Google Pixel 3: what we want to see
Posted by James Rogerson on 08 June 2018 12:37 PM
Update: Leaked images have given us our best look yet at the Pixel 3 XL and also revealed that it might have a glass back, which points towards support for wireless charging.
The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are among the best phones of 2017, so there’s a good chance the inevitable Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will be among the best phones of 2018. And, today, we’re already hearing early rumblings about both Android phones.
Little is known yet, but we’ll update this article as we hear more, and in the meantime we’ve taken some educated guesses at the likely release date, price and features.
We’ve also come up with a list of all the main things we want from the next phones in the range, from a customizable Active Edge to screen improvements and more.
Cut to the chase
Google Pixel 3 release date and price
The Google Pixel 3 launch date could be on October 4, 2018, and we arrived at this date due to the fact that the Pixel 2 launched launched on October 4, 2017, while the original Pixel and Pixel XL launched on October 4, 2016. Google clearly likes to stick to a schedule.
An early October launch event would put the likely Pixel 3 release date in October (last year, it was October 19), and it might not be alone. Google is reportedly going to launch the Pixel 3 an and Pixel 3 XL with an official Google Pixel Watch that runs Wear OS.
Before that, we could also get a lower-cost Pixel model that's been rumored to be in the works. It's said to be launching in July or August.
Price is another thing we can only guess at for now. As the Pixel 2 starts at $649 / £629 / AU$1,079 and the Pixel 2 XL starts at $849 / £799 / AU$1,399, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL may well have similar prices.
But if anything they’re likely to cost more, since the Pixel 2 XL costs more than the Pixel XL launched at, and since smartphone prices at the high-end seem to be rising in general.
But as noted above, a cheaper version of the Pixel 3 might also be in the works, so if it is, and if it launches globally rather than just in emerging markets, then you might be able to pick up a new Pixel for less than that.
Google Pixel 3 news and rumors
A recent report talks about both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, with 'people familiar with the matter' saying that while the Pixel 3 will look a lot like the Pixel 2, the 3 XL could have a notch and a dual-lens front-facing camera.
They go on to say that the Pixel 3 XL will have a bezel at the bottom of the screen, and that both phones will have an upgraded single-lens rear camera and could be built by Foxconn for the first time (that being the company that builds iPhones).
The claim that the Pixel 3 XL will have a notch while the standard Pixel 3 won't has been echoed elsewhere, with the source (@OnLeaks, who's reliable as leakers go) adding that the Pixel 3 XL will be around 6.2 inches, while the Pixel 3 is roughly 5.3 inches.
Another source also claims that at least one Pixel 3 model will have a notch, and that it will use an OLED screen provided by LG. The Pixel 2 range already uses OLED screens, so this is no surprise.
You can see them above, and will note that there's a notch, but that the rear of the phone has a similar two-tone design to the Pixel 2 range. However, apparently it's all glass here, which might mean it supports wireless charging.
You can also see that there's a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and a USB-C port, but no 3.5mm headphone port.
Screen protectors supposedly for the two phones have also leaked. You can see them below and they match the design rumored above.
Google itself may also have slightly shown off the Pixel 3, as illustrations in the Android P beta show a phone with an edge-to-edge display - though this could just be a placeholder.
In any case, the images don't give away much, and don't quite match up with the other leaks we've seen, but you never know, they might be representative of the final phones.
We've also seen the Pixel 3 name mentioned by Google. Specifically, a mention of Pixel 3 has been found in code on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) site, which all but confirms it's in the works.
In fact, three new Pixel phones might be in the works. According to a “trusted source” speaking to Droid Life, the phones are codenamed “crosshatch”, “albacore” and “blueline”, and supposedly two of them will be considered premium, while one is thought of as high-end.
That split sounds like it might be similar to what Apple’s done with the top-end iPhone X and the slightly lower-end iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. So in other words we might get a Pixel 3, a Pixel 3 XL and then something even higher-end above them.
That’s if this rumor is accurate and all three models launch, which they may well not, especially as three models were for a while rumored for the Pixel 2 range.
One of those three Pixel 3 models has additional evidence for it, as mentions of crosshatch have been spotted in a comment on an AOSP listing.
It’s worth noting also that all these codenames are types of fish, which was true of previous Pixel handsets as well.
What we want to see
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL got 4 stars and 4.5 stars in our reviews respectively, so there’s still room for improvement, and adding the following features to the Pixel 3 would be a step in the right direction.
1. Smaller bezels
From the iPhone X to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, many 2017 flagships have all but eliminated bezels, but not the Pixel 2.
This is a phone which still has quite large bezels above and below the screen, and while they serve a purpose (housing the front-facing speakers) we’d like to see them worked on for the Pixel 3.
Hopefully Google and its manufacturing partners will find a way to significantly slim down the bezels without sacrificing speakers on the front.
2. Customizable Active Edge
Active Edge on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL lets you squeeze the sides to launch Google Assistant. It’s a handy feature, but unlike on the HTC U11 that’s all it does and it can’t be re-mapped.
For the Pixel 3 we want the feature to return, but we want it to be context-sensitive, so for example if used in the camera app it would perhaps take a photo, and for the core functionality to be customizable, so you can use it as a shortcut to whatever app or feature you want.
3. Camera app improvements
Despite just being a single-lens one, the camera on the Pixel 2 is among the best you’ll find on a smartphone, but the software could use some work.
For example, we’d like gesture controls for timed photos and the ability to switch between the main and selfie cameras with a swipe, like you can on Samsung and LG phones.
They’re little tweaks, but they’d make using the camera a little faster and a little more pleasant.
4. A return of the headphone jack
Despite taking a dig at Apple for ditching the headphone jack when launching the original Pixel, Google has also got rid of it for the Pixel 2, which is a decision we’d like to see reversed for the Pixel 3.
We don’t expect that to happen, if anything ever more handsets are going to start removing the port, but for many users it’s an inconvenience and the benefits of its removal just don’t seem overly compelling.
5. Wireless charging
The Pixel 2 range has reasonable battery life and supports fast charging, but doesn’t have wireless charging, which is a major omission, especially now even Apple is supporting it.
We expect wireless charging to become a lot more popular in the next year, thanks to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, so it will stand out even more if the Pixel 3 doesn’t support it.
6. Screen improvements
The standard Pixel 2 has just a 1080p screen, which isn’t particularly sharp for a flagship in 2017, so we’d like to see it upgraded to QHD for the Pixel 3.
The Pixel 2 XL meanwhile is sharp enough, but in our review we found that the viewing angles aren’t great and nor is it especially vibrant, so we’d like to see work done to improve those aspects for the Pixel 3 XL.
7. Better water resistance
The Pixel 2 range sports IP67 certification, which means it can survive being submerged up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes.
That should be plenty, but these are flagship phones we’re talking about and some rivals offer more. The Samsung Galaxy S8 for example has IP68 certification, meaning it can be submerged 1.5 meters deep for the same duration.
It’s a small change, but one that could at the very least give buyers more peace of mind that their expensive purchase is fully protected against rain and spills.