, and briefly reached for something else before heading back to the 7 in a few hours. I am addicted to it. I am addicted to camera and smoothness. It probably also helps that I love the Pixel watch that comes with it, but its size and its stupid yellow color and a Pixel feature drop are just around the corner. I have no complaints about the Pixel 7 today.
You might ask, “Well what’s so exciting about it, though? Isn’t it like the Pixel 6?” You are right to think of it. The Pixel 7 isn’t reinventing the smartphone or dramatically changing it from last year’s Pixel line. But what Google did was ultimately right. They finally made it The The phone we hoped they could. And that’s why it’s exciting. We finally get to see where The The phone can go from Google (again) without worrying so much about what went wrong.
I hope I didn’t offend all the Samsung fans in the building, because the phones they released in 2022 were great phones, they just didn’t do anything new. I don’t know if 2023 will be different, but what I do know is that the Pixel 7 stole the show and I’m not sure anything on the horizon can steal it back.