The Google Pixel 3 XL grows by 0.3in and adds a handful of new features but it doesn’t look particularly exciting
Phone launches are leaky affairs these days, so it came as no surprise that, when Google finally unveiled the full details of the Google Pixel 3 XL, we already knew everything about the phone. We’ve had spy shots, videos and one retailer in Hong Kong even put the phone on sale before the handset officially existed.
In any case, the only thing I care about is that Google doesn’t make a repeat of last year where it burdened what was otherwise a cracking phone with a terrible display. That’s impossible to gauge at this stage, though.
For now, though, let’s assume the Google Pixel 3 XL will be free of the sorts of annoying defects that afflicted the original and consider the key specifications for a moment or two.
Google Pixel 3 XL: Specifications, release date and price
- 6.3in, QHD+ 18.5:9 ratio OLED screen
- 2.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
- Adreno 630 graphics
- 4GB RAM, 64GB or 128GB storage
- 77 x 158 x 7.9mm (WDH); 184g
- Single 12.2MP rear camera, f/1.8, 1.4um pixels, dual-pixel phase-detect autofocus, OIS and EIS
- Dual front-facing camera – wide angle and normal angle
- Android 9 Pie
- 3,730mAh battery
- Wireless charging
- No 3.5mm headphone jack
- Release date: Preorders from 9 October; ships on 1 November 2018
- Price: £869 inc VAT, SIM free
Google Pixel 3 XL: Key specifications and first impressions
So what’s new with the Pixel 3 XL? The biggest change is that the phone has a larger, 6.3in display, matching the OnePlus 6 for size. It’s one of the new breed of tall, narrow screens, so the phone doesn’t feel quite as cumbersome as you might think, although you might want to budget for some jeans with deeper pockets.
As for how it looks, it appears not much has changed. The rear is still divided into matte and glass portions, although the matte part of the phone is much smoother than before. If you look really carefully, you’ll see that the glass strip has some slightly different curved detailing at the edges and that the camera and LED flash unit have swapped places. The fingerprint reader still resides in the centre of the rear of the device, though.
At the front, we have that larger 6.3in display which, like most of 2018’s flagship phones, has a rather unsightly notch eating away at it from the top edge. It’s an OLED display, as it was last year, and it fills much of the front of the phone.
Google Pixel 3 XL: What else is new?
Inside, the Google Pixel 3 XL has a 2.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and it has 4GB to back it up and either 64GB or 128GB of storage. We know that the Qualcomm chipset is quick and, to date, we’ve seen little variation in terms of performance when it comes to other handsets running it. The graph below lists four of the Pixel 3 XL’s main rivals, all running the 845 chipset. I’d expect the Pixel 3 XL to achieve results to within 5% of the numbers in the graph below.
We won’t know about battery life until we’ve tested the phone properly with our video-rundown test and used the phone in anger, but the battery is worryingly small at 2,915mAh. That’s significantly short of the capacity we’re seeing in other flagship smartphones, and the fact it now supports wireless charging is no compensation.
What is surprising about the Pixel 3 XL is that it looks set to arrive with only a single, 12-megapixel camera at the rear. With every other major smartphone manufacturer on the planet opting for dual- and, in some cases, triple-camera setups, Google must have plenty of confidence that its HDR+ algorithm will be able to deliver the goods once again.
Another concern is that Google made no reference at all to improvements to its HDR+ algorithm. Instead, the camera features a number of new software tools to help you capture better photographs more reliably. Top shots pre-emptively capture images from a few moments before and after you press the shutter button, then suggests “better” versions of the image you actually captured.
A new mode called Night Sight illuminates low-light shots almost as if you’d used a flash, motion auto-focus delivers what looks like super-responsive object tracking. Google is adding editable depth of field to its already superb portrait mode. Finally, at the front, Google has added a dual camera which allows you to squeeze more of your scene in – 184% more than the iPhone Xs according to Google.
When it comes to software, once again, there’s nothing surprising here. The Google Pixel 3 XL runs Android 9 Pie.
Google Pixel 3 XL: Early verdict
Of course, none of this information about the Google Pixel 3 XL will surprise seasoned smartphone industry watchers. It has always been nailed on that the new Google phones would be bigger, have 18:9 aspect displays with a notch and even more certain that they’d be using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.
What’s surprising is how few new truly exciting features the Pixel 3 XL actually has. I hope that, when I get my hands on the thing in a week or so, it will confound my scepticism. For now, colour me thoroughly underwhelmed.