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Like The Iphone 14, The Google Pixel 7 Is Unfinished

Phone manufacturers have mastered the art of both delivering and withholding features, so the perfect phone is always a year away.

You most likely adore your new iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro. If you ordered a Pixel 7 Pro, you’ll enjoy it as well. You don’t need to read a ton of reviews to know that Apple’s current iPhone lineup is its strongest yet, or that Google’s newest handset introduces smart, meaningful changes and a camera system unrivaled on any other smartphone.

Of course, I could have written something similar last year. And the previous year. Smartphones, more than any other device, are perpetual works in progress that never seem to be finished: The iPhone 12 Pro lacked ProMotion, the 13 lacked an always-on display, and the Pixel 6 Pro lacked Face Unlock.

And, as good as it is and as much as you love it, your new iPhone 14 or Pixel 7 is still a year or two away from being perfect. And it will always be.

The same but not the same

The Pixel 7 Pro resembles last year’s model in appearance, with a camera bar on the back and a small hole-punch for the selfie camera. It looks nice, but it feels like a compromise rather than the pinnacle of a decade’s worth of phone design.

The same is true for the iPhone 14. For the past three years, Apple has essentially used the same design, and while it is recognizable, it is also beginning to feel a little stale. But it’s difficult to see how it could change without a radical shift. The camera, like the Pixel 7, needs to be bumped, the screen needs a camera cutout, and the bezels can’t be reduced any further.

Regardless of which phone you choose, it will feel incomplete, despite what its manufacturer claims. We fantasize about cameras flush against the back, bezels that are invisible, and thin sheets of glass that feel like paper. Maybe we’ll get there in 2030 or 2041, but for now, smartphones are stuck in a never-ending cycle of catch-up and one-upmanship.

Just wait until next year

When it comes to iPhone development, Apple is always a couple of years ahead of the competition, so while we’re buying the iPhone 14, engineers are hard at work on the iPhone 16. That’s one of the reasons Apple always seems to hold back on new features. With each iPhone generation, there is a major feature that should be present but isn’t.

After all, Android phones are catching up as well. Cinematic Blur, one of the Pixel 7’s standout camera features, is essentially a carbon copy of the iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode. The same can be said for Macro Focus, which debuted on the iPhone 13 Pro last year.

Fans of the iPhone and Pixel will argue that the features are distinct, but that isn’t really the point. Phones are engaged in a year-round game of catch-up and one-up, and there will always be something that one has and the other does not. The iPhone 14 Pro, for example, has a telephoto lens, but it’s not as good as the ones on the Pixel 7 Pro or the Galaxy S22. This is most likely coming with the iPhone 15.

After years of 12MP photos, the iPhone has only recently received a 48MP camera. High-megapixel cameras and always-on displays have been standard features of high-end Android phones for years, and Apple could have included them in any of the recent updates. However, that is not how the game works. Apple and Google will never give us more than the exact feature set calculated to keep us happy enough to buy the latest model while also wanting to upgrade the following year.

Perhaps the Pixel 8 will get Dynamic Islands. Alternatively, the iPhone 16 will receive Google’s Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur. Perhaps the camera bar will make its way to the iPhone at some point, or the Pixel will get a flatter design.

While you’re enjoying your new iPhone 14 Plus, features for the iPhone 16 are already being finalized and are unlikely to change significantly between now and 2024. And by the time they arrive, the iPhone will have gained something else.

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