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Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: 5 features we love, 5 features we don’t

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google’s new smartphones are finally here. Following months of leaks, the company officially announced the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL at its hardware event in New York City on October 9. The successor to the Pixel 2 brings along new artificial intelligence features, updated camera software, wireless charging capabilities, and more.

While Google’s new smartphones offer plenty of things to be excited about, there are also additions we aren’t fans of. Here are five features we love about the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, and five that we don’t.

Features we love:

Fast wireless charging

As opposed to last year, the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL come with the ability to be charged wirelessly. To charge the devices, Google released its own wireless charging pad — the Pixel Stand — which comes with an 18-watt fast charger. Google says you can get seven hours of use after only 15 minutes of charging.

The minute you place your Pixel 3 on the stand, you’ll also have access to Google Assistant,with shortcuts that appear on the display. It’ll also work similar to your Google Home — every morning, your Pixel 3 display will slowly brighten to gently wake you up and will then provide you with your morning routine.

When you’re not using your Pixel 3 while it’s on the Pixel Stand, it won’t just sit there and charge. You’ll be able to turn your smartphone into a digital photo frame, allowing it to display all of your photos in a slideshow. When you’re listening to music, it’ll also display the music and cover art on the display.

Louder dual front-facing stereo speakers

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL each feature dual front-facing speakers. This time around, the speakers are 40 percent louder than those included on its predecessors — which should provide a bigger and richer sound. Both smartphones will also ship with six months of YouTube Music for free.

Smarter camera features

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s no secret that the Pixel 2 offers impressive front-facing and rear-facing cameras that take stunning shots. The Pixel 3 is no different —  Google has added a ton of new features for an even better photo-taking experience.

For starters, there’s Top Shot, which will help during those unexpected moments that can ruin a perfect shot — whether it’s a blink or a sneeze. The feature automatically captures a burst of shots in HDR Plus, giving you an array of alternate photos to choose from. Google also introduced Super res zoom, which uses artificial intelligence to provide you with sharp photos when you zoom in on a subject.

Those who find themselves frustrated with the image quality of photos taken in low light will be happy to know athat the Pixel 3 will include Night Sight later this year. Whether you’re at a dimly lit restaurant or camping with friends at night, the smartphone uses machine learning to take natural-looking photos without having to turn on the flash.

We also love the wid- angle camera on the front of the Pixel 3, which allows users to take even better selfies. With Group Selfie, you’ll be able to capture 184 percent more room in your photo. There’s also Photobooth mode that automatically snaps photos when it recognizes you’re smiling or making another expression.

Helpful features to use on a daily basis

The Pixel 3 now includes Gmail’s Smart Compose, which automatically suggests phrases to use within emails, depending on the context, to help you write your emails faster. There’s also Gboard built into the device, which will recommend things like stickers and GIFs to use while texting.

Google’s new smartphone also includes Digital Wellbeing, which was introduced with the launch of Android P. You’ll be able to see how much time you’re spending on your phone and can set different time limits on specific apps. There’s also a new feature that will allow you to turn on Do Not Disturb mode by simply flipping your Pixel 3 over — which will mute notifications or rings.

Easily screen your calls

We all know how annoying it is to receive tons of phone calls from unknown numbers, only to pick up and realize it’s a telemarketer. That’s why we love that the Pixel 3 can answer for you instead. When you tap the “Screen Call” button, it will answer for you and ask who is calling and why. The conversation will then be transcribed in real time on your display, so that you can choose if you’d like to pick up. You also have the option of marking it as spam, asking for more information, or choosing to call back later. The feature will be available on the Pixel 3 in the U.S. right out of the box.

Features we don’t love:

The overdone notch

After a full year of smartphone manufacturers adopting the notch design that was first made popular by Apple’s iPhone X, Google has jumped on the bandwagon as well. As with any trend, the novelty soon wears off and the design starts to feel overdone — which is why we were disappointed to see the Pixel 3 XL feature the notch at the top of the display.

Battery isn’t big enough

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL feature 2,915 mAh and 3,430 mAh batteries, respectively, but we wish both phones had bigger batteries. We’d like them to last beyond a day before needing a charge. While the Pixel 3 has a bigger battery than the Pixel 2, the Pixel 3 XL actually has a slightly smaller battery than the Pixel 2 XL, though the new, more efficient processor should allow for longer battery life in the new phones. Either way, we expect to get about a full day’s worth of battery life — at most — with the batteries in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

High price tag

Pricing for the Pixel 3 is a bit high, starting at $800, while the 3 XL is $900 — both phones are more expensive than last year’s Pixels. If you want the 128GB storage capacity, you’ll have to put down an extra $100. While it does come with a few more capabilities and a slightly tweaked design, it doesn’t offer any dramatically new features (like a Face ID-esque unlocking system) that warrant the Pixel 3’s $150 jump in price over last year’s Pixel 2. We would’ve liked for the new smartphones to stay similarly priced to last year’s models.

Dull design

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Even with the third iteration of the device, Google has yet to change the overall design of the Pixel. As with its predecessors, the Pixel 3 includes a matte finish and two-tone design with a fingerprint sensor in the middle, along with a camera lens in the top left. The only two major design changes are the notch (as mentioned before) and the fact that Google has gone with an all glass back — but we do like that it still feels like a matte finish, but isn’t as slippery as its predecessor. If it weren’t for the notch and new color variants, it’d be tough to tell the difference between the new Pixel phones and the ones that came before. They have price tags to match the top flagships, but the new Pixels don’t really look or feel like premium flagship phones.

As usual, there’s no headphone jack

Even though we weren’t expecting it, we were definitely secretly hoping for the return of the headphone jack. Google made it clear with the Pixel 2 that it was completely doing away with it, shipping a USB-C-to 3.5mm adapter with the phone instead. But this time around, the Pixel 3 comes equipped with USB-C Pixel headphones that you can use, which also allows you to talk to Google Assistant.

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