google pixel 3 xl

The Irish smartphone market had gone pretty stale over the past few years only for 2018 to flip that idea on its head. For years, Samsung and Apple have been releasing some of the most “meh” smartphones in recent memory and this was the year they really paid for it.

My daily runner smartphone for the past few months has been the incredible Huawei P20 Pro, boasting a camera so impressive that it still tops the DxO rankings and they still have another flagship to launch very soon to close out 2018. Earlier this year, it emerged that Three and Xiaomi would be teaming up, meaning the Irish market would now have two Chinese heavy hitters being an option for Irish consumers.

Last week, somewhat surprisingly, Google announced their Pixel range would also be available in Ireland. I was fortunate enough to be handed a Pixel 3 XL the day after it was announced and have been using it for the past week or so.

If you’re in the market for a smartphone and you’re considering the Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, here’s everything you need to know.

What Makes the Google Pixel 3 Different?

Every smartphone manufacturer claims to have the best cameras, most improved battery life and most innovative features, but what actually sets the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL aside from the competition?

Android the Way Google Designed It

I’ve been testing out the Pixel 3 XL and for me it’s the fact you get to run Android the way Google intended it to be. I adore the Huawei P20 Pro, but Huawei’s EMUI Android skin isn’t for everyone. Google’s original take on how Android should looks and feel is more playful to enjoy. That sounds silly, I know – but really it stood out to me.

More importantly, Google doesn’t force you to have any apps on the phone you don’t want. I tried to uninstall Facebook on my P20 Pro, but could only disable it. Unless I install it on the Pixel 3 XL, I don’t need to worry about it. For me, this was the reason Android was built in the first place – to give you control over your smartphone and it’s nice to have, trust me.

The Most Google Power in a Smartphone

This definitely won’t be for everyone, but the Google Pixel range always hardnesses the most powerful elements of Google’s search powers. At their Made By Google keynote last week, Google introduced Call Screen. So, you know all those scam calls that do the rounds? Well, with Call Screen you can let Google Assistant speak to unknown callers and take some notes about why they are calling you. You can then read a live transcript of what the caller wants and either answer the call, cancel it or report it as spam.

Neat, huh? Google’s latest Assistant features won’t be limited to screening calls. Google’s slightly creepy Duplex lands next month. This feature made headlines as the Google Assistant can call places like restaurants and make bookings for you. That’s Google Assistant talking to real people and making plans. Here’s how the demo went:

Whether or not that will launch in Ireland immediately remains to be seen, but I’ll see if I can find out.

Pixel Stand

If Google Assistant is something you love, then you’ll definitely be picking up a Pixel Stand. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are the first Pixel smartphones to support wireless charging. Google has gone one further and built a wireless charging stand which triggers a Google Home mode on the phone. This effectively gives you an extra Google Home with a screen whenever you have the phone docked.

Esim

Google didn’t sing about this much at the launch and understandably so. This is a very new technology which I’ve only, so far, seen on the latest iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max. Esim means you can have a second phone number attached to your phone which doesn’t require a physical sim card. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Irish providers that use esim, but it might be handy if you’re travelling and looking for a local data plan outside the EU.

You can’t, however, use two numbers at the same time and must pick which one you want to use at any given time. A very strange call, but possibly easily solved by a software update. This is also a very niche feature right now, so I wouldn’t be considering it a make or break feature.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Key Specifications and Features

That’s what sets the latest Pixel apart but here’s the rundown of the regular specs you’re likely to compare when considering any new smartphone.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Camera

Dual lenses, triple lenses, quadruple lenses and even quintuple lenses. The number of cameras being jammed into smartphones lately is incredible. Which is what makes it quite surprising that both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL both only have single primary camera lenses. Actually, it’s not fair to say “only” because the single lens is pretty good. I’m still testing it out and I’m not convinced it beats the P20 Pro. I can’t wait to see what DxO rating the Pixel gets, but I can’t see it overtaking the P20 Pro. Here’s a quick comparison shot I took when out and about in Dublin:

If it was a boxing match, this would be going down to the judges’ scores.

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have 12MP primary cameras and both also have dual 8MP selfie cameras, which means you can shoot those cool bokeh style shots for selfies too. That does mean the Pixel 3 XL has a sizeable notch on the front; more on that later.

Beyond the great shots, you can take with the Pixel 3 and 3XL, Google has packed in some other cool features too.

Super Res Zoom: Digital Zoom That Works

Considering there’s only one lens, you don’t get optical zoom – meaning you only get digital zoom. I’m not sure I’ve ever written this down before, but I’ve often advised people to never use digital zoom. You’re generally better off taking a shot and just cropping it later. However, Google has found the solution. When you zoom in on something with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, the phone’s camera uses the natural movement of your unsteady hand to add extra information to you shot. This gives you a higher resolution zoomed shot and the results, I’ve got to admit, left me eating some humble pie:

Naturally, I don’t think this can take on optical zoom, but that’s damned impressive quality for digital zoom.

Night Sight

I’m sorry that I keep comparing these phones to the P20 Pro, but that’s the measure everyone has to beat for me right now. Night shots on the P20 Pro are incredible. Here’s one I snapped while wandering around Berlin at IFA this year:

Google is also taking on the darkness with their new flagships through a feature called Night Sight. The good news is – it looks to be extremely impressive from Google’s demo shots comparing with the iPhone Xs shooting in low light:

google pixel 3 night sight

The bad news is – this feature hasn’t been rolled out to the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL yet, so I can’t tell you how it performs in real life. I’ll update this post once Night Sight rolls out, hopefully, next month.

