The Google Pixel 3 is my first Pixel device, and I love it, especially because of how much it surprised me at every turn.
I’m a deeply-entrenched Google user, so some of the Google experience is second nature to me, but there are surprises throughout the Pixel 3 user experience. One of the biggest, when I started out, was when the device walked me through the new “Active Edge” that lets you call up the Google Assistant by squeezing the sides of the phone.
After years of using smartphones, some of the changes between devices have started to become harder to notice, but squeezing the sides of your phone is a simple, easy gesture that is better than any extra buttons or other actions. It also just feels so much simpler for a device this size.
As someone who uses a few larger smartphones, the Pixel 3 surprised me too because the size was so natural in my hand. It’s hard losing some of the screen size–it’s true–but the Pixel 3 doesn’t feel like it’s losing out on anything.
In fact, the other surprise is that the 12.2 MP camera, which sports just a single lens, compared to all the other devices that have three, is actually superior than many of the competitors, or at least as good, and that’s because of the phone’s extremely intelligent software.
Watch my unboxing video below, and then scroll down for the full review.
The Pixel 3 shines because of the Google aesthetic that starts with the packaging, and ends with the user interface and user experience.
At 148 grams and 5.7 inches by 2.7 inches, the Pixel 3 feels perfect in the palm of your hand, and you can easily use it one-handed too.
The 5.5″ display fits inside a small border on the device, which is only occasionally noticeable, but that’s also coming from someone who has been using 6 inch plus displays for some time now.
The green, glow-in-the-dark power button and the volume rocker are on the right side of the screen, with the USB-C port and SIM card tray along the bottom. Otherwise, there are no other buttons or ports on the Pixel 3, which is refreshing next to some other cluttered designs.
Front and back of the Pixel 3 sports Corning Gorilla Glass 5, and on the back, the design is nicely split between a small line of shiny glass at the top, and opaque, non-slip glass for the rest of the back surface. Otherwise, the edges are rounded.
The back of the phone features the single camera, flash, and the fingerprint sensor, which is positioned for easy access with your index finger from either hand.
Inside the box, the smartphone comes with comfortable USB-C earbuds, a USB to USB-C adapter, and maybe importantly for some, a 3.5 mm to USB-C adapter so you can plug older-model headphones into the Pixel 3.
And the phone comes in Clearly White, Just Black, or Not Pink.
Photos and the Camera
Although the Pixel 3 only has a single camera, the Pixel 3 offers an incredible photo experience. The app is clean, but feature-packed, and fun to use, and I honestly can’t say that about many of the smartphones out there today.
In terms of the selfie camera, I don’t think anyone can beat the Huawei P20 Pro, or the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro, since those devices offer a whopping 24 MP selfie camera that is far more vivid than most devices, but the Pixel 3 features solid selfie results with what I consider a better user experience. The overall camera app is very simple, and yet powerful, with photos that look great time and again.
The rear camera otherwise delivers clean, clear photos with little to no noise, great colour, and if you turn on the Google Photos backup, you have unlimited space for your images and video, which is usually the first reason people run out of storage on their phones.
The software is also fantastic, and that’s what delivers such great results, from portraits with great blur, to scenic photos and anything in between. Compared to other phones, I also found that you can mark a subject, and the Pixel 3 actually does a great job keeping the subject in focus.
That is a major complain that I have with other phones, but the Pixel 3 barely falters with autofocus, offering always-sharp focus, even in dark conditions.
Software & Hardware
Using the Pixel 3 otherwise, the smartphone is seamlessly simple. There are no convoluted gestures or hard-to-navigate features. If you’ve used Android before, the phone works as you would expect, but coming from other brands, I found the Pixel 3 just a bit easier to use, and Google is naturally baked in all around, from Chrome, to Search, Google Assistant, and recognizable features and apps like Photos or Drive.
Inside the Pixel 3, the phone is running with 4 GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, with a respectable 2915 mAh battery that should last average users all day. The Pixel 3 is running the latest Android 9 Pie. It would have been great to see more RAM and expandable memory, but given the opportunity to backup images and video with Google Photos, I don’t know that most people need more memory.
Otherwise, the Pixel 3 supports wireless charging, and with the extra Google Pixel Stand, and 18W fast charging, you also get extra features. The Pixel Stand effectively puts the Google Assistant at the forefront, offering always-on smart features, a lighting option for your morning alarm, and a nice photo gallery display of your favorite photos. All of those features are of course customizable to some degree too.
I am curious what the Pixel 3 XL is like by comparison, but at the same time, the Pixel 3 is a fantastic phone that comes with everything you would expect from a flagship device. It’s smart, quick, and powerful.
The size and shape feels incredibly natural in your hand, you can easily control it on-the-go with one hand, and it looks great.
For anyone who wants the best photos, the single camera on the Pixel 3 proves that you don’t need an array of cameras to get the perfect shot, and the camera features are robust, from slow-motion video to portraits, landscapes, and the built-in, intelligent Google Lens.
If you’re looking for a new phone that is clean, easy-to-use, intelligent, and fits nicely into your shirt pocket, the Pixel 3 will surely impress you.
You can purchase the Google Pixel 3 now for $499 from most companies, with a two-year term, or for $1,099 with no term.