You pay extra to get Google's design sensibilities — and a couple neat display features.
Google chose to switch to glass backs on the new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which opened up the phones to integrating wireless charging. They use the widely adopted Qi standard, the same one Samsung uses, but Google still took the opportunity to make its own special stand-up charger called the Pixel Stand.
In typical Google fashion the Pixel Stand is rather expensive, coming in at $79 — but in exchange, you get a sleek design befitting a modern Google product and a few added benefits.
The Pixel Stand is pretty darn simple. It's a round soft touch-coated base with an elongated circle stand portion protruding from the center that presents your Pixel 3 or 3 XL nicely. A small bump at the base holds the phone up, and the coils in the back let you place the phone either in portrait or landscape mode. The bottom has the same grippy silicone base as a Google Home Mini, and it plugs in with a USB-C cable. It's a far sleeker and simpler solution than Samsung's latest wireless charger stand.
This is a far more elegant-looking stand than Samsung's latest, and has a few added software benefits.
Where Google is hoping to justify its higher pricing is the exclusive mode that the Pixel 3 and 3 XL change to when the phone is placed on the Stand. You get a configurable set of features that the phone can cycle through, showing everything from a rotation of your Google Photos albums, to a basic time/date display and a more advanced Google Assistant feed that shows pertinent information about your day. While docked the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will also use a different alarm clock style that slowly brightens the display ahead of the alarm time to hopefully wake you up more gently than a usual blaring alarm.
Having this handful of neat features available only while using the Pixel Stand feels like a bit of a consumer-unfriendly move considering the phones use the Qi standard and can easily charge on any other pad. It seems as though Google could make the phones launch into these software features while charging on any wireless charger of your choosing — and perhaps a simple solution from an app developer will make that happen in the future. For now, this looks like a nice simple charger for people who want to go all-in with Google accessories and don't mind the higher price tag to get it.