After making a splash in 2017 with the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, all eyes were on Google in early October for the unveiling of the new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. With the new line of Galaxy S phones already on the shelf, and having had Apple already show their hand with the new iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, Google remained the last major player in flagship smart phones that had yet to reveal their 2018 line.
Now, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have been revealed after a dizzying amount of leaks and rumors. Is it worth the wait, worth the hype, and most importantly, is it worth the money? BFads is here to answer all of this and more in our Look at the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Google Pixel 3 vs Pixel 3 XL
Following a very welcome trend in 2018 flagships, Google has fallen in line with both Apple and Samsung by not holding back key features between their new models, regardless of size. This means the only difference between the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL is the screen size and dimensions.
Screen Size (diag.)
Google Pixel 3
5.73” x 2.69” x 0.30”
2160 x 1080
Google Pixel 3 XL
6.22” x 3.02” x 0.30”
2940 x 1440
Since the biggest difference between the two phones is the screen, it’s important to note that aside from the size difference, there is a large difference in resolution and pixel density. While both screens have always-on AMOLED displays with HDR capability, the Pixel 3 has only a full HD display while the Pixel 3 XL features a quad HD panel.
The only other technical difference of note is the battery capacity. As is common with extra-large phones, Google has used the additional interior room to house a slightly larger battery in the 3 XL, which weighs in with a 3430mah battery, a 17% increase over the 2915mah battery found in the Pixel 3.
While not a radical redesign by any means, the Pixel 3 line of smartphones did undergo a bit of a facelift since last year. The most notable change is the switch to a full-glass backing, housed with an aluminum band, while not leaving behind the trademark two-tone look that was so controversial when the Pixel first debuted.
So how did Google manage to make a two-tone piece of glass? According to Google, the Pixel 3 series features a special micro-etching process that gives the lower portion of the back a matte look while offering a unique feel they call “soft glass.” This allows an all glass body that retains the signature look, and is available in 3 colors with the typical off-beat names we’ve come to expect: Clearly White, Just Black, and Not Pink.
Speaking of signature looks, the Google Assistant button is back along the right-hand side of the phone, and with the exception of the Just Black model, the button features a contrasted color to give the phone an extra bit of style.
For those that dislike the “notch” trend inadvertently started by Apple with the release of the iPhone X, the Pixel 3 XL design may grab your attention for the wrong reason: it has one of the largest notches of any smart phone. Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have stereo front-facing speakers and dual front-facing cameras (more on that later) so it’s somewhat understandable, but if notches are not your cup of tea, the 3 XL might not be the phone for you.
Under the Hood
Since the Pixel series of smartphones is actually only three years old, it’s not exactly clear if Google intends to follow in the footsteps of Apple, where every other year brings only an incremental bump in hardware specs with modest design changes and an “S” added after the name, but if that turns out to be the case, it could certainly be argued that 2018 was the first “S” year for Google Pixel.
Pixel 3 XL
The hardware side of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL is somewhat vanilla, although that is not to say it’s underwhelming compared to the competition. In fact, it’s mostly the same hardware set you’ve seen on other 2018 flagships, as both new Pixels sport the industry-leading Snapdragon 845/Adreno 630 pairing that is considered standard on this year’s smartphones. If you are the type to max out your storage, you should note that this year’s Pixel, as those before it, lack the option to expand the storage through use of a microSD card. Also new to the Pixel 3 and 3 XL is Qi compatible wireless charging, along with compatibility for Google’s new wireless charging stand, the Pixel Stand, which we’ll talk more about later.
The one interesting hardware inclusion that has never before been seen on a Pixel phone is Google’s mysterious new Titan M security chip. Google didn’t explain exactly how it worked, but explained that Titan M is "built custom for Pixel 3,” and “helps secure your passwords and operating system.” Given that the Titan M is an obvious namesake of the Google Titan USB-A and Bluetooth security key, the chip likely helps as a form of two-factor authentication that is built right into the phone.
Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have stayed the course and resisted the trend of featuring multiple cameras on the rear of the phone, although they have conceded to the idea of multiple front-facing selfie cameras.
