While the rumoured Pixel Ultra was a bust, Google did unveil its Pixel 3 line-up of flagship smartphones during its annual October keynote. As expected, many features housed within the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL has already been revealed through comprehensive leaks, however Google still managed to impress with its brand new camera technology.
With both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL housing near-identical specifications and the latter being debatably the most leaked piece of technology in history, there were no surprises hardware wise. Both sport a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of memory and a choice between 64GB or 128GB variants. Fingerprint sensors are still located on the rear of the device, and even the 12.2MP rear camera returns from its predecessors.
So what’s changed? Well, the Google Pixel 3 houses a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen powered by a 2915mAh battery, while the notched Pixel 3 XL sits a little bigger at 6.3-inches with a sizeable 3430mAh battery. The two-tone matte finish returns, however the glass back means that each device is capable of wireless charging. Both contain “40 percent louder and richer” dual speakers designed in collaboration with a Grammy award winning producer, however these are contained in bezels distinctly larger than average for a 2018 flagship.
Google has kept its 8MP front-facing camera, bolstering the numbers by adding a second 8MP lens for a widescreen effect. The lack of change in hardware is nothing to scoff at, however, as the Pixel brand shines through its innovative use of AI and software.
The Pixel 3’s Visual Core chip makes way for HDR+ to return, while debuting new features such as Top Shot and Night Sight. Top Shot eliminates mistimed or botched shots by snapping a variety of HDR+ photos, using machine learning to choose the best photos based on eyes being open and smiles being shown. Night Sight is perfect for low-light photography, ridding the unnatural feel flash often brings with it by layering images and adjusting colour as well as brightness:
Photobooth marks the return of Google Clips hardware, snapping photos by automatically detecting smiles, the pulling of faces and other candid moments without the need to press the shutter button. Super Res Zoom utilises small movements within the users hand to snap shots of slightly different angles, pairing them together through AI in order to allow users to zoom without the loss of quality.
Group Selfie aims to help users stop stretching to fit a group of people into a photo, offering 184 percent more room than the iPhone XS. Portrait Mode can further enhance this by allowing for a bokeh effect by manually changing the point of focus. This extends to video, where the camera is able to track a quick moving subject to maintain focus.
There are more camera features that Google was reluctant to delve into given its limited time, but the majority of these software-based enhancements will actually be making their way to Pixel and Pixel 2 handsets in the near future. This makes it difficult to tell whether or not the Pixel 3 range is a worthy upgrade for those already in the family. Google Pixel 3 users, however, will have access to an all-new spam caller screen that allows owners to divert a call and receive a transcription of the voice mail. In turn, the user can then decide whether they want to respond immediately, or outright block the number as a spam caller.
Google also announced the wireless charging Pixel Stand. As the leaks suggested, this changes the user interface of Pixel 3 devices, allowing them to become much friendlier when stood up. This ranges from displaying the time to gradually brightening in order to calmly wake the users up in conjunction with set alarms.
Pre-orders are live ahead of the October 18th release date, starting at $799 and $899 for the 64GB configuration of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL respectively. Buyers can choose between Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink, which is blatantly a pastel pink. This will be accompanied by 6 months-worth of YouTube Music. The Pixel Stand, however, comes in at $80 and is sold separately.
KitGuru Says: I still cannot stand the notch on the Pixel 3 XL, but the 515mAh difference does push me more in favour of the bigger offering. What do you think of Google’s latest flagship smartphones?