When Google first came out with the original Pixel, it caused a bit of a stir. The phone was surprisingly good, and immediately cemented Google as one of the key players in the handset marketing, something that few people expected. What’s more, Google showed up its rival and fellow celebrated tech giant, Amazon, which failed in its own attempts to launch a successful mobile device.
In October, Google unveiled the latest Pixel – a phone which had to live up to the hype of the previous two models and give users that unique, Google-based experience they were looking for. No, it didn’t launch with the same furore as the Apple iPhone X, but it has got people in the tech community talking: could Google replace Samsung as Apple’s chief rival?
Possibly The Best Device On The Market
Google knew that if it wanted to break into the smartphone market, it had to imbue the device with the best available technology. According to many reviewers, it’s succeeded on that front, quietly providing customers with a best-in-class experience at a surprisingly affordable price. The Pixel is no iPhone – it doesn’t try to be. Instead, it understands its own DNA and knows that it’s appealing to a crowd of people who prefer form over function (although the form isn’t bad either).
The camera is breathtaking according to those who have used it and makes use of proprietary Google AI technology to take a lot of the legwork out of good photography. With a phone like the Pixel 3, amateur photographers can take photos as if there were professionals. What’s more, Google has used its smart AI technologies to bring the price of its phone down. Whereas many modern phones use dual cameras to offer a kind of faux perspective, Google has decided that it can use its machine learning technology instead to generate the same effect. This means that it can put one larger camera on the back, offering users higher fidelity and pixel count, all the while reducing the cost and complexity of the device. It’s a remarkable improvement on what’s already out there.
Google realised that it needed to provide design improvements over the previous Pixel 2. Customers didn’t like the notch at the top of the display that formed part of the bezel. They wanted something a little cleaner than that.
The Pixel 3 makes improvements here by providing a flat finish to the bezel sections of the handset, although Google didn’t opt for edge-to-edge displays that we’ve seen from some phone makers, notably Samsung. The reasons for this probably had to do with cost: Samsung’s devices aren’t cheap, and it’s clear that this is one area in which Google compromised to keep costs down.
With that said, there is a range of choices of device size, as there were on the previous version. Customers can choose either the Pixel 3 or the Pixel 3 XL and can select different colours. Google has also included some subtle design elements too, including the transparent glass panel on the rear, replacing the old aluminium design. The device has a lighter, fresher feel than the Pixel 2, and makes fewer compromises in its appearance.
Performance is fast becoming an essential metric for phones, beyond mere storage and screen size. That’s because owners are asking their phones to be more things, including devices on which they can work and game. Although it’s still rare to find people who regularly do intensive workloads on their phones (that sort of thing is best done in the cloud), it’s not unusual to see people gaming. In fact, gaming is probably the most intensive thing that most people do on a regular basis on their smartphones.
So how does the Pixel compare to other phones? The Pixel uses the Snapdragon 845 which includes some integrated graphics processing ability. The phone achieves similar frames per second to the Apple iPhone X in the game Manhattan, but this is mainly because the screen refresh rate is limited to 60 fps. When you look at the frame output of the phone, it achieves about two-thirds of the speed of its Apple rival, indicating that the iPhone X might have greater longevity (at least for gaming).
With that said, the iPhone X is considerably more expensive, and the Pixel performs as well, if not better than the new Samsung Galaxy S9 which is no slouch. True, Apple wanted to offer the very best overall package using the most advanced hardware currently available, that came at a price which you don’t find on the Pixel.
The bad news? Sorry to say that there is some. The Pixel uses a lot of power when running games, and thanks to its relatively small 2,915 mAh, you won’t be able to game hard for long without reaching for your charger.
Duplex And Other Features
So what can you do with this phone once it’s hooked up to the mobile network? The first thing most people will want to play with is Google Duplex, Google’s shiny new AI technology revealed at this year’s I/O. The technology, which allows you to tell an AI to make phone calls for you created a bit of a stir in the press with the media calling it an example of an uncontrolled technology. But it also promises to make your life a lot easier.
Duplex is essentially a voice-based bot that can make phone calls on your behalf for simple things, like making a reservation at a restaurant. You just tell the Pixel 3 assistant what you want, and it will make the phone call for you and then enter it into your diary once booked. It’s a data intensive task, but with services like SMARTY mobile powered by Three, data costs shouldn’t concern most users.
The phone also comes with HDR (high dynamic range) photo capability, meaning that your colours should more accurately reflect those you see with your eyes.
Overall, Google has delivered another device that will win them yet more customers. Whether it’s enough to unseat Samsung remains to be seen, but Apple managed to dispatch Nokia, and nobody thought that would happen.