Top Shot

Humans blink, sneeze and sometimes have their hair blow around the place all the time and sometimes this even happens when you’re taking a picture of them. That’s why the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL has Top Shot. This feature uses machine learning – Google loves a bit of machine learning – to sort through the moments before and after your shot to give you some of the best options. Top Shot looks for photos where people are smiling with their eyes open while also detecting blurring and focus to make sure you only get the best shots.

Google Pixel Playground

A quick mention of this just because it’s gas. We’ve all gone a bit mad for augmented reality lately and Google picked up on that. With Playground, you can insert objects and characters into your photos. It didn’t take me long to play with this:

Just discovered playground mode on the Pixel 3 😂

A post shared by Martin Meany (@peameany) on

The Notch: I’m Talking About Design Here

I was going to generally talk about the design in this section, but there’s only one element of the design worth talking about really. The notch.

First of all, the notch only features on the Google Pixel 3 XL and not the smaller Pixel 3. My first reaction to notches was highly negative. This all started with Apple and the iPhone X and at the time I thought it was a shocking move. Then everyone started copying, even my beloved P20 Pro. I have to admit, much like I did over headphone jacks being removed from phones, I had to eat some humble pie and admit notches aren’t a big deal. You get used to them, can hide them and they do free up some extra screen.

But the Pixel 3 XL has a massive notch. Images of the phone which leaked in recent weeks showed just how big the notch would be and it was horrific. At their keynote, Google tried their best to hide the notch, but still, it was impossible to miss. And you’d think that would be all you need to know.

However, when you use the phone as your daily run around phone, you still don’t notice it. I’m not sure what’s going on here, perhaps it’s some kind of psychology thing, but notches aren’t a big deal. They become a blind spot that you get used to so don’t let the drama surrounding the new notch put you off getting this phone.

The only other design feature worthy of note is the dual-facing speakers. The Pixel is nice and loud whether you’re listening to tunes or watching some shows.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Specifications List

Google has kept the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL specs pretty much on par with each other. The only specs which differ are the screen and battery size. Here are the key specs:

Google Pixel 3 XL

Google Pixel 3

Size

158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm

Display Size

6.3 inches 5.5 inches

Weight

184g 148g

Protection

IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins) IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)

SIM

Nano and eSim Nano and eSim

Display Type

P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours

Operating System

Android 9 Android 9

Internal Memory

64GB or 128GB 64GB or 128GB

Expandable

No No

RAM

4GB 4GB

Main Camera

12MP 12MP

Selfie Camera

2 x 8MP 2 x 8MP

Cable Type

USB C USB C

Headphone Jack

No No

Battery

3430 mAh 2915 mAh

 

It’s extremely early days, but I’ve not been blown away by the battery life in the Pixel 3 XL. I’m going to give it a much more scientific test versus the P20 Pro in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that.

I’m a little concerned about the onboard memory of the 2018 Pixel family. Vodafone will only be stocking 64GB options and I do wonder if that’s enough in this day and age. Couple that with the fact both Pixel handsets have no expandable memory and it might be worth throwing a bit more cash at your purchase and going SIM-free with the 128GB model.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Pricing and Availability in Ireland

As I covered on launch day, the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will be available from the Irish Google Store and Vodafone Ireland. That means you can get both phones either SIM-free from Google or on a contract from Vodafone. The latter might very well be an unlocked handset so ask them when you buy it.

Here are the calculations to help you decide the best place to buy your new Google Pixel phone.

 

Monthly 3 3XL
Vodafone €40 per month 1409.99 1509.99
Vodafone €60 per month 1689.99 1789.99
Vodafone €80 per month 1920 2019.99
Vodafone €40 per month SIM only 1859 1959
€30 per month SIM only 1619 1719
€20 per month SIM only 1379 1479

 

Of course, you need to consider your usage when choosing a plan. Make sure you get one that meets your needs. Vodafone’s plans do have some pitfalls, particularly around the data allowances you’re given.

The SIM-only pricing includes the cost of a contract for 24-months and the SIM-free price of a phone from Google. While Vodafone offers a €40 SIM-only contract, they are one of the pricier in the market.

If you can afford to pick up a phone SIM-free, direct from Google and pick up a €30 SIM-only contract or €20 per month prepay plan to get the very best deal for yourself. The pricing I’ve given here is all for the 64GB model. You can add an extra €100 to bump up to the 128GB model.

Google Pixel 3 XL: The Verdict

The Google Pixel range has been a long time coming to these shores. They’re finally here and I’m delighted with them. Should you buy this ahead of the Huawei P20 Pro? I’m actually not sure. The P20 Pro is a little more grown up maybe? The Pixel has a playful feel to it. You won’t be disappointed with either phone to be perfectly honest. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Samsung or Apple here and it’s for good reason. The long-standing market leaders are being left behind by the new age outlaws of the smartphone world.

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Martin
It's funny how you come home one day, say you're starting a blog and four years later it's still going. Founding Editor of Goos3D, Martin is a massive tech fan, into movies and will talk about anything.Read more by Martin