For years the flagship smartphone market was dominated by Apple and Samsung. Now, however, Google has set its eyes on the ultra-premium smartphone segment with its newly launched Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The search giant is more aggressive than previous years, an indication that its product can compete with both the iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9 in specifications and features as well as sheer market hype.
The Pixel 3 doesn’t feel more than an incremental upgrade on last year’s Pixel 2. But Google insists that the Pixel 3 is not just about the hardware or how it looks, instead it says the focus has been on delivering those features that really matter to consumers. To put it simply, Google isn’t even trying to persuade users to buy its hardware — in reality, it wants to prove how its expertise and investment in AI and machine learning can create a concept phone with heavy reliance on the cloud, unmatched software experience, and best-in-class camera.
But how does the Pixel 3 feel like in the real world? Our Pixel 3 review unit has the same camera as the Pixel 3 XL and the same powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor inside – the main difference comes to its screen size and its compact form factor. When it hits the Indian smartphone market on November 1, Google Pixel 3 will cost Rs 71,000 for the 64GB variant while the 128GB storage model will be priced at Rs 80,000.
Is this a phone from the future? Here is our detailed review
Google Pixel 3 specifications: 5.5-inch Full HD+ display (2160 x 1080) flexible OLED at 443ppi, 18:9 display| Corning Gorilla Glass 5| Always-on display| HDR support|Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, Adreno 630 GPU| Pixel Visual Core|Titan M Security module|4GB RAM| 64GB or 128GB storage|12:2MP dual-pixel single rear camera, f/1.8 aperture;Optical + electronic image stabilization|8MP dual cameras (wide-angle + regular shooter)| IP68 water and dust resistant| 2,915mAh battery| Wireless Charging|Android 9.0 Pie|Dual front-firing speakers|Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink colour options
Google Pixel 3 price in India: Rs 71,000 onwards
Google Pixel 3 review: Camera
The Pixel 3 is the king of camera smartphones and there’s no second thought about it. The Pixel 3 sports a 12.2MP, f/1.8 aperture single camera lens. So while the megapixel count remains untouched, the pixels are now bigger at 1.4 microns. Simply put, this means they can collect more light, which translates to better shots, especially in low-light conditions. All thanks to Google’s clever software and HDR+ which merges eight separate exposures to deliver better, sharper photos.
So how does the camera perform? As you’d expect, the Pixel 3 does a decent job in capturing small details, like this close-up shot of the Ganesha idol. Look at those colors. You can see yourself how the Pixel 3 managed to capture the tricky details that would otherwise be missed if I had used any other camera smartphone. The picture is sharp, and the colors are natural. Even in indoor settings, there’s plenty of details in the shots.
For most camera smartphones, it is a challenge to capture low-light settings. Even iPhones struggle to capture the shot in extremely dim conditions. However, the Pixel 3 takes low-light photography to a whole new level. In this photo, the Pixel 3 is able to produce clear and more details without a flash on, which shows it can handle tough lighting well. Soon an upcoming feature called Night Sight will be rolled out which will help you shoot natural-looking photos without the need of a flash. The feature combines multiple exposures to create low-light photos with less noise.
What I really liked about the Pixel 3 is the way it captures fancy bokeh shots, without having a secondary snapper, say, on the iPhone XS or Galaxy Note 9. In my tests, the photos are sharp, more detailed, and have more colours. And remember, the photos used in this review have been resized to fit the page. When you look at the original shots, the difference is even starker.
Google Pixel 3 sample shots
Here’s another shot from the Pixel 3. Not bad, to be honest.
With the Pixel 3, Google has introduced new features: Top Shot and Super Res Zoom. Top Shot essentially collects frames before and after you press the shutter button. For example, while capturing a shot, if the Pixel 3 notices amiss — say, a person blinked — it will then recommend you switch to another frame. Other new camera features include a Playground that lets you add animated stickers and characters into your selfies, photos, and videos.
Super Res Zoom is the big news in the Pixel 3 camera. Basically, you can get a high-resolution, noise-free image with a lens that is “technically” not capable of an optical zoom.
You can see sample shots below:
The front of the phone now has two separate cameras: an 8MP f/1.8 standard one and an 8MP f/2.2. wide-angle one. For selfies, a feature called Group Selfie provides 184 per cent more room in the photo while shooting with the wide-angle camera.
Take a look at this:
4K video recording is supported and the results are very good. High-resolution footage that can only be shot in 30 frames per second (fps), though.
Google Pixel 3 review: Design and build quality
The Pixel 3 is here and it doesn’t look too different from the Pixel 2. It’s exactly the same size as its predecessor but now comes with a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels and 18:9 aspect ratio. While Google has once again used the two-tone rear panel found in the Pixel 2, it has opted for glass instead of the textured back. On the back, you will notice a single camera setup, a fingerprint scanner and a small G logo near the bottom.
