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Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: Everything you need to know

Simon Hill

Rarely has a flagship phone been so thoroughly leaked ahead of launch as Google’s Pixel 3 XL, but the company still had a few surprises in store at its New York event. The Google Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel 3 XL offer some significant upgrades over their predecessors, while still clearly belonging to the Pixel family.

If you want our take on the new phones, check out our full reviews of the Google Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3.

On top of the usual processor upgrade, both Pixels now sport a dual-lens, front-facing camera designed to elevate your selfie game to the next level, some additional software smarts to get the best from the single-lens main camera, and support for Qi wireless charging. Google’s design has also been refined compared to last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. If you’re in the market for a new Android phone, Google’s wares should be on your radar. Here’s everything you need to know about the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

Updates

Google rolls out Pixel 3 eSIM support to more carriers around the world

Google was one of the first manufacturers to support eSIM cards as part of its Google Fi network, and it put its money where its mouth was by equipping the Pixel 3 with eSIM support. But not many carriers supported eSIM, so the rollout to the new, less physical format has been a tad slow.

However, Google has just announced it is rolling out eSIM support for the Pixel 3 for multiple carriers in multiple countries. According to The Verge, you can soon expect to see eSIM support for Sprint in the U.S., EE in the U.K., Airtel and Reliance Jio in India, and for Truphone and Gigsky in a bunch of other countries. In addition, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone in Germany will be going one better and will soon be selling Pixel 3 phones with an eSIM.

Night Sight is rolling out as an update to Google Camera app

google pixel night sight nigt dark selfie off
google pixel night sight nigt dark selfie

Google’s clever A.I. mode, Night Sight, is now rolling out to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL as an update to the Google Camera app. It stitches together multiple frames to reduce noise and boost colors and brightness for photos captured in very dark environments. You’ll find the new mode in the More section of the camera app, but it should pop up as a suggestion when appropriate. The new mode works with the main camera and the front-facing camera. We’re impressed by the results we’ve gotten with Night Sight so far.

Pixel camera’s Playground gets cats for National Cat Day

google pixel 3 news cats national cat day

At Google’s Pixel event earlier this year, the company announced Playground, a new Pixel camera mode that essentially allows users to display augmented reality characters in their photos. At launch, the feature offered Marvel characters, weather, signs, and more. Now, in celebration of National Cat Day, it’s getting some cats. Within the Playground feature, you will be able to add both cats and dogs, after which they will interact with each other on the screen, run around a scene, and so on.

The Pixel 3 will be able to screen calls, block spam later this month

One of the most interesting new features to be shown off during the launch of the Pixel 3 was the ability for the phones to screen phone calls and block spam. When you get a call from an unknown number, for example, you can simply hit the “Screen Call” button, and Google Assistant will talk to the caller instead of you. The feature will be available on the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL later this month, and will be coming to the original Pixel and Pixel 2 in November.

Google is building a way to hide the Pixel 3 XL’s notch

The Google Pixel 3 XL may be getting good early reviews, but there is one feature that reviewers have consistently mentioned in a less-than-positive light — the huge notch. Thankfully, however, it seems as though Google is developing a way to hide the notch. The new feature is currently available in Android’s developer options and essentially puts a black bar at the top of the display. The result is that the phone basically looks like it has a large bezel at the top, though some may prefer that look to the notch. We tried out the new feature and you can see what it looks like below.

google pixel 3 news xl

The Google Pixel 3 is getting Duplex later this year

Perhaps the most interesting addition to the Pixel’s software is that it will be getting Google Duplex, Google’s ultra-realistic human-sounding version of Assistant that can call restaurants to make bookings. For now, the service will only call restaurants that don’t have online booking systems, which already have Assistant support. Initially, Google is only bringing the feature to New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and the San Francisco Bay Area — though it’s likely the feature will roll out to more areas soon after.

Google Pixel 3

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Pixel 3
Pixel 3
Pixel 3
Pixel 3
Pixel 3
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Pixel 3
Pixel 3
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Pixel 3

At first glance, the Google Pixel 3 looks a lot like the Pixel 2, but look closer and you’ll see that Google has cut the bezels down, enabling it to pack a 5.5-inch OLED screen into a body that’s actually a hair smaller than its predecessor’s. Not only has the screen size jumped by half an inch, but it’s also sharper, with a 2,160 x 1,080-pixel resolution that scores it a respectable 443 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Thankfully, there’s still room for stereo front-facing speakers.

