It has finally arrived. The phone I’ve been waiting all year for. The Google Pixel 3 XL.
I decided to give the Pixel 3 XL a chance to redeem itself after a botched purchase experience with the Pixel 2 XL back in February. The first Pixel 2 XL I purchased had several dead pixels, all stuck on blue. I immediately asked for an RMA and within a few days of receiving the replacement, experienced the proximity sensor bug. Not wanting to keep setting up a new phone just to have to swap it out over defect after defect, I contacted Google support and was given a refund with some push back.
— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) October 8, 2018
Fast forward to the Google Pixel event, I had high hopes they would prove everyone wrong by showing a no-notched XL. Nope. That tweet was a troll, trying to downplay all of the leaks. Well played, Google.
So far I’ve used the device as my daily driver with my main sim card for a couple of weeks. Here are my quick thoughts.
Pixel 3 XL: Hardware
The build quality of the phone is solid. Metal frame, glass on front and back, the usual we’re all used to by now since every phone now shares these traits. The back glass is etched, however, which gives it the signature Pixel two-toned look. It can show “scratches” though. They aren’t actually scratches when they come from items like keys and coins. As shown in the below YouTube video, it’s those items leaving their residue on the Pixel’s glass since they’re a bit softer than the glass. Sand and anything above a level 6 on Mohs scale will be permanent marks and I dislike the added bulk of a case so my go to will definitely be a dbrand skin.
Blah, blah, blah, notch, yada, yada. Yes, the notch is big. The only problem I have with it are constant registered touches at the very top of the screen and Apps using the notched area to display UI elements, which become hidden and unreachable. The former happens at an extremely high rate. Every time you put your head to the earpiece to take a phone call, you feel the vibration motor go off letting you know the screen was touched in an act to pull down the notification shade.
Pixel 3 XL: Software
Moving on to the software. The Pixel runs Android Pie, Google’s latest and greatest, although it’s only on the September security patches and not October. One word to sum up my software experience with this phone: buggy. Facebook freezes for 5-10 seconds with a single screen scroll. Apps are displaying their UI underneath the notch and navigation bar. YouTube videos are not centered to the display. Pies new mandatory gesture controls are interesting and slow down the phone interactions compared to the old nav buttons. Android Auto was not accepting voice controls. Apps are not keeping themselves in memory for more than 20 seconds. Seriously, launching an app, and then another, and then a third, going back to the first app it has to full refresh as if it was a first time launch. This should definitely not be the case with the 4GB of RAM the phone has.
The up side to software glitches are most likely they will be fixed with a patch from Google. Sometimes it’s a test of patience if you can wait for the fix or get frustrated and jump ship. Still being very early in the life cycle, Google will address these issues. Paying over $1000 for a phone with seemingly easily fixable usability issues should not be something we’re forced to just deal with.
Pixel 3 XL: Camera
The Pixel line has been the smartphone camera champion with its computational photography and that trend continues with the Pixel 3. I do miss the full manual modes from other flagships but for a point and shoot, this is definitely a winner. Launching the camera is fast with a double press of the Power button. The shutter is ready to be pressed within a second or less. Night shot isn’t present, but will be out at a later date. A member over at XDA was able to enable it with a modified camera APK, and the results have been blowing minds everywhere.
Problems aside, I still think this phone has great potential, and I will stick with it and revisit it for a full review in the near future. Right now, it’s in an awkward position since it has yet to receive a software update which could potentially fix everything. Or it could fix nothing. Only time will tell.