Google just announced the two smartphones that will carry the company through 2019, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and in this comparison we will look to see what's the differences between the two. The Pixel series is Google’s way to showcase its latest operating system version, and this year that means Android 9 Pie. Google Pixel phones do not only compete with the iPhone, but also other Android devices and while Google has priced its new phones as flagship devices, you will often find more features and/or technologies on other high-end smartphones and at a cheaper price. But, you might then be giving up faster updates - a staple feature of the Pixel line. When it comes to the Pixel 3, Google stuck with a straightforward design – larger display, updated hardware and software, and no notch. The Pixel 3 XL on the other hand includes a larger display, updated hardware and software, and a notch. Surprisingly, the only dual cameras are on the front, and there's still no optical zoom on the main camera, although Google has spent time honing the camera software and features. Both models come in the same three colors – Clearly White, Just Black and Not Pink.
The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL actually have several things in common, including the Snapdragon 845 SoC along with the Adreno 630 GPU. They both have 4GB of RAM and 64GB (or 128GB) of non-expandable storage. The display is larger in the Pixel 3 XL but uses the same 18:9 aspect ratio with Always-On display functionality. The only real difference is the Pixel 3 uses an FHD+ resolution while the Pixel 3 XL uses an QHD+ resolution. The single main camera and dual front-facing cameras (FFC) in both models are identical. Both models include stereo speakers, no 3.5mm headphone jacket, an IP68 certification, a non-removable battery, wireless charging and protection via Gorilla Glass 5, as well as the usual suspects – NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth version 5.o, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and a 3.1 USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer.
Please take a careful look at the detailed specifications comparison chart below and here you will see just how these two smartphones stack up against each other. After that, we will look at each mobile offering in more detail and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on overall specs, as well as the execution of design and functions.
Google Pixel 3
One thing's for sure, the standard Google Pixel 3 won't win any beauty contests. Google needs to ‘wow’ people into buying the Pixel 3 over other $800 smartphones that have more RAM and expandable storage and looks would go a long way towards persuading new customers. Another issue is the timing of the Pixel’s fall release, which is at the end of the Snapdragon 845’s life cycle and the competition’s spring releases will most likely use the new Snapdragon processor/Adreno combination. Most flagships introduced in 2018 had a dual-camera – so does the Pixel 3, but the dual-cameras here are for the front-facing camera setup, not the main. The all-glass design allows Google to include wireless charging, and the Pixel 3 features all the usual Google-related features including Google Pay, Google Assistant, Google Lens, and Google Photos. There's an improved Active Edge, Playground, and Smart Lock, as well as IP68 dust and water-resistance, and stereo speakers. You can buy it unlocked to work on any major U.S. carrier, but Verizon is still the exclusive dealer of the Pixel 3 phones.
Google increased the display size on both of its Pixel 3 phones. The Pixel 3 went from a 5-inch to a 5.5-inch and it uses OLED technology. Google has stuck with an FHD+ resolution of 2160 x 1080 pixels and this results in a density of 443 pixels-per inch on the Pixel 3. At least it uses the 18:9 aspect ratio making viewing media and multitasking better and easier. Google continues to use an Always-On display that makes it easier for the user to look at a notification without turning on the device, and this in turn, saves on battery. Gorilla Glass 5 protects the front of the Pixel 3.
The Qualcomm 845 processor coupled with the Adreno 630 is in most of the flagships built in 2018, so when Google needed to power its Pixel 3 series, the company went with a proven winner. The SD845 is a quad-core processor clocked at 2.5 GHz and it works with an Adreno 630 GPU – together, your Pixel 3 will run smoothly and quickly, as well handling any graphics you can throw at it. The Pixel 3 has 4GB of RAM and non-expandable storage of 64GB or 128GB. Powering the device is a 2,915 mAh capacity battery - an increase from last year's 2,700 mAh capacity, and Google added quick wireless charging this time.
In the camera department, the Pixel 3’s hardware has not changed too much when compared to the Pixel 2 as it still uses the 12.2-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser and PDAF, dual LED flash, and auto HDR. There is no optical zoom which is a little surprising considering most of the competition are using optical zoom and the Pixel 3 series is priced high enough to cover the cost. The Pixel 3 has an unusual dual FFC setup that features auto-HDR. It sports two 8-megapixels sensors: one with an f/1.8 aperture, and an ultra-wide angle sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and no autofocus.
The new Google Pixel 3 has the best processor out in 2018, although 2018 is quickly coming to an end. It has a slightly larger display than the Pixel 2, but smaller than the Pixel 3 XL, and only utilizes an FHD+ resolution. The Pixel 3 uses the newer aspect ratio and a dual front-facing camera setup. Google added wireless charging since the front and back are made from Gorilla Glass 5. The camera offers better software and features giving you a better experience than the Pixel 2. It features an improved Google Lens and Active Edge. The device has no 3.5mm headphone jack but provides stereo speakers on the front. Some of the most fundamental features of the Pixel series are the use of a lighter version of Android and fastest Android updates. The Pixel 3 measures 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm and weighs in at 148 grams. It is available in three colors – Just Black, Clearly White, and Not Pink. The Pixel 3 will cost about $800 with 64GB of storage and is available for purchase from the Google Store, Best Buy and as a wireless carrier exclusive through Verizon.
