From specs, pricing, features, and more, here’s the latest on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Following months of leak after leak, Google’s officially taken the wraps off its Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones. The two handsets look exactly like what we saw in all the early photos and renders, and while the element of surprise may be gone, we’ve still got two impressive Android handsets to talk about.
Without further ado, this is everything you need to know about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL!
The latest Pixel 3 news
January 3, 2019 — A future software update will add LTE Band 48 to the Pixel 3
The Pixel 3, like all flagship phones released these days, is capable of pretty fast 4G LTE data speeds. However, as noted by the folks at XDA Developers, it’ll soon get a nice upgrade with support for LTE Band 48.
An addendum to the FCC was made public today and cites the international model of the Pixel 3 will support Band 48 following a software update.
LTE Band 48 uses 150MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum. That 3.5GHz spectrum is widely considered by U.S. carriers to be an important building block for expanding 5G networks around the globe.
While the Pixel 3 isn’t capable of 5G, this should still allow users to experience faster speeds overall. LTE Band 48 is part of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and back in April, Verizon said the following about CBRS-capable devices:
By using LTE Advanced technology and carrier aggregation, Verizon will be able to use this shared spectrum to add capacity to its network. Verizon customers will benefit from more capacity, higher peak speeds and faster throughput when accessing the network.
Although the FCC addendum was just made public, it was actually filed back in November. It’s unclear when the Pixel 3 will be updated with Band 48 support, but it shouldn’t be too much longer at this point.
December 21, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s camera receives a DxOMark score of 101
Whenever a new phone comes out, the folks at DxOMark get their hands on one, puts its camera through a series of rigorous tests, and then provide a highly-detailed explaination on everything said camera gets right and where it could improve.
The Google Pixel 3 recently went through this treatment, receiving a final score of 101 that ties it with the Apple iPhone XR as the best single-lens camera you can get on a smartphone.
Here’s what DxO had to say about the Pixel 3:
The camera is a great all-around performer in a variety of conditions, and has one of our highest-ever Video scores of 98. Autofocus is extremely fast, and detail preservation is also very good in most conditions. Its flash is also an excellent all-around performer. Target exposures were generally accurate, with good dynamic range, although sometimes images were a bit underexposed. There is some luminance noise and color shading in low light, but in good light, the only artifacts were occasional ghosting and slight color fringing.
If you want to dive into the full breakdown yourself, you can check it out here.
December 20, 2018 — Google explains how Top Shot works on the Pixel 3
The Pixel 3’s greatest strength is, undeniably, its camera. Google’s outfitted it with a heap of intelligent software features to help you get the best possible photos every time you press the shutter button, and one of the most impressive is the feature called “Top Shot.”
Top Shot works before and after you press the shutter button when taking a picture to help you capture the perfect moment every time. If someone blinked in a picture you took of them, Top Shot will analyze the scene and suggest a new instance of them where they weren’t blinking that you missed. It’s pretty magical stuff, and in a post shared on the Google AI Blog, Google explained exactly how this all works.
According to Google, Top Shot was created using what it learned while developing Google Lens and captures up to 90 different images before and after you press the Pixel 3’s shutter button. From there, those images go through a series of tests and the two with the highest scores are recommended as alternative shots and given the HDR+ treatment.
When a user opens the Pixel 3 Camera app, Top Shot is enabled by default, helping to capture the perfect moment by analyzing images taken both before and after the shutter press. Each image is analyzed for some qualitative features (e.g., whether the subject is smiling or not) in real-time and entirely on-device to preserve privacy and minimize latency. Each image is also associated with additional signals, such as optical flow of the image, exposure time, and gyro sensor data to form the input features used to score the frame quality.
Top Shot primarily looks for a face that’s in focus when determining which alternatives to recommend, but in situations where a face isn’t the main subject, it then rates the other images based on auto focus, auto exposure, auto white balance, motion blur, and motion salience.
