Google Pixel 3 XL – No Longer the Android iPhone

I have been using the Google Pixel 3 XL as my primary phone for the past 2 weeks, and I definitely have some opinions on it… Let’s see how that goes.

Specs

The specs of the Pixel 3 are very underwhelming. With the Snapdragon 845, which is nearly a year old now, and only 4GB of RAM, it doesn’t quite compare to other phones that have come out recently, or those that are about to come out.

One thing to note though, is that I haven’t really noticed the difference between this phone’s memory management and Huawei’s. Everybody made far too big of a deal about it. No real problems there. However, I’m not sure if this is relevant, but I have had a bit of an issue with Youtube Music closing in the background when I turn the phone off for even a few seconds. Just a bit annoying is all.

The screen is 1440p, and has a slightly higher ppi than the Pixel 3, and looks plenty sharp and crisp. Compared to the 2 XL, this is a massive leap in screen quality.

Design

I really like the design of the Pixel 3. It retains the two-tone design of its predecessors by etching the glass, which results in a very soft feel on the back glass, which also repels fingerprints, which I love. For the past 2 weeks, I have been carrying the phone naked. That is, the phone was naked, not me. Thus, I loved the fact that my phone wasn’t constantly smeared with fingerprints.

Now, for the single most dreaded feature of this phone; the notch. I know that this will be controversial, but I’m going to do it anyway. I like it. I think it looks cool and unique. You won’t find any other phone with a notch like that. As I said in my review of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, notches don’t bother me when the software treats them correctly. If it does bother you, I can guarantee that for 90% of you, it will disappear within a week. For the rest, within 2 weeks. After using the phone, you don’t notice the notch. Get over it.

“I know it’ll be controversial, but I like the notch. I think it looks cool and unique”

Battery

The battery life of this phone is fine. It sometimes got me through a whole day, but not regularly. I might be a bit spoilt, having just come from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but I was really disappointed by this. Year after year Google’s battery life takes a hit, and with new phones like the Samsung Note 9 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, it is getting harder and harder to overlook. Something of note is that the camera app really drains the battery, probably due to everything that is happening in real time, like Lens and Motion Autofocus.

For 1 of the 2 weeks I used the Pixel 3, I was on holiday, which, for me, means lots and lots of photos. I got some awesome ones, which I’ll talk about a bit later, but the battery life was very bad. I had to charge at least twice in a day if I wanted it to last until the end. This problem can be quite easily overlooked since Google includes ‘fast’ 20 watt charging. However, compared to the Mate 20 Pro, 20 watts is a snail’s pace.

“Compared to the Mate 20 Pro, 20 watts is a snail’s pace”

One addition I really liked was wireless charging. This is the first time Google has implemented this on one of their phones, and I for one really appreciate it. I was sent the Pixel Stand along with the Pixel 3 XL, so I’ve been using that as a wireless charger for the phone, and I… well, I’m going to give that it’s own review, because I have quite a lot to say about it.

Software

The Pixel 3’s software is a low point of the phone. That is a real shame, because the Pixel 2’s was just so good. Once again, I love how intuitive the software can be, and this phone does feel smart, but after the Mate 20 Pro, it just isn’t as smart. Now, let’s get something straight. I love having no bloatware, and what features Google does add have been perfected, but those features are so few and far between that they just don’t compare to even Huawei’s array, which is not anything incredible. Two of Google’s headline features with this phone were the Duplex and Call Screening features. Neither of these has come to the UK, and they have no ETA. Also, this phone can be really laggy at times. That really bugs me, because the phone is only 2 months old.

As I have used this phone, there has been a few things that I really appreciate about it. One such thing was the animations. Just something as simple as the time from the lock screen shifting to the right place as it switches to the ambient display made me fall in love with this phone. Also, something great is that, when using specific wallpapers, such as the Living Universe ones, parts of the display turn monochrome and linger on the ambient display for a few seconds after turning off. It looks so smooth, crisp and, well, just cool. However, there is a problem. After the phone restarts, it doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t do it, as though it wasn’t a feature in the first place. There doesn’t seem to be any reason, but there’s no point in trying to fix it because then it just happens again. Now, don’t think that I am treating this phone unfairly, because I’m not. I’m just sick of this, and the same thing happened with my Pixel 2. I’m planning to write a review about these issues, which I would highly recommend checking out.

With the prior Pixel phones, their software has been so flawless that they have been compared to the iPhone lineup. Now, though, I think Google has lost that.

Cameras

The Google Pixel 3’s cameras are nothing short of awesome. The HDR is the best on any phone, and is incredibly sharp, even rivalling Huawei, with their 40 megapixel camera. Night Sight remains the best low-light shooter, and the wide-angle lens has helped out a lot while I’ve been on holiday. Surprisingly, I have loved the Super Res Zoom feature, and it really does improve photo quality. However, this does not work with Top Shot, and if you choose a shot other than the original, it will be in regular quality. Basically, it is incredible, and the biggest reason to get this phone.

“The Google Pixel 3’s camera is nothing short of awesome”

Extras

This phone has very few extras, but they are very good when they work. Active Edge, which allows you to squeeze the sides of the phone to bring up Google Assistant, haptic feedback to rival Apple’s, and a rear fingerprint scanner are about all that this phone offers. As for the fingerprint scanner, it is abysmal. It is slow and unreliable. I preferred the in-display one on the Mate 20 Pro. Also, like on my Pixel 2, it seems to sometimes just forget my fingerprint, and refuse to unlock. I don’t expect that on a phone costing up to £1000.

Price

This phone has a very lofty price tag. It starts at £740, and goes up to £999, for the top spec model. That is very expensive. I have the top model, which costs £999, so I am going to have to be harsh with this one, especially considering it is more expensive than the latest from Huawei. Is it worth it? Let’s see.

Verdict

I think the Google Pixel 3 XL is great. The camera is astounding, the updates are awesome, and I could not live without Now Playing. However, the software is laggy, the only biometric unlocking method is slow and unreliable, and the price is outrageous. I will be keeping this phone as my primary device for the time being, mainly for the camera, but I’m not too happy about it. Google was kind enough to let me keep this model, so that is awesome. However, if I had the money to do so, I would switch. To what? Well, check out my Best Smartphones Of 2018 article that will be dropping in a few days.

So what do you think of the Google Pixel 3 XL? Does the notch make you die inside, or will you be picking one up? Let me know in the comments below.