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Google remotely targeted someone with a stolen Pixel 7 Pro prototype

Published Jun 2nd, 2022 2:26PM EDT
Google's Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are coming this fall.
Image: Google

It looks like there are several stolen Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 prototype devices that have been sold on the black market right now. We saw an eBay auction for a Pixel 7 a few days ago, with the reseller claiming they had already sold the Pixel 7 Pro to someone. A photo proved that was the case.

Now, there’s a report from an actual Pixel 7 Pro buyer claiming they used a prototype for three weeks. Then, something unexpected happened. Google wiped the phone remotely, so the user unexpectedly lost access to all of their data.

Pixel 7 is almost identical to last year’s Pixel

We saw the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 in various renders in the past few months, all indicating that Google will reuse the Pixel 6 design the same way Apple reuses iPhone designs. Some minor tweaks are expected, including a new camera on the back and imperceptible size changes.

But, overall, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will use the same design that Google introduced last fall on the Pixel 6.

Google then did something unexpected and confirmed the Pixel 7 design at I/O 2022 a few weeks ago. Just like that, Google stopped all design rumors and render leaks that would have continued to surface until October. That’s when we expect Google to officially launch the Pixel 7 series. But Google obviously never made Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro prototypes available to the press or regular buyers.

It was just a few days ago that someone spotted the Pixel 7 eBay auction. And it turns out that Pixel 7 devices are being sold in all sorts of places, including Facebook.

Rear of Pixel 7 prototype shows a reflection of the Pixel 7 Pro camera system.
Pixel 7 prototype shows a reflection of the Pixel 7 Pro camera system. Image source: eBay

Google remotely wiped a Pixel 7 Pro prototype

An Android user took to Reddit to detail his frustration with what had just happened. They bought a Pixel 7 Pro from Facebook Marketplace, with the seller listing it as a Pixel 6 Pro. That was about three weeks ago, and they’ve been using the handset ever since.

It might’ve been listed as a 6 Pro, but the Redditor likely knew what sort of device they acquired.

Then, earlier this week, Google wiped the handset remotely, erasing the buyer’s data along with it. Here’s how they described the experience:

It’s been working 100% fine the entire time I had it until yesterday morning. It was early about 4:00 something I was getting ready and I saw the screen start flickering and doing weird stuff. The next thing I know I saw it’s saying it was factory data resetting and wiping everything from my phone, so I freaked out and tried to get it out of that but it wasn’t letting me do anything. Then I saw a circle on the screen saying erasing date and then it went to that screen. I think big G did it.

The Pixel 7 Pro prototype owner posted photos online (below), proving this is the next-gen model.

Bad news for Google

The photos provide clear identification details that anyone who has followed Pixel 7 news and rumors can recognize.

For starters, the rear camera module is made of metal, featuring cut-outs for the three camera lenses. Then, the product codename is Cheetah, which has been associated with the Pixel 7 Pro before.

The strange Google logo on the back also indicates that we’re looking at an unofficial prototype device. It is of course possible that the phone has unique markings to help Google identify where the prototype was stolen from.

Pixel 7 Pro prototype purchased from Facebook Marketplace.
Pixel 7 Pro prototype purchased from Facebook Marketplace. Image source: Reddit user AMC20_ via 9to5Google

But the whole thing spells trouble for Google. Somehow, a number of Pixel 7 prototypes are in the wild. Google might have wiped all of them remotely after news of the eBay auction got out. But it’s still a disturbing development.

Also, reports that the Pixel 7 phones will be nearly identical to the Pixel 6 seem to be accurate. It’s not necessarily great that the Facebook reseller didn’t know they had the next-gen Pixel 7 Pro on their hands. But then again, you would have to have used a Pixel 6 to see any differences. Or you’d have to be aware of all the Pixel 7 rumors and news to spot the design changes.

On the other hand, having people confuse the Pixel 7 Pro prototype with the Pixel 6 Pro might be good news. It shows there’s some brand recognition. The Pixel finally has a recognizable design that makes it truly stand out from the crow of Androids.

More Pixel coverage: For more Pixel news, visit our Pixel 7 guide.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.