Google Pixel 3 first look: The camera is again the star
The third iteration of Google’s flagship phone isn’t a huge leap forward. There’s no in-display fingerprint scanner, 3D facial recognition or ridiculous specs. Instead, the search engine giant is doubling down on what it does best.
Like the Pixel devices that came before it, the Pixel 3 (and its larger Pixel 3 XL brother) is all about the camera and giving the user Android as Google intended it. If you were a fan of these phones before, then you’re going to love this.
Google Pixel 3 price
Google Pixel 3 prices start from £739 for the 64GB model and £839 for the 128GB version.
Google Pixel 3 release date
You can pre-order the Google Pixel 3 from October 11, with devices hitting stores on November 1.
Specs-wise, the rear camera has barely changed. It still has a 12.2-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. It’s also still a single-lens system; so there’s no secondary camera to help with zooming. Yet it’s on the inside where Google has tweaked the formula. There’s a new feature called Top Shot that’ll try and help you avoid snapping a shot when someone is sneezing or blinking, while the Super Res Zoom mode takes multiple burst shots and joins them together to give more detail in zoom.
Night Sight is a new feature for both the Pixel 3 and older models that aims to really improve low-light photos. It looks like it works in a similar way to Huawei’s Night mode and, from the demo shots I have seen, boosts brightness without adding too much noise. This feature looks like it’ll be coming after launch, which is a shame.
The Pixel 2 is still the best phone camera you can buy, and if the demo shots Google highlighted are anything to by, this is going to take that prize.
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The camera app has been simplified, too, and it’s now much easier to get to all the options. Instead of jumping through multiple hoops to switch to portrait mode, for example, you just slide your finger across the carousel at the bottom of the app.
Instead of putting two cameras on the back, Google has put them on the front. One of these 8-megapixel cameras is your standard selfie shooter, with the other offering a wider field-of-view. Having a wider-angle camera lets you cram more faces into the shot and it works well here.
The Google Pixel 3 looks very similar to the Pixel 2 XL from last year. The bezel surrounding the display has been slimmed down, stretching the screen out without making the phone feel much larger. This remains one of the smallest high-end flagship Android phones you can buy.
While the bezel has been slimmed, there’s still a chunky rim surrounding the screen. I’ll take this though, as it avoids the need for a notch – something it has over the Pixel 3 XL – and lets Google still keep the excellent-sounding front-facing speakers which it says are now 40% louder. The screen is now 18:9 and measures 5.5-inches, a noticeable upgrade over the 5-inch Pixel 2.
It’s a nice screen to look at, and the use of OLED ensures colours pop and blacks look inky. Some will likely fuss that the resolution is FHD+ (2220 x 1080) rather than QHD+ (2560 x 1440), but at this size, I can’t honestly see much of a difference.
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Flip the phone over and the back is now completely made of glass. This seems like a required decision to allow Qi wireless charging to function properly, but it also allows for a more seamless device. I was never a huge fan of the two-tone metal-and-glass look from before and this feels like a big improvement. The back has a matte finish and Google says this should help avoid smudgy fingerprints. It remains IP68-rated for water resistance.
There’s still no headphone jack on the bottom of the phone, however Google now includes a pair of wired USB-C headphones in the box. These look very similar to the disappointing Pixel Buds from last year, just with wires attached.
In a similar way to Apple, Google focusses a lot more on how the phone actually works rather than shouting about the specs. Still, there have been a few internal upgrades here. A Snapdragon 845 powers the phone and that’s paired with 4GB RAM. It seems odd that Google is sticking with 4GB RAM as I have found certain Android phones struggle with that amount; however, I’ll need to spend a lot more time with the phone to see whether this will be an issue or not.
This still feels like a very fast phone, and having Google’s own build of Android 9 Pie running out of the box certainly helps that. Android Pie brings a new method of gesture navigation to the phone, along with ways of curbing how much you use the phone and improving notifications. Having a Pixel also means you’ll be first in line for future Android updates.
Camera aside, the software used here is another reason why I like using Pixel devices so much. You don’t get bogged down with bloatware or loads of duplicate apps. Instead, everything just works as it should. Google’s services are excellent, and while they work on any Android phone, the best experience is here.
New software features for the Pixel 3 include a clever call-answering that’ll use AI skills to reply to unwanted calls
If the camera manages to be as good as I am expecting, then the Pixel 3 will be one of the best phones you can buy. There’s also the addition of a bigger screen and wireless charging; two more things that should make this an enticing buy.
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