Skip to main content

Google’s Pixel 3 won’t surprise you, but it might delight you

Google’s Pixel 3 won’t surprise you, but it might delight you


The appeal of a Pixel phone is in how it works, not how it looks

Share this story

All the leaks and prejudgment in the buildup to the launch of Google’s Pixel 3 this week reminds me of how the original Pixel made its way into the world. Two years ago, as now, Google’s flagship phone set a new high-water mark for pre-announcement leaks. The original Pixel was also a dowdy slab of big-bezel electronics, and the new Pixel XL doesn’t do much better, featuring arguably the ugliest and most intrusive notch — a hotly-contested prize — we’ve yet seen.

Read next: Google Pixel 3 hands-on

The new Pixels look every bit as unexciting and quotidian as their predecessors. They have no sliding camera modules or iridescent paint jobs, and their new color this year seems almost reluctant to admit to being pink. I’ll understand if you find yourself underwhelmed.

But haven’t we already made the mistake of judging things on their appearance too quickly? Many of us freaked out about the iPhone X’s notch, however Apple’s iPhone sales have hardly been upset by it. I derided the unattractiveness of Apple’s AirPods when they were first announced, only to later eat my words. And when the original Pixel arrived at my home for review, I’ll never forget this, I found its design so bland that I left it in its box and instead spent time with Sony’s forgettable, but prettier, Xperia X-whatever of the time.

When I did get around to checking out the Pixel, it’s safe to say that it transformed my mobile life. There is a distinct break between the pre-Pixel era of my phone photos — characterized by liberal use of filters, edits, and transformations from apps like Prisma — and the ones I started taking with the Pixel. It was the first phone that could legitimately compete with DSLR camera quality while still being a respectable modern smartphone. Unlike Nokia’s 808 PureView or Lumia 1020, the two previous awesome cameraphones, the Pixel ran the latest and best edition of Android, and so it was a device I actively wanted to use for everything else beside images.

The second-generation Pixel couldn’t possibly improve on the camera of the first, I thought, and it really didn’t need to. When Google reduced the pixel size (ironic or what?) on the imaging sensor of the Pixel 2, I worried that things might actually get worse, but the Pixel 2 turned out to be significantly better than the original. This year, I used the Pixel 2 XL exclusively to capture all my photos from the Paris and Geneva Motor Shows. And all my photos from Photokina in Cologne. Oh, and every single shot from Computex in Taipei. I also went to Tokyo for the first time, and my Pixel was the only device I needed: both to find my way around the world’s most intricate transport system and to capture the local sights.

Every year before the Pixel, I would take a few hundreds photos on my phone. Since I switched to using Google’s phone, I’ve shot more than 20,000. The camera’s quality has enticed me to keep trying new, more challenging scenarios — but an often overlooked feature of the Pixel’s stickiness for its users is the free cloud storage that Google provides for full-resolution photos and videos shot with the device. I’ve long ago blown past the default 15GB of free storage I get with my Google account, but because all I’m shooting is Pixel content, it doesn’t count against my quota.

Photos: evleaks

Stop and think about the possibility of Google actually improving on the Pixel 2 camera. The same camera that has replaced my professional camera. The same one that takes the sheen off Apple’s best iPhone camera ever. I refuse to be so jaded as to not acknowledge how freaking exciting that makes the Pixel 3. Improving the Pixel’s camera would be raising the bar for the most widely-used sort of photography today: shooting with our phones.

I may sound like a broken record singing the Pixel’s praises, but the people who say the Pixel doesn’t matter constantly reiterate that few people even know about it. And they’re right. Google has failed to distribute its devices widely enough, limiting availability to only a handful of mostly Anglophone countries, sometimes further limiting choice by opting for carrier exclusives. The Pixel is the best combination of smartphone and camera the world has ever witnessed, but Google makes it incredibly difficult for most of the world to witness it in person. So I’m here banging the drum for everyone to pay attention.

We’ve seen enough of the Pixel 3 to know it won’t be beautiful. But Google’s hardware business is about selling us pretty pixels, not pretty Pixels.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed An hour ago Striking out

Andrew WebsterAn hour ago
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterTwo hours ago
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.