Around the back, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL have a camera that is remarkably similar to the one found in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. The 12.2-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera with optical image stabilization has a slightly wider angle than last year’s model, but on paper, appears to be nearly the same as far as the hardware is concerned.
Around the front, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL have dual selfie cameras, each 8MP but one featuring an ultra-wide field of view to help squeeze more friends into your selfies.
So Where are the Upgrades? It’s All About the Software
At this point it might be looking like Pixel’s first “S” year is more “S” than any iPhone has ever had, with some hardware changes that are welcome but ultimately a far cry from pushing someone to upgrade to the latest and greatest Pixel.
Google, however, is primarily a software company, and this year, more than ever, they are flexing the power of their vast array of software services and machine learning to add some killer features that are exclusive to Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Super Res Zoom – Digital zoom is something that has been lackluster since the very first digital cameras were released. Super Res Zoom looks to use the tiny motions in your hand movement when zooming to take several photos from the slightly different angles you are inadvertently using when trying to hold steady while zooming. Super Res Zoom then merges them all together to give some of the best looking digital zoomed photos seen on a smart phone.
Google Lens Integration – Google Lens is now baked right into the Google Camera app, and will scan whatever it sees to provide helpful shortcuts like reading an email address on a business card and letting you tap to send an email or add to contacts, or recognizing a phone number and letting you tap to make a call. Google claims it can even recognize objects like sunglasses on someone’s face and will link you to where you can buy a pair just like them.
Google Assistant Call Screening – If you’re someone who is extremely lucky and is constantly getting phone calls about all the free luxury cruises you won without ever entering, the new Call Screening feature will probably be a feature you soon can’t live without. When you’re receiving a call, you can choose to screen the call with a tap of the screen, which will send the caller into a conversation with your Google Assistant. You can then watch, in real time, as Google Assistant speaks to whomever is calling and transcribes what the caller is saying so that you can decide to reject the call or actually accept it.
Top Shot - Using Google camera’s image processing and, of course, machine learning, the new Top Shot feature in the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will snap a burst of photos and then recommend the best looking photo of the sequence. Hair blown in the face, quick loss of focus, someone blinking, are all things that Top Shot can recognize and filter out automatically.
Google Pixel Stand – Google's Dark Horse?
Earlier when we said Google was flexing its software prowess with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, the neat camera and convenience features were only the beginning. Google’s software versatility can be no better exemplified than the interesting new Google Pixel Stand, where the marriage of software and new hardware capability turns Google’s first foray into wireless charging into a wholly transformative experience for Pixel 3 and 3 XL owners.
Docking your new Pixel into the Google Pixel Stand not only juices up the battery, but puts your smartphone into a special mode that transforms it into what many are calling a touch-screen enabled Google Home device. While docked, you can interact with your phone the same way you would a Google Home, but the Pixel takes it a step further. In the morning, the screens color and brightness will adjust to mimic a sunrise before your alarm goes off. Once you’re up, you’re greeted with the weather, traffic report, and given an overview of your agenda for the day. Throughout the day, if docked, your Pixel 3 or 3 XL will display photos from your camera and, of course display, the time and any agenda items you have coming up. At night, your phone will automatically go into do not disturb mode until you’re ready to begin the next day with your Pixel 3.
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL coupled with the Pixel Stand truly give users an experience that no other phone can match.
Pricing Information and Final Thoughts
Bucking another 2018 trend, Google is owed some praise for keeping all of its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 Models under the $1000 price tag that seems to be a starting point with other smartphone makers.
Pixel 3 XL
To add a bit of value to your purchase of a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, Google is throwing in 6 months of their YouTube Music Premium service for free, a $60 value.
While 6 months of free music is nice, BFads readers will no doubt be looking for some of the more celebrated smart phone deals for which Black Friday is known. Gift cards, service credit, cash discounts, and more are available on the hottest smartphones each and every Black Friday. The leaked ads are already starting to roll out, so stay tuned to BFads.net for the latest in doorbusters, price breaks, and of course our Signature Buying Guides!