Possibly one of the most leaked smartphones of all time is here, so it might not come as a surprise but Google’s latest flagship handsets are official. Tech Advisor attended the London launch event where we spent some hands-on time with the Pixel 3 so here’s our initial review.
It’s a shame that almost nothing about the 2018 Pixel phones was a secret, making the big launch a bit of an anti-climax. However, most were for the larger Pixel 3 XL model and Google did announce some other new devices including the Google Home Hub and, quietly, the Chromecast 3.
Pixel 3: Price and where to buy
This year the Pixel 3 starts at $799 and will be available on 18 October.
In the UK, it’s available a little later on 1 November starting at £739.
Pre-order the phone at Google.
Pixel 3: Design and build
There’s not a huge design change when it comes to this year’s Pixel phone as on the whole, Google is sticking to the same style and look.
The Pixel 3 has a distinctive style at the back with its two-tone effect which not everyone will like. The iconic glossy section at the top houses the camera with the lower part containing the fingerprint scanner.
This time around it’s a fully glass design with the lower section offering a matt finish which both looks and feels luxurious. It’s also more grippy that a typical glass back and won’t show fingerprint marks as much. Importantly, this change also enables wireless charging.
It’s the front that looks even more different this year due to a change in display aspect ratio – an industry-wide trend. Smaller bezels not only look better but mean you get a larger screen in a body that’s essentially the same.
Whatever side of the fence you’re on, it’s worth noting that the regular Pixel 3 is the model without a notch. The Pixel 3 XL, for the first time on a Google phone, has the divisive feature.
Much of the elements we’re used to are the same so you get a USB-C port, no headphone jack and waterproofing. Although the latter is now IPX8 instead of IP67 so the water side of things has gone up but it doesn’t have a dust rating.
Colour options are once again Clearly White, Just Black and the new Not Pink (which has a peach tone in real life) – each with a difference accent colour on the side button apart from the black model.
Pixel 3: Specs and features
Like the design, there’s not huge overhaul when it comes to the specs and features. This is more of a refinement sort of product.
The most obvious change is the display which as we mentioned is now using an on-trend tall aspect ratio. It’s 19:9 to be precise and sticks with a Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2280) and AMOLED tech.
Jumping from 5- to 5.5in give you more real estate to play with. If you want even more, then the XL has a 6.3in display albeit with a larger than average notch. Either way you’ll need to get used to the new gestures of Android Pie, which we’ll talk about later.
When it comes to the core specs, there’s a predictable upgrade to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 – the firm’s flagship processor for 2018. Memory remains at just 4GB (despite rumours of a 50 percent increase) and you’ll once again need to choose from 64- or 128GB of storage. Pick wisely as there’s no microSD card slot.
Performance appears to be as slick as you’d expect from an in-house Google Android phone, but we’ll test it further once we get a review sample.
Where other manufacturers force you to buy the large model out of two phones to get enhanced photography, normally an extra camera, the Pixel 3s have the same setup.
Interestingly, neither phone has dual cameras at the rear. Google is confident that it can offer excellent photography and video capture with just a single rear lens. The specs look the same as last year at 12.2Mp, an f/1.8 aperture, OIS and dual autofocus (phase detection and laser).
Google’s software, namely HDR+, is the reason why it only needs one lens. A new feature called Top Shot will take multiple shots so you can choose the best, rather then end up missing that key moment. Night Sight is also new and aims to help you get great results in low light without using a flash with machine learning. It’s launching in November, though.
Oddly, then, the new tech is at the front where there are two cameras. Both are 8Mp with an f/1.8 or f/2.2 aperture and like the LG V40, one is a standard focal length while the other is wide-angle (107 degrees instead of 75) so you can fit more people into the frame. They both look pretty good.
There’s plenty more about the Pixel 3 that essentially remains the same as before with similar connectivity, the rear fingerprint scanner. That means there’s no fingerprint scanner embedded in the screen, which is a shame as it’s set to arrive on the OnePlus 6T which will be a cheaper rival.
A new feature, although it’s nothing new in the grand scheme, is wireless charging. It’s a welcome addition and the battery capacity is a little larger, too, at 2915mAh. Get the new Pixel Stand and the phone will turn into a sort of smart display where you can control it with your voice or handy on-screen icons. It costs £69/$79.
Active Edge remains, too, so you can squeeze the phone to trigger various actions like the Google Assistant or opening the camera.
It’s no surprise that the phones come with Android 9.0 Pie, although they’re not the first to market with the latest version. We’ve already reviewed the Sony Xperia XZ3 which ships with it.
The main change here is that you’ll have to get used to gestures for navigation that are akin to the iPhone XS.
Swipe up and you’ll get your app draw, swipe and hold and you’ll get recent apps where you can close them with throwing them satisfyingly off the top of the display. You can’t switch the old navigation buttons on, even if you want them which is a shame.
Otherwise, you get the same pure Google experience with the Google Assistant a swipe away from the home screen and, of course, no bloatware.