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Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL officially announced: Camera improvements galore

The most-leaked phones of the year are finally official. Is there anything we didn't already know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL?

Published onOctober 9, 2018

The most-leaked phones of the year have finally been made official. At its hardware event today in New York City, Google announced the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL — the successors to two of our favorite Android phones of 2017.

Don’t miss: Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL hands-on

Similar designs with some notable changes

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staff picks google pixel 3 xl

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are very much iterative upgrades from last year’s models. Let’s just get it out there right now — the most polarizing part of these phones are their displays. The Pixel 3 XL looks like every other phone in 2018: not very original, and similar to an iPhone XS (at least on the front). It has a gigantic notch at the top of its 6.3-inch Quad HD+ (2960 x 1440) display, but also has a slight chin at the bottom to house the front-facing speakers that are supposedly 40 percent louder this year.

The Pixel 3 is the most normal looking phone of the two, sporting a 5.5-inch 18:9 OLED display with a 2160 x 1080 resolution and no notch. It kind of looks like a smaller Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 3 has front-facing speakers.

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL may look like last year’s Pixels from the back, but they’re actually quite different. Gone is the metal and glass hybrid design from the Pixel 2. Instead, the new phones are all glass on the back, which means they now support Qi wireless charging. Yes!

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Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Google is also launching a fast wireless charging stand — the Pixel Stand — alongside the Pixel 3. When docked, the you can summon Google Assistant by voice or via shortcuts that appear on the screen. Google is introducing a Sunrise Alarm feature that will ease you awake by gradually brightening the screen with sunrise colors, right before the alarm goes off.

Although the Pixels aren’t made of metal, Google still kept the same dual-texture finish around back. There’s still a glass “visor” at the top, but the area below that has a matte texture — just like we saw on the Pixel 2s. This time around, the matte portion on the back is rounded at the top that makes both devices look less angular.

Pixel 3 XL hands on

Active Edge makes its return this time around, which allows you to squeeze your phone to summon Google Assistant.

The phones will be offered in just black, clearly white (now with a mint-blue power button), and a pink variant that Google calls “not pink” (it’s totally pink).

All the flagship specs you’d expect

It’s 2018 and Pixel phones usually try to compete with the best phones on the market, so the Pixel 3 and 3 XL’s specs should come as no surprise. They’re both powered by the Snapdragon 845 SoC, 4GB of RAM, and both come with either 64 or 128GB of storage. Neither phone has a headphone jack (surprise, surprise), and they’re both rated IP68 for dust and water resistance.

In terms of battery capacity, the Pixel 3 gets a bump up to a 2,915mAh unit from the 2,700mAh battery in the Pixel 2. The Pixel 3 XL actually loses a bit of battery, now sporting a 3,430mAh cell, down from 3,520mAh in the 2 XL.

While some manufacturers aren’t even including a headphone jack adapter in the box, Google is including Pixel Buds-like USB Type-C earbuds in the box.

Related: The full list of Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL specs

Now with three cameras and a ton of improvements

Pixel 3 XL hands on

The Pixel 2’s best feature is its camera, and Google hopes to make it even better on the Pixel 3. The new Pixels still have a single rear-facing camera around back with the same 12.2MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture as last year. That’s fine in our book — the Pixel 2’s camera rivals even 2018 flagships, so the Pixel 3 camera doesn’t need an overhaul.

Don’t miss: Google Pixel 3 cameras: Here’s what they can do

One new addition to the camera experience is that Google Lens will be running at all times. This will allow it to show you information much quicker without requiring you to launch Lens by pressing a button.

Top Shot mode is new addition to the camera app. When activated, Top Shot will recommend the best photo from the moment you captured using on-device machine learning.

Night Sight is another new mode coming to the Pixel 3, but it won’t be available until after October 18. Night Sight will utilize computational photography and AI to take improved low-light shots without the need for a flash.

Perhaps the biggest change to the camera setup can be found on the front. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL now have dual front-facing cameras with 8MP sensors with f/2.2 apertures. This will allow for group selfies (wide-angle selfies), as well as a new Photobooth mode that will let you take a selfie just by smiling.

Both cameras also feature something called Motion Auto Focus. This lets you keep the subject of your photo or video in focus, no matter how much they move around.

Google is renaming AR Stickers, which first launched on the Pixel 2, to Playground. Google also plans on launching new “Playmoji” later this year featuring Marvel characters and even Childish Gambino.

Smarter Assistant and software improvements

Announced back at Google I/O, Google Duplex is a new feature that allows the Google Assistant to make calls to businesses for you. The Pixel 3s will be the first devices to get Duplex when it rolls out next month.

Remember when Google launched Smart Compose for Gmail back in May? That feature is coming to the Pixel 3.

There’s also a crazy new feature called Call Screen. Basically, if you can’t answer a phone call, just tap the new Screen Call button. Your phone will answer for you, screen the call, and transcribe the call for you in real time so you can decide to answer it or not. “You’ll never have to talk to another telemarketer.”

Call Screen will be available at launch on the Pixel 3. It’ll roll out to the entire Pixel line next month.

Available right now from the Google Store

As always, Google is making the Pixels available right away from the Google Store. 

Both phones are getting price bumps this year. The 64GB Pixel 3 starts at $799, and the 128GB model starts at $899. The Pixel 3 XL costs even more, with the 64GB model starting at $899 and the 128GB model going for $999. The Pixel Stand will cost $79.

You can learn more about the Pixel 3’s pricing and availability here.

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