Flip around to the back and we find the same two-tone design as previous Pixels, with a fingerprint sensor in the middle and the camera lens at the top left, but this time the back is all glass, which allows the Pixel 3 to support wireless charging. Alongside the usual understated black version, there’s also white with a mint green power button, and an all-new “Not Pink” option with an orange power button.

There are no real surprises inside, where we find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor backed by 4GB of RAM. Storage options are 64GB or 128GB and there’s no room for a MicroSD card to expand on that. There’s also no room for a 3.5mm audio jack, so you’ll have to make use of the USB-C port or Bluetooth 5, but you do get USB-C earbuds in the box.

Naturally, the Pixel 3 runs the latest Android 9 Pie version and Google has added various enhancements. In addition to Qi wireless charging, there’s also fast-charging support for the 2,915 mAh battery. That’s slightly bigger than the battery in the Pixel 2 and, coupled with the newer, more efficient processor, should translate to longer battery life.

Google Pixel 3 XL

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Pixel 3
Pixel 3
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Pixel 3

The Pixel 3 XL is more obviously different from its predecessor, with a large notch making a controversial appearance at the top of the 6.3-inch OLED screen. It also retains a sizable chin below. The display sports a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440 pixels, which translates to a sharp 523 ppi. The screen is flanked by stereo front-facing speakers.

Just like its smaller sibling, the Google Pixel 3 XL has a two-tone design on the glass back, with a fingerprint sensor in the middle and a single camera lens at the top left. It also comes in black, white with the mint green power button, and in the new pink color with an orange power button.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor is backed up by 4GB of RAM and there’s 64GB or 128GB of onboard storage, with no expansion option. You won’t find a 3.5mm audio jack here, but there are USB-C earbuds in the box and support for wireless headphones via Bluetooth 5.0.

The battery is rated at 3,430mAh, which is actually a touch smaller than last year’s Pixel 2 XL battery, but we expect power efficiency improvements to help keep it running for a day. There’s also support for Qi wireless charging and fast charging.

New Pixel 3 and 3 XL Cameras

The most exciting upgrades in the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL are to be found in the camera department, and both phones have exactly the same camera setup.

Google has stuck steadfastly with a single-lens main camera rated at 12.2 megapixels, even in the face of dual- and triple-lens competition. We don’t blame it, as the camera in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL has held its own very well over the last year — in fact, it’s still our reigning camera phone champion. The main camera has optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, dual pixel phase detection, and support for high dynamic range (HDR).

Pixel 3
Pixel 3
Pixel 3
Pixel 3

Google is able to squeeze such great performance out of its camera by employing some clever software trickery, instead of relying upon more hardware. The A.I.-powered camera in the Pixel 3 and 3 XL takes a burst of shots before and after you press the shutter button and then analyzes them to suggest the best options, looking for shots where subjects are looking at the camera with open eyes and smiles. It also offers an excellent portrait mode capable of blurring the background for the perfect bokeh, and it’s capable of automatically tracking subjects, so you don’t need to keep tapping to refocus. There’s a new zoom option that allows you to zoom in, even without a telephoto lens, with A.I. filling in the gaps and bringing you the detail level you want.

The front-facing camera features a bigger upgrade, combining an 8.1-megapixel telephoto lens with an f/1.8 aperture and a second 8.1-megapixel wide-angle lens that features an f/2.2 aperture. This combination will enable you to capture great group selfies or get more background in, and it should also perform well in low light, making it perfect for grabbing shots at night or indoors.

Just as it did with previous Pixel phones, Google is offering free, unlimited Google Photos storage for all the full resolution photos and videos you take with the Pixel 3 or 3 XL.

Software

Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL run Android 9.0 Pie. They ditch the old home, back, and recents buttons in favor of the new gesture navigation.

From next month, Google Assistant will be enhanced with the ability to screen spam calls, answer for you, and provide a transcription so you can decide whether to block them or call back. The new Pixels will also be the first to get the ability to make calls for you and perform tasks like making restaurant reservations.

If you use your Pixel 3 or 3 XL with the new Pixel Stand, then you’ll also get special one-touch shortcuts or voice commands to enable you to check your schedule and more.

Release date and price

The Google Pixel 3 starts from $799 and the Pixel 3 XL starts at $899. If you want the higher 128GB storage capacity of either, it will cost you an extra $100. Both of the phones are available now.

Check out our live blog to learn about everything else Google announced.

Updated on December 4, 2018: Google is rolling out more eSIM support around the world.