Google Pixel 3 review: the most helpful smartphone you can buy
Posted on October 19, 2018
3 min read
Google’s latest and greatest smartphone, the Pixel 3, is out in our stores on November 1. But what’s new, and what’s exciting about the newest Android smartphone from the company that makes Android itself? We reviewed the Pixel 3 XL, the larger model of the two new handsets, built around a very impressive 6.3-inch OLED screen.
Google wants to make the Pixel 3 the most helpful and most useful device in your life, and it has promised to fulfil that wish by adding in a host of new features powered by artificial intelligence. Using its huge trove of expertise in things like voice and image recognition, Google has imbued the Pixel 3 with what it says is the best camera on a smartphone, and with the power of the voice-activated Google Assistant to help you throughout your day.
A beautiful screen, and a matching design
The first thing you notice about the Google Pixel 3 is its big, bright screen. The Pixel 3 XL’s 6.3-inch flexible OLED panel has excellent contrast – this tech means black areas of the screen are properly black and bright whites are completely white, which makes everything on screen look fantastic. Its 2960×1440 pixel resolution is sharp and detailed, too, and the screen extends past the front-facing cameras with extra real estate for your notifications.
The design of the phone has been further refined since last year’s Pixel 2, with an all-glass back with a two-tone finish created by a specialised etching process on the lower portion – which looks great on all of the Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink colour options, and makes the phone easier to grip. That glass back also means the Pixel 3 can be charged wirelessly with any Qi-certified wireless charger, like Google’s own new Pixel Stand. Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have much-improved stereo speakers with deep, full sound – excellent for those impromptu YouTube sessions when you’re hanging out with friends.
The Pixel 3’s battery is even smarter – Adaptive Battery software gives time and energy to the apps you use, and restricts the ones you don’t, making your charge last longer as you use your Pixel 3 more. Another first for the Pixel series is that the new Google Pixel 3 is IP68 water resistant. This means that it’s certified to be fresh water resistant to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes – although it’s still not advisable to take it swimming, because that certification is not for salt or chlorinated water.
A better and smarter camera, and two front cameras for selfies
We all use the cameras on our smartphones all the time, whether it’s snapping a quick photo at a party with friends or capturing that crucial bit of info like a street sign or business card. And the Pixel 3’s camera is excellent, we’re happy to say! Not only is it incredibly detailed in every situation we’ve tried it in, but it has a new Night Sight Mode that uses AI to stack multiple photos in a dark setting which works wonders – no more blurry photos at the pub or club. New on the Pixel 3 is its ability to adjust the level of background blur on Portrait mode snaps, so you can really make your photographic subjects stand out from the crowd.
A smart camera feature called Top Shot will, when you capture a burst photo, pick out the best of the bunch. That means no accidental blinking or crooked grins in a group photo, and the ability to select the moment during a burst of action. Google’s also been working hard to improve quality when you’re zooming in while snapping a photo, using all of its machine learning smarts to capture several photos in quick succession and comparing them to amplify detail in a feature it calls Super Res Zoom.
From the second you open the Pixel 3’s camera app, Google Lens tech works in the background to recognise names, email addresses and phone numbers in the frame to help you quickly make a call or save info to your contacts. Google Lens can even recognise everyday goods and pieces of clothing and give you a quick search result of where you might be able to buy a similar item, to really help exercise your online shopping muscle.
The front cameras on the Pixel 3 are well worthy of a mention, too – and yes, there’s two of them. Google has a new wide-angle camera for ‘group selfies’ alongside the regular front-facing camera, and the end result is the best selfies we’ve ever seen from an Android phone. Wide-angle selfies are great for capturing a larger group of friends, or for sharing the expansive scenery behind you if you’re in the great outdoors. Google’s Portrait mode also makes for beautifully blurred backgrounds on the selfie camera – so even your group photos can look professionally captured.
Google Assistant for a little extra help through your day
Everything about the Android experience on the new Google Pixel 3 has been re-imagined with a little extra help from the Google Assistant. The Assistant responds to your voice and your questions – and it can understand Australian accents, too.
You can ask it to take a photo for you, to set a reminder or add to your shopping list, or to quickly find a photo from your library or a fact from Google Search. The Pixel 3 lets you trigger Google Assistant with your voice by saying “OK, Google” – even when the screen is off – or also by giving your phone a quick squeeze when it’s in your hands.
The Pixel 3’s Android software is also deeply integrated with a feature that Google calls Digital Wellbeing. It gives you more insight on how you use your phone and when, what apps you spend the most time in, and even lets you set gentle restrictions on how long you can spend scrolling through your social media feeds.
You can even ask your phone to “wind down” through Google Assistant to switch the screen to greyscale, turn on Do Not Disturb mode and get you ready for a good night’s sleep.
Google bundles a fast USB-C charger and cable in the box with the Pixel 3, as well as a pair of Pixel USB-C earbuds and an adapter to connect any other wired headphones to your phone too. The bundled USB-C cable makes it easy to transfer your data from another recent Android, and a quick switch adapter supports USB cables from many other devices too. We also sell a range of accessories including wireless charging pads, cases and cables to make the best of your new phone.
There’s so much more that we want to talk about when it comes to the Pixel 3, but we’ll have plenty of opportunities before it launches in-store and online on November 1 – so stay tuned. If we’ve convinced you already, you can pre-order a Google Pixel 3 or Google Pixel 3 XL here before then!