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.
The new #pixel3xl is gorgeous. First impressions: light, notch still not annoying, great launcher and a lovely case. See next pic! . . #madebygooglepixel #smartphonephoto #smartphoneaccessories #madebygoogle2018 #smartphones #pixel3xlleak #smartphonephotography #newphonecase #madebygooglephotos #newphonecover #smartphonecases #smartphonecase #newphonefeeling #smartphone #newphones #smartphone_photos #smartphonepics #pixel3xl #pixel3xlleaks #smartphonecamera #newphone #newphonewhodis #madebygoogle #pixel3xlrumors #newphoneday
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?
- Android the way Google designed it
- The most Google power in a smartphone
- The Pixel Stand
- Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL cameras
- Impressive digital zoom
- Night Sight
- The Notch
- Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL spec list
- Pricing and availability
- The verdict
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Not entirely sure how we’re going to pick a winner here. Both the #P20Pro and #Pixel3XL are stunning cameras. The P20 Pro does still have the best #DXO rating on the market so let’s wait and see what they say about the Pixel. . . #smartphonephotographer #smartphonephotographers #smartphonephotography #smartphonephotography📱 #smartphonephotograph #dxomark #dxolabs #dxo #dxophotolab
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.
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:
— goosed.ie (@goosed_ie) October 11, 2018
Naturally, I don’t think this can take on optical zoom, but that’s damned impressive quality for digital zoom.
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 its 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:
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.
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:
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 the phone, you still don’t notice it. I’m not sure what’s going on here, perhaps it’s some kind of psychological 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 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
|158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm||145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm|
|6.3 inches||5.5 inches|
|IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)||IP68 dust/water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins)|
|Nano and eSim||Nano and eSim|
|P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours||P-OLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours|
|Android 9||Android 9|
|64GB or 128GB||64GB or 128GB|
|2 x 8MP||2 x 8MP|
|USB C||USB C|
|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.
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.
|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.
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.