The Pixel 3 has an aluminium frame between two Gorilla Glass 5 panels. I really like the design of the Pixel 3. It feels great to hold the device in one hand and most importantly, it doesn’t have the ugly notch you find on the Pixel 3 XL. The phone still has thick top and bottom bezels, and the dual firing speakers (now 40 per cent louder than last year) remain an integral part of the Pixel 3.
Like the competition, Google Pixel 3 supports wireless charging (Pixel Stand is launching alongside the new phones, in case you are interested), has IP68 water and dust resistance and does not offer the 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of audio over USB Type-C. Every retail unit of the Pixel 3 comes with a pair of wired Google Pixel Buds, the included dongles, and adapters.
You’ll also get Active Edge, which basically allows you to squeeze the sides of the phone to wake up Google Assistant, something HTC has been doing for a few years. And in case you are wondering, you won’t find a microSD card slot. You have to live with the 64GB and 128GB storage configurations.
Once again, the Pixel 3’s design may not give you goosebumps but I still feel that it is a well-thought device. We have the Just Black model, but you can also consider the Pixel 3 in Clearly White and Not Pink.
Google Pixel 3 review: Display
The Pixel 3 has a slightly bigger display than its predecessor (5.1-inch versus 5.5-inch) but still packs in the same 2,160 x 1,080 resolution. This is not the bezel-less display you might have expected, but that’s okay. The OLED panel is surprisingly sharp and bright. The viewing angles are great, color reproduction is excellent, and brightness is more than enough. HDR support is also present.
Everything looked crisp and clear, be it watching movies on Netflix, viewing photos, or reading e-books using the Kindle app. I must give credit to Google for the quality of the display in the Pixel phones. Considering the controversy surrounding the Pixel 2 XL’s display, both phones have premium OLED panels. Looks like Google has accepted its mistake, and that’s a good thing.
Google Pixel 3 review: Performance
The Pixel 3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. The spec sheet is good enough to rival flagship devices like Galaxy S9 – at least on paper. And to be honest, the Pixel 3 does appear to be solid enough in everyday use. It handled all basic tasks with ease. Even the graphically demanding games like Asphalt 9 ran easily on the Pixel 3, with no glitch.
We put the Google Pixel 3 through AnTuTu and Geekbench 4 scores and the phone was placed below the OnePlus 6 and Galaxy Note 9, making it less exciting than rivals. However, keep in mind that the benchmarks aren’t the best option to measure the real-world performance.
But what bothers me is that the Pixel 3’s hardware already looks dated. So despite being lightning fast, this phone is not future proof, especially since the Snapdragon 845 processor will be replaced by Snapdragon 855 within months. Also, it is really tough for the Pixel 3 to match up to the iPhone XS, which uses the custom-made A12 Bionic based on 7-nanometer architecture and features a Neural Engine used for machine learning.
But what’s in favour of Pixel 3 is the right integration of hardware and software that should offer swift performance, and that’s exactly what I noticed during the testing. The Pixel 3 (including the Pixel 3 XL) is also equipped with a new ‘Titan M’ security chipset, which is essentially designed to secure your data and passwords.
The dual front-firing speakers on the Pixel 3 are clearer and louder than the Pixel 2, which is a welcome move. I can assure you that after listening to music on the Pixel 3, you will stop carrying a Bluetooth speaker in your bag. Waterproofing has also got an upgrade, with the Pixel 3 getting an IP68 rating. This means you can dunk the Pixel 3 to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes and your phone should keep on working. The fingerprint scanner on the back was super quick. The phone has very strong signal performance and the call quality was excellent.
Google Pixel 3 review: Battery and software
The battery on the Pixel 3 is no better than the competition, which is pretty disappointing. The 2,915mAh battery lasts roughly nine hours on regular usage, which involves continues web browsing, watching videos on YouTube, listening to music on Apple Music over Vodafone’s LTE network until the phone’s juice is depleted. Thankfully, the Pixel 3 supports a USB Type-C fast 18W fast charging adapter and a new wireless charging feature.
The Pixel 3 runs Android 9 Pie out of the box. The device has the Pixel Launcher user interface on top, making the device fast and zippy. You swipe down from the top of the screen to access settings. Use the Home button to go back and forth and swipe up to show recent apps. This is pretty straightforward. Plus, there’s haptic feedback when you press the software-driven Home button.
Google Pixel 3 review: Final verdict
It is hard to question Google’s intent behind making the Pixel 3. The vision is to make a flagship Android smartphone that is backed by Google AI, which is fast and slick, and where software takes a center stage. The Pixel 3 comes close but it is still not a perfect device. The camera is its biggest merit, the screen looks good, the front-facing speakers are loud and the battery is good if not the best. Overall, I believe the Pixel 3 is the right phone for geeks and early adopters, but it’s still not ready to be a mass premium seller like the iPhone XS and Galaxy S9.