So, I’m out of Google’s “Made by Google” hardware event. There weren’t many surprises, but at least things are official and we can stop talking about how much they’ve leaked. I spent quite a bit of time with both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and wanted to share some quick thoughts before I get back on an airplane to head to Portland.
First, they feel nice in hand and also very familiar. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not yet. The glass, as glass always does, gives a premium feeling even if glass is a trash material that I wish everyone would stop using. But the shapes and sizes and in-hand presence remind me a lot of last year’s Pixel 2 XL, only now you get the same feeling in the regular Pixel 3 also.
The unique two tone color is there again, plus the matte finished portion of the glass on the bottom half of each’s backside is mostly fingerprint-resistant, which I appreciate. Overall, in terms of hand-feel and design, I’m a fan. Because again, they are familiar with some subtle changes that potentially upgrade the experience. These are certainly Pixel phones that further advance the design language of Google. If anything, they feel the most Google-y of any of their phones yet.
As for software, I’m not going to lie – nothing feels that new. The Pixel 2 XL that I’ve been using for weeks basically runs this exact software. Sure, Google is tweaking the camera and adding new features to Digital Wellbeing and is giving us a fun Pixel Stand wireless charging experience and call screening and (soon) Google Duplex, but the overall software vibe isn’t really new. A number of those features are coming to older Pixel phones too. I wouldn’t say that I’m mad about that, it’s just that we’re so used to holding a new phone and expecting all new software that no one else can have. Maybe I just need to get used to this idea, which is a good thing for older phone owners.
I’m excited to test the camera and some of its new modes and features, I can’t wait to add a Pixel Stand to both my bedside table and desk (we’ll talk more about it later), and I’m even looking forward to this more refined hardware from Google. But at the same time, this is one of the first times I’ve picked up a new phone and not been immediately blasted by newness. I’ll blame the leaks for that, or something.
We all know that the notch is controversial and the prices are arguably high for what you are getting, but I could probably also argue that these two phones still will feature the best Android experience you’ll find. In fact, I’ll probably use one after reviewing them because this is the experience I want and prefer. They’ll probably be the phones I recommend to friends and family too.
With that said, yeah, they only have 4GB RAM and cost upwards of $1,000 depending on how big you go. That’s kind of bullsh*t. We really are approaching the V30 and Note 9 pricing here, yet those phones have so much more baked in. Maybe they have meaningless stuff and things that you won’t use, but we’re big on value here, almost to a fault. I’m almost thinking I need to do a full iPhone Xr-like rant to keep it real.
I guess my takeaway today is that these are such Google phones. They are promising the smart stuff to the ceiling and trying to keep the hardware part a side story. They want you to think of these phones as tech that improves your life without fuss. They’ll be great, I’m sure. But I get it if people’s reaction right away isn’t supremely positive. This will take some convincing for many, I think. Or won’t it?
I’ll have video tomorrow. Apologies for the delay on it.