Editor’s note: this preview will be regularly updated as new information on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL emerges in the run-up to their official launch.
Summer is almost over and with the fall fast approaching, so is Google’s annual hardware event which will see the announcement of the third-generation Pixel flagships. While both the original Pixel and Pixel 2 lineups ended up leaking close to their official debuts, this year truly takes the cake in terms of unofficial and premature sightings. Last month, a pre-production batch of Pixel 3 XL prototypes was reportedly stolen from Foxconn and ended up being leaked all over the Internet after a Ukrainian black market dealer sold over a hundred such devices for $2,000 a piece. As if that wasn’t enough, Google engineers have been rather careless with handling their prototypes in public, with those units being spotted in Toronto on two occasions before another one was left in the back of a Lyft. As a result of that bizarre turn of events that was reportedly caused by internal rifts at Google, there are few mysteries surrounding the Pixel 3 XL, whereas the smaller Pixel 3 is still mostly successful at evading capture, both figuratively and literally.
Pixel 3 Launch Date
While Google held the last two iterations of its annual hardware event on October 4 and was rumored to do the same this time around, the company moved the 2018 edition of the happening to October 9. Besides the Pixel 3 lineup, the event is likely to see the announcement of the Pixelbook 2, second-generation Pixel Buds, and possibly some other electronics such as new smart speakers, though the rumored Pixel-series smartwatches running Wear OS have already been confirmed as not coming this year.
Pixel 3 Design
While the smaller Pixel 3 hasn’t been sighted nearly as much as its larger counterpart, most reports, renders, and rumors point to a device that’s effectively last year’s Pixel 2 XL in terms of design. The Pixel 3 XL is a different story altogether, with the main difference between the two (other than size) being a thick display notch on the larger device. The cutout will house a dual-camera setup, as evidenced by countless leaks, though the reason behind its sizable footprint is still a mystery, as numerous manufacturers already demonstrated two-lens systems are possible with much smaller notches. The only two handsets with larger cutouts that are currently on the market are Apple’s iPhone X and Xiaomi’s Mi 8, though both of those feature 3D cameras capable of depth-sensing, something the Pixel 3 line will almost certainly lack.
As wireless charging has been essentially confirmed as one of the Pixel 3 features, the new handsets are likely to feature glass backs. The leaked Pixel 3 XL prototypes had rear panels made of polycarbonate, presumably because they were pre-production units, and Google isn’t expected to go against the grain and opt for cheaper materials on devices that will warrant a price tag north of $700.
Pixel 3 Specs
The Pixel 3 XL is said to have a 6.71-inch OLED display with a QHD+ resolution of 2,960 by 1,440 pixels amounting to an aspect ratio of 18.5:9. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 will be part of the package, together with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage space in the base model. The most premium variant is likely to offer at least 6GB of RAM and 128GB of flash memory. All should be powered by 3,430mAh batteries and feature Active Edge, a pressure-sensitive mechanism that was also found inside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, allowing users to squeeze the frame of the phone to launch apps and perform certain actions such as taking an image. The Pixel 3 should feature a 5.4-inch screen with an FHD+ resolution (2,160 x 1,080) and an 18:9 aspect ratio. Both devices are rumored to be protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, have a USB Type-C (3.1) port, and lack the 3.5mm headphone jack which Google already removed with last year’s Pixel 2 line. While no concrete info on the handset’s battery has yet emerged online, the phone is likely to be fueled by a 3,000mAh cell.
In the camera department, Alphabet’s subsidiary is still resisting the industry trend of multiple rear cameras and will once again be equipping its new Android flagships with a single 12.2-megapixel sensor. On the other hand, the front of the two devices should feature a dual-camera setup consisting of two 8-megapixel sensors, with the extra module likely being used for adding a more natural bokeh effect to selfies, hence improving Google’s Portrait Mode. Google is also said to have improved the Pixel Visual Core first debuted in last year’s lineup; the chip is now understood to allow for more applications than just faster and more energy-efficient HDR+ processing, though the details on the matter remain slim. It’s also unclear whether the new silicon has been created in collaboration with Intel like the original module was. Despite having only a single rear camera, the new handsets are still expected to be near the top of the industry in terms of imaging capabilities, as indicated by a number of leaked camera samples from the larger Pixel 3 XL.
Pixel 3 Features & Software
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will run a stock version of Android 9 Pie out of the box. While the original series was used as the launch vehicle for a new version of Android (7.1 Nougat), last year’s Pixel 2 line shipped with the already widely available Android 8.0 Oreo and only received Android 8.1 at a later date. That’s exactly what’s expected to happen this year as well, with an incremental revision of Android 9 Pie being rumored to debut in late 2018. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL should hence feature gesture-based navigation and deep integration with Google Assistant, in addition to a wide variety of tools and mechanisms meant to automate one’s phone usage as much as possible with the goal of reducing the volume of time users spend with their smartphones on a daily basis as part of an initiative Google refers to as Digital Wellbeing. The solution debuted in beta with Android 9 Pie earlier this summer but is likely to hit the stable channel simultaneously with the release of the Pixel 3 series.
Wireless charging has already been confirmed as being part of the package and should be enabled by a gadget that Google will call the Pixel Stand, according to recent rumors. Besides allowing Pixel 3 owners to charge their handset, the accessory that will almost certainly be sold separately will also be capable of turning the new smartphones into display-equipped smart speakers powered by Google Assistant, several reports suggest. As evidenced by numerous unboxing videos, most of which originated from Russia, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will be bundled with a pair of wired earphones whose tips resemble the 2017 Pixel Buds.
Pixel 3 Pricing & Availability
If the last two generations of the Android flagship family are any indication, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will become available for pre-orders immediately following their announcement and start retailing in late October. Google had stocking issues with both the Pixel and Pixel 2 lineups but the fact that it’s been in a pre-production phase of development since at least August, as evidenced by the stolen prototypes, the tech giant may be more successful at ensuring it has enough units in stock this time around. The Pixel 3 is expected to start at around $650, whereas the base model of the Pixel 3 XL will most likely be priced at approximately $750. The top variants should break the $1,000 mark, with Google being expected to once again target North America, select European countries, and India. The exact list of color variants Google will have in store for consumers this year has yet to be confirmed, with only purely white and black models of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL leaking online so far.
Google dropped the ball in the secret-keeping department this year and had the Pixel 3 XL leak all over the place months ahead of its announcement but most signs are pointing to the company doing its homework in regards to making highly capable phones. The massive notch found on the larger Pixel 3-series flagship will likely be a polarizing feature and it remains to be seen how Google will attempt explaining its size but the device itself is likely to be a high-end offering in terms of performance. Power users who won’t be able to look past that large cutout should still be pleased with the smaller Pixel 3; by most accounts, that handset will effectively be last year’s Pixel 2 XL with more powerful internals. The addition of dual front cameras, wireless charging support, and a sizeable notch (on the Pixel 3 XL) appear to be the biggest differences between the upcoming handsets and their direct predecessors, save for the expected annual upgrades in the computational department. On a closing note, it’s worth pointing out that the Internet is currently filled with conspiracies about the numerous Pixel 3 XL leaks outlined above being fake but if such theories actually amount to anything, that would be an unprecedented development in the industry that always had issues with keeping secrets and never managed to purposefully mislead so many media outlets and consumers prior to any product launch.