Google also notes that:
Importantly, we tested the Top Shot system for fairness to make sure that our product can offer a consistent experience to a very wide range of users. We evaluated the accuracy of each signal used in Top Shot on several different subgroups of people (based on gender, age, ethnicity, etc), testing for accuracy of each signal across those subgroups.
We were pretty blown away when Google first announced Top Shot alongside the Pixel 3 back in October, so it’s cool to get a deeper dive into just how it works.
December 3, 2018 — Google is expanding eSim support for Pixel 3 and rolling out new Call Screen transcripts feature
For those sick of dealing with those tiny carrier SIM cards, Google is expanded the Pixel 3’s eSIM support to work with more carriers. In the same blog post, Google also announced that it’s working on a program to allow other Android device makers the option to create their own eSIM-compatible smartphones in the future. From the Google blog:
If you’re in the U.S. and would like to purchase a phone that has eSIM, head over to Google Fi or the Google Store. If you’re in Germany, look out for the ability to purchase Pixel 3 with eSIM functionality from Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone soon. Sprint in the U.S., EE in the UK, Airtel and Reliance Jio in India, and Truphone and Gigsky in various countries will also roll out eSIM support for Pixel 3 in the coming months.
The other bit of Pixel 3 news announced today involves the Call Screen feature which was unveiled alongside the Pixel 3. It appears that Google is slowly rolling out the transcription feature that lets you go back and read the transcript of any screened calls, but not everyone is seeing it just yet. It appears to be rolling out to some users enrolled in the beta program for the moment, with a wider rollout expected in the new year.
November 20, 2018 — New Pixel 3 bug renders the camera useless, Google working on a fix
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL have been no stranger to various bugs/glitches since their release, but a new one that’s popped up over the last few days has proven to be particularly nasty.
According to complaints spanning across Reddit and the official Google Product Forums, some users are reporting that the camera on the Pixel 3 can crash and, in a lot of cases, can’t be permanently fixed.
What in the world causes this? Right now, it looks like any of the following three things:
- Using a third-party camera app
- When another app tries to access the camera
- Doing nothing by using the official Google Camera app
A device reboot can apparently get things working again, but only temporarily. Even worse, it’s said that this problem keeps popping up even after a factory wipe and when using the Pixel 3 in Safe Mode. In other words, your only option is to get a replacement. Yikes.
Thankfully, Google has since reached out to 9to5Google and confirmed that a fix is on the way. Unfortunately, it won’t be here until “the coming weeks.”
November 15, 2018 — Google confirms it’s fixing the Pixel 3 XL’s buzzing speaker issue
There has been a myriad of issues plaguing the Pixel 3 since its release, but according to Google, one of them is in the process of being fixed.
Some Pixel 3 XL owners have reported poor speaker quality and an unwanted buzzing sound that often occurs. One Google support agent told a user on Twitter that “a software update in the coming weeks” will fix this, and following this, a representative for the company confirmed to Android Police that the agent was, in fact, correct. Hooray!
November 8, 2018 — Take a look at this Pixel 3 that was delivered completely destroyed
Google’s Pixel phones have had quality control issues ever since the original Pixel from 2016. From Bluetooth connectivity issues to phones shipping in an endless bootloop, the Pixel line has seen its fair share of problems.
The Pixel 3 has followed in its siblings’ footsteps, and one Redditor has now been graced with a Pixel 3 that was shipped with a completely smashed up screen.
To be fair, there’s no way of telling whether this is the fault of Google or FedEx that shipped the phone, but either way, that’s not something you want to see after throwing down a minimum of $700 on a new phone.
The poor soul that received the above phone says that Google is currently handling the situation like a regular RMA, so they should hopefully have a new, non-destroyed phone soon.
November 5, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s memory management issues will be fixed ‘in the coming weeks’
As much as we love the Pixel 3 + 3 XL, there’s no doubt that both phones have their fair share of issues — one of which being that neither phone uses is 4GB of available RAM particularly well. Apps tend to force close far too often on the Pixel 3, going to the point where music being streamed on Spotify will simply stop if you try to take a picture while it plays in the background.
