Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL: frequently asked questions

Google finally unveiled its brand new phones, the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, this week at an event in New York. It seems like the endless leaks are now finally at a rest and we’re getting our first look at the devices.

The follow up to last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL seem like small, but real, upgrades. Fans will find a familiar design, specs, and price, but there are some new features to get excited about.

Read more: When and where you can buy the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Google’s presentation certainly long. Coming in at about 70 minutes, it took the veil off four new products– the Google Home Hub, Pixel Slate, Pixel Stand, and the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. We didn’t hear as much as we’d like about these devices at the time which leaves fans with unanswered questions. We’ve been asking around for your questions and we’ve come up with some answers where we can.

Is the Pixel 3 XL’s display better than the Pixel 2 XL?

You might remember that late 2017 and early 2018 was plagued with Pixel 2 XL display issues. We saw pretty bad blue shifting, inky blacks, and more. The problems led to Google extending all Pixel 2 XL owner’s warranties to a second year.

Even though LG produced the disastrous displays on the Pixel 2 XL, its back for round two with the Pixel 3 XL this year. Despite the fact that this might give some potential customers pause, it looks like things are working out.

DisplayMate tested the Pixel 3 XL and gave the phone its “Best Smartphone Display Award”

Now, we have to take this one with a grain of salt, but it is a step in the right direction. We have a hard time believing that the P3XL beat out the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in terms of display quality. Samsung has a reputation for the best displays on the market for a reason.

Despite that, we are encouraged to see that Google and LG are making progress in this area.

What’s up with the notch?

The most controversial aspect of the Pixel 3 XL has (so far) been the notch. Even though the Essential Phone was the first major device to sport a notched display, Apple gets most of the credit for the design. With the introduction of the Apple iPhone X, a whole new world of smart displays has unfolded in front of our eyes.

Now, it seems like most phones come with the love-it-or-hate-it feature. If you hate it, you can grab anything from Samsung’s lineup of devices, the Motorola Moto Z3, Sony Xperia XZ3, or the Nokia 7 Plus. If you don’t mind the notch, there are great options from the OnePlus 6 and Huawei P20 Pro, to the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 and LG G7 and V40 ThinQ.

Google seems to be straddling the line.

On the smaller Google Pixel 3, there’s no notch. The phone does have a new 2:1 aspect ratio, which is a change from last year’s Pixel 2 that had a 16:9 aspect ratio. On the larger Pixel 3 XL, however, we do have a notch.

And boy is it a doozy.

The notch on the Pixel 3 XL is huge. While it’s not as wide as some other phones, it is very tall. In fact, it looks like you could stack two notification icons in the space for the notch. Android doesn’t let you do this, but that’s the scale we’re talking about.

Most find the notch ugly on its own, but when it’s this big, it’s even worse. Google states that the reason the “display cutout” is on the Pixel 3 XL is to include two selfie cameras, a speaker and some sensors while providing an edge to edge display. Whether you believe that or not is up to you.

Luckily, Google is including the option in software to hide the notch.

There was some initial confusion around this since Google had asked HMD to remove the feature from its new phones with notches. We also didn’t see any sign of this feature in videos from YouTubers like MKBHD. But, now Google is confirming that we’ll see it on the Pixel 3 XL so owners have options.

Why two front cameras?

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL both have dual front-facing cameras. They’re both 8 MP shooters, but that’s where the similarities stop. The main lens has a standard 75-degree field of view and an aperture of f/1.8 and has auto-focus. The second lens is designed for group selfie shots and has a wide-angle 97-degree field of view. It has a f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus.

The second shooter is also designed to pick up depth data. This helps the Google Camera app apply the ever-popular bokeh or blurring effect in portrait mode. While Google was able to do most of this in software for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the second sensor will help even more now.

We have become accustomed to phones with three cameras on them, but not many with dual front-facing cameras and a single rear camera. We’ll have to see how this changes the mobile photography game in the months to come.

Are there any new camera features?

Even though Google didn’t get on stage and crow about DxOMark scores, it did put an emphasis on photography once again. The Pixel 2  and 2 XL are widely seen, even today, as the mobile photography king and it seems like this case will only get stronger with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.

Google introduced several new modes and features for us to get excited about. Here’s a quick explanation of each:

Group Selfies

As we mentioned, the secondary front-facing camera is a wide angle lens. It clocks in with a 97-degree field of view which can cause some distortion (fisheye) when taking pictures. The Group Selfies feature removes those effects so you get a great, wide-angle shot every time.

Motion autofocus

This one is pretty simple! Motion autofocus locks onto a subject and keeps it in focus, no matter where it is in the frame. Imagine a person walking toward you as you record video. The app locks onto their face and automatically focuses on them as they get closer to you.

Night sight

Google has always had great low-light shots on its phones, but Night Sight is a new initiative to make them even better. According to Google, it uses machine learning to choose the correct colors for photos. This, in turn, brings out the most light possible in a photo.

Playground

Playground is Google’s augmented reality mode that allows you to place characters like The Hulk and Iron Man into the viewfinder. Snap your picture and they show up too! Pretty cool.

Photobooth mode

This mode detects smiles and silly expressions and snaps a picture. Very convenient for placing your camera down, facing towards you, