Google has announced its Google Pixel 3 smartphone in an NYC event just this morning. The Google Pixel 3 builds on fundamental strengths that are hallmarks of the Pixel series: leading camera performance, pure Android OS, and neat industrial design. However, Google has pushed the envelope in new areas to improve the experience of the majority, while advancing its own strategic position.
The Pixel 3 Camera
The Pixel Camera is at the top of the list of interests to potential Google Pixel users, and once again, Google is turning to software and AI to provide an edge to its single rear camera hardware. This is in stark contrast with handsets like the LG V40 (5 cameras) and the Huawei P20 Pro (4 cameras).
During the launch, these Pixel 3 features caught our attention: Top Shot and Night Sight. Top Shot essentially captures a series of photos before the shutter action happens, just in case someone closes their eyes, sneezes, etc. Pixel will suggest a better photo since it is smart enough to pick a photo where everyone is smiling and looking at the camera.
Top Shot proves that Google’s camera software is powerful enough to capture clean images in burst mode. This is not an easy thing to do, especially when lighting conditions are even slightly challenging.
Night Sight uses AI to brighten a scene to what seems to be extraordinary levels. We will have to see how it actually performs during our review, but this potentially goes way beyond regular low light photography, perhaps into a more “artsy” low-light photo experience. The science behind the feature is sound: we know it is possible to use machine learning to enhance this type of images, and “how much” you do it is the question.
Google is typically more advanced than the rest of the image processing industry, thanks to its enormous amount of data, clever scientists and computing power, so we expect great things from these two features. Night Sight is coming “next month” to Pixel 3, and to older Pixel phones as well!
Super-Res Zoom is a feature that replaces a dedicated zoom lens with algorithms. It works by capturing a burst of photos and merging multiple images along with using image processing algorithms to create a better zoom image (when compared to simple magnification). It will be interesting to see how it compares to an optical 3X zoom.
This kind of algorithm was initially born from Space research and military applications such as satellites, spy planes or drones. Phones are now powerful enough to execute these processes on-device, in real-time, especially since Google has a custom Pixel Visual Core chip, unique to the Pixel Phones.
Dual-Selfie camera system
Official Pixel 3 selfie sample
This year Pixel 3 gets a dual-front camera setup which covers all the selfie use cases. Typically, OEMs must choose between wide selfie lenses or portrait-like lenses depending on the user they target. The truth is that both use cases are essential, and it makes a lot of sense to provide two different focal lengths to make any shot, the best possible shot.
The Pixel Stand wireless charger turns Pixel 3 into a Google Home Hub
It’s true that phones aren’t typically useful during charging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When connected to the Pixel Stand for charging, Pixel 3 switches to being a Visual Google Assistant and listens for commands, ready to help.
That’s a great idea, and it fits perfectly in Google’s overall visual assistant push, expanding the experience significantly beyond the customer base of dedicated Google Home Hub. If and when users want a better experience, they can get a large-screen assistant.
Google’s Pixel 3 comes in two identical configurations for the 5.5” and the 6.3” display. It’s great because users won’t have to pick the larger one because it is slightly more performant.
From a hardware standpoint, Google has gone with many of the best options available right now: Snapdragon 845 SoC, dual-pixel camera sensor in the rear with OIS and EIS image stabilization. I expected a larger aperture than the current f/1.8, but we’ll see if algorithms can make up for this when it goes head to head with f/1.5 cameras.
Pre-orders are open, with prices of $799 (5.5”) and $899 (6.3”), the new Google Pixel 3 phones offer an excellent alternative to other high-end phones, some of which are much more expensive. If you compare it with the iPhone XR, we expect it to bring significantly better value for the price, and perhaps, this is Google’s primary target here.
When it comes to other Android phones, things are incredibly competitive because Android handsets prices fall relatively quickly. Google’s pure Android platform and tight integration with the rest of Google remains an edge that few OEMs can genuinely match, with timely and frequent updates, and a longer support lifespan.
Keep an eye for our Google Pixel 3 data-driven review, as we’re excited to see how it measures up to the iPhone XR, and other Android phones.