Thankfully, Google’s finally addressed what’s going on.
According to a Google spokesperson that sent a statement to 9to5Google:
We’re rolling out a software update in the coming weeks to keep background apps from being prematurely closed in certain situations.
That fix will be available in a monthly security patch, so while we could see it as soon as December, we could also be looking at January or later before it’s patched.
October 29, 2018 — A fix is coming for the second notch bug on Pixel 3 XL
Earlier this month, reports started popping upon Twitter about a bug with the Pixel 3 XL that caused a second notch to appear on the right side of the display — creating for one of the most horrifying things we’ve ever seen a smartphone. Seriously, just look at that thing. 🤮
Thankfully, Google’s aware of the issue and working on a fix!
According to a spokesperson that contacted Android Police, a patch for this odd bug is “coming soon.”
Have you noticed this behavior on your Pixel 3 XL?
October 23, 2018 — Google explains Pixel 3 wireless charging confusion
After it was discovered that the Pixel 3 requires a Pixel Stand to charge at its allotted 10W fast charging speeds, and that other chargers — even those that technically support the Qi standard at 10W — only charge the phone at 5W, Google released a statement:
We don’t limit third-party devices, in fact, we’re working with our partners in the Made for Google program to get fast 10W chargers certified for use with Pixel 3 (Belkin announced its 10W Pixel 3 charger already which will launch in the coming weeks). Pixel Stand and Pixel 3 work together through the protocol we’ve developed for fast charging. Everything else charges at the industry standard Qi 5W.”
In other words, Google made a proprietary wireless charging standard that isn’t Qi, and uses it with the Pixel Stand and other wireless chargers that are part of the “Made for Google” program. The Pixel 3 does support Qi wireless charging, but only at 5W. Disappointing? Yup. Confusing? Yup, yup. Totally Google? Yup, yup, yup.
October 23, 2018 — Early Pixel 3 Night Sight photos are beyond impressive
The Google Pixel 3’s camera is one of the best you’ll find on a smartphone, but one of its most impressive features — Night Sight — won’t actually arrive until sometime in November.
However, a user on the XDA Developer forums modified the latest version of the Google Camera app and has enabled the feature ahead of its official release. XDA then put Night Sight to the test on the Pixel 3, 3 XL, and 2 XL, and the end results are simply amazing.
As you can see in the example above, the first photo without Night Sight turned on is barely visible at all. The second shot with Night Sight enabled looks like a completely different photograph. The amount of detail and light Google’s able to pull in with this new mode is literally jaw-dropping, and it’ll be even more exciting to see how it evolves and improves over time.
If you want to try out Night Sight early for yourself, download this APK to your Pixel phone. After you open it, tap More -> Night, and you should be good to go.
October 18, 2018 — The regular Pixel 3 uses an LG OLED display
Earlier this week, a teardown of the Pixel 3 XL revealed that it’s using an OLED display made by Samsung. The folks at iFixIt recently put the smaller Pixel 3 through that same treatment, and while doing so, discovered that its OLED panel is sourced from not Samsung, but LG.
If you remember the Pixel 2 series, this is a total flip-flop of what was going on last year in which the Pixel 2 had a Samsung panel and the Pixel 2 XL had an LG one.
In that situation, the Pixel 2 XL’s screen was noticeably worse with greater burn-in potential, color shifting, and more. That’s not the case for the LG panel on this year’s Pixel 3, and in fact, both displays have been tuned to look nearly identical to one another. Even so, it is interesting to see that Google’s still not relying on just one supplier when it comes to its smartphone displays.
October 17, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Titan M security chip works
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have a lot of tech packed inside them, and while it’s easy to get excited about their new OLED displays and improved cameras, one of the most important features is the new Titan M security chip.
Titan M is an all-new chip that’s designed with the single goal of keep the Pixel 3 secure, and in a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google recently dived into further detail about just how Titan M works.
The chip is a security module that was made by Google itself, and it works to protect the Pixel 3 + 3 XL against all sorts of potential threats. Since Titan M is a physical piece of tech, it’ll help protect against hardware-specific exploits such as Spectre, Meltdown, and Rowhammer much more efficiently than phones without it. On the technical side of things, Google explains the following:
Titan M’s CPU is an ARM Cortex-M3 microprocessor specially hardened against side-channel attacks and augmented with defensive features to detect and respond to abnormal conditions. The Titan M CPU core also exposes several control registers, which can be used to taper access to chip configuration settings and peripherals. Once powered on, Titan M verifies the signature of its flash-based firmware using a public key built into the chip’s silicon. If the signature is valid, the flash is locked so it can’t be modified, and then the firmware begins executing.
With the chip, Google notes that it hopes to achieve “transparency and building a platform for future innovation.”
Custom hardware allows us to provide new features, capabilities, and performance not readily available in off-the-shelf components. These changes allow higher assurance use cases like two-factor authentication, medical device control, P2P payments, and others that we will help develop down the road.
October 16, 2018 — The Pixel 3 XL uses a Samsung OLED display
While last year’s Pixel 2 XL had one of the worst displays for a phone in its price range, that’s an issue that’s been completely squashed with the Pixel 3 XL.
The screen on this year’s larger Pixel is brighter, colorful, and has less blue shift + burn-in potential compared to the 2 XL. The reason for this? A Samsung OLED panel.
Google opted for an LG-made OLED display with the Pixel 2 XL, but thanks to a recent iFixItteardown, we now have confirmation that the Pixel 3 XL is using a Samsung one.
October 16, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Super Res Zoom feature works
The Pixel 3 comes chock-full of neat camera tricks, but perhaps one of the coolest is Super Res Zoom. This is the name of Google’s process for improving the clarity of digital zoom by collecting data from your hands shaking as you hold the phone in preparation to snap a photo.
Recently, the Google AI team took to their official blog to detail how exactly this works.
The Super Res Zoom technology in Pixel 3 is different and better than any previous digital zoom technique based on upscaling a crop of a single image, because we merge many frames directly onto a higher resolution picture. This results in greatly improved detail that is roughly competitive with the 2x optical zoom lenses on many other smartphones. Super Res Zoom means that if you pinch-zoom before pressing the shutter, you’ll get a lot more details in your picture than if you crop afterwards.
If Super Res Zoom detects that the camera isn’t shaking (e.g. the Pixel 3 is on a tripod or propped up on a table), it’ll actually start moving around on its own to simulate natural hand movement.
The post goes on to dive into of color filter arrays, multi-frame super-resolution, and a bunch of other nitty-gritty details. If that sounds like something you want to dig into, you can check it out here.
All the big details
Check out our full review
Here it is, folks — the full Android Central review of the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL!
These are easily two of the best Android phones you can buy right now, and no matter if you opt for the regular or XL model, you’ll be getting a fantastic display, an excellent software experience, and some of the best cameras on a smartphone in 2018.
They may not look like much on the outside, but these are two really special phones.
Here are the specs
If you’ve got a Pixel 2, a lot of the specs for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will look very similar. There’s still 4GB of RAM and a starting storage amount of 64GB, but the Snapdragon 835 processor from last year has been replaced by the newer 845.
For a full rundown on both phones, check out the link below. 👇
The displays are a lot better
Shortly after its release, one of the biggest controversies that popped up for the larger Pixel 2 XL was its poor display. We have an LG-made OLED panel once again, but the year-over-year difference is huge.
Google’s touting 400+ nits of brightness for both phones, 2X less burn-in potential, and less color shifting.
There are still three different color profiles to choose from so you can fine-tune your experience, and out of the box, both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL have been optimized so that their displays look identical next to one another.
For an extremely detailed analysis of the Pixel 3 XL’s display, check out DisplayMate’s full in-depth review in which it received a top A+ rating.
There are three colors
Google’s probably the best when it comes to naming its device colors, and this year we have Just Black and Very White. New this year is a pink hue that’s been aptly named “Not Pink.”
All three colors are available for both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL no matter where you decide to buy them.
An all-glass back brings wireless charging support
For the past two years, Google’s used a mixture of aluminum and glass on the back of its phones. This year, the Pixel 3 shakes things up by adopting an all-glass construction.
There’s still an etched section near the top that adds a nice matte finish that allows for more grip and fewer fingerprints. Google’s also integrated Qi wireless charging support and selling a new Pixel Stand wireless charging accessory that’ll charge the Pixel 3 + 3 XL and put them into a new “dashboard” UI that shows a slideshow of pictures on Google Photos and various Assistant info.
Google’s made a ton of camera improvements
The Pixel 2 and 2 XL have some of the best cameras we’ve ever seen on a smartphone, and with the Pixel 3, Google’s making the camera experience even better.
Perhaps the biggest change includes the addition of a second front-facing camera. You now have access to a regular and wide-angle lens for all of your selfies and portrait mode works no matter which one you use. Google’s also integrated an algorithm to remove any distortion caused by the wider lens.
Other changes include:
- 40% faster HDR+ processing
- Improved detail retention while zooming
- Night Sight mode improves low-light shots
- Top Shot mode captures multiple frames before and after your picture and then recommends an alternative shot compared to what you actually captured
Along with all this, Google Lens is also built right into the Pixel 3’s camera app and works automatically when it detects something.
Android 9 Pie is available out of the box
As you’d expect, Android 9 Pie is running on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL from day one. This is the same Android Pie we’ve been using on the Pixel 2 phones, including the new navigation gestures, quick settings panel, etc.
The Pixel 3 does bring a handful of new software goodies, including the full release of Digital Wellbeing outside of its beta state and a slightly updated UI for the camera app.
There’s also a new call screening feature that’ll allow you to send your caller to a system that asks them to provide information about who they are and why they’re calling. What they say comes through in real-time and you can choose to hang up or pick up at any point.
Bugs happen — these are the latest ones
No matter what smartphone you buy, chances are you’re going to be faced with a bug or two (be it big or small) at some point down the road. Google’s Pixel line isn’t an exception to this rule, and right now, these are the latest bugs/issues you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Double notch bug on the Pixel 3 XL — Some Pixel 3 XL owners discovered that a second notch was appearing on the right side of their display after messing with developer settings or restarting the phone. On October 29, Google said that the company’s working on a fix and that it’s “coming soon.”
- Pictures aren’t always saved to Google Photos — After many users reported that some pictures they captured weren’t being saved at all to Google Photos, Google responded on October 22 saying that a software update will be available “in the coming weeks” to address this.
- Speakers sound distorted/make a buzzing sound — Similar to the Pixel 2 XL last year, we’ve seen quite a few complaints about how the speakers on the Pixel 3 XL make a buzzing noise/sound distorted sound when listening to audio (even at lower volumes). Google’s yet to officially address this one, but if it’s really bothering you, you can always try to send your device in for a replacement and see if that fixes things.
- The Pixel 3 series has terrible RAM management — As noted by Android Central’s own Daniel Bader, the folks at Android Police, and so many others, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL seriously struggle with RAM management. In other words, both phones fail to keep multiple apps open at once and often force shut them down if you have more than a few open and running at once. In some cases, this even means Spotify music that’s playing in the background will completely stop if you try taking pictures while it’s running. On November 5, a Google spokesperson said that a fix will be available for this “in the coming weeks.”
There are already a ton of accessories
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL are great phones, but you can make them even better with a good collection of accessories.
Whether you’re in the market for a heavy duty case, screen protectors, or something else entirely, here are a few helpful links to get you started with outfitting your new phone.
Here’s when and where you can buy it
If you want to pick up the Pixel 3 for yourself, it’s available for purchase right now. The regular Pixel 3 costs $799 for the 64GB model and goes up to $899 if you get the 128GB variant. For those same storage configurations on the Pixel 3 XL, you’ll pay $899 and $999, respectively.
The Pixel 3 series is being sold at Verizon, Best Buy, the Google Store, and Project Fi.