Google Pixel 3 XL
The Google Pixel 3 XL is a little better-looking than the Pixel 3, although that might be dependent on whether or not you like a notch - as the Pixel 3 XL has one. For $900, it should be somewhat better looking if Google expects Samsung or LG buyers to jump flagships. It's no secret that dual cameras are all the rage and yet Google still uses a single main camera lens. Yes, it does take great photos, but dual cameras is a selling point for many buyers. Google decided it was better to give us a dual front-facing camera instead and primarily for those who want improved selfies. The all-Gorilla Glass 5 design allows Google to include wireless charging and like the standard Pixel 3 it has all the usual Google features including Google Pay, Google Assistant, Google Lens, and Google Photos. Once again, there's an improved Active Edge, Playground, and Smart Lock, as well as IP68 dust and water-resistance, and stereo speakers. You can buy it unlocked to work on any major U.S. carrier, but Verizon is still the exclusive dealer of the Pixel 3 series phones.
The Pixel 3 XL went from a 6-inch to a 6.3-inch OLED display and utilizes a QHD+ resolution of 2960 x 1440 pixels along with a density of 523 PPI. The Pixel 3 XL also employs an 18.5:9 aspect ratio for better entertainment viewing, and does include a large notch. Google stuck with the Always-On display making it easier for the user to look at a notification without turning on the device, and this in turn, saves battery life. Gorilla Glass 5 protects the front of the Pixel 3 Xl.
Google picked the best processor available for the Pixel 3 XL, the Snapdragon 845 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5 GHz and paired it up with the Adreno 630 GPU - the same processor/GPU found in the Pixel 3. It is a great processor for Android 9 Pie and should provide a quick and smooth user experience. The Pixel 3 XL offers no differences from the Pixel 3 with the same 4GB of RAM and 64GB (or 128GB) of non-expandable storage on offer. This is surprising considering the price and the competition from iPhone that offers 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Google decreased the battery size from a 3,520 mAh in the Pixel 2 XL to a 3,430 mAh capacity, but added quick wireless charging.
Google got serious with cameras when the company announced the Pixel models. The Pixel 2 series had, for a while, the best smartphone camera on the market and Google carried over the same main camera to the Pixel 3 series, but reworked its software and increased its features making it feel like a different smartphone and camera. Google still uses a single camera - even on the Pixel 3 XL - a major difference compared to what other manufacturers are doing with their flagships, and the biggest change was to the FFC. Google added dual 8-megapixel sensors, one with an aperture of f/1.8, PDAF, and auto-HDR, and the other with an ultra-wide sensor sporting an f/2.2 aperture and no autofocus. The main shooter is a 12.2-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, OIS, laser and PDAF, a dual-LED flash, and auto-HDR. Like the standard Pixel 3, there's no optical zoom.
Google used the best processor in 2018 on the Pixel 3 XL, but because Google waits until the end of the year to launch its new devices, the major phones that will start to come through in the next few months will all be sporting a more updated processor. The Pixel 3 XL has a larger display than the Pixel 3 and uses the higher QHD+ resolution. The Pixel 3 XL uses a newer aspect ratio. Google added wireless charging since the front and back are now made from Gorilla Glass 5. The camera offers better software and features giving you a better experience than the Pixel 2. It has an improved Google Camera Lens and Active Edge, and in spite of the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack the Pixel 3 XL features front stereo speakers. Like the standard Pixel 3, buyers of the 3 XL can expect a lighter version of Android and fast updates. The Pixel 3 measures 158 x 76.7 x 7.9mm and weighs in at 184 grams. It is available in three colors – Just Black, Clearly White, and Not Pink. The Pixel 3 XL will cost about $900 with 64GB of storage and is available for purchase from the Google Store, Best Buy and as a wireless carrier exclusive through Verizon.
...And The Winner Is...
The Final Word
I'm picking the Google Pixel 3 as the winner of this comparison. Unless you want a larger display that has a QHD+ resolution, there's no reason to pay out an extra $130 to $200 more for the Pixel 3 XL. They have identical cameras – front and back, identical processor/GPU components, Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back and wireless charging. The battery in the Pixel 3 is of a lesser capacity but is still more of an upgrade than the Pixel 3 XL received. With the smaller, FHD+ display, the Pixel 3 will certainly last more than a day of moderate usage. The Pixel 3 has the same 4GB of RAM, stereo speakers, and neither provide a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The big question is whether Google went far enough to interest new users into purchasing a new Pixel 3 or 3 XL. They are not that eye-catching from the get-go, and then there is that high price for only 4GB of RAM, and the lower 64GB to 128GB of non-expanding storage, when the iPhone offers 64GB, 256GB and 512GB options. Google does argue that there's less of a need for storage with these phones due to the reliance on cloud storage. This is particularly true when it comes to photos, although it remains to be seen if users are happy enough to rely more heavily on cloud storage or whether they would prefer to store more photos, videos, and music locally on their phone. Another problem Google has is when its devices are released - by coming out in the fall, the processor is nearing the end of its flagship lifespan with new models in the spring expected to pack in a next-generation chip. The Pixel 3 series are solid devices, but are also rather expensive for what you get and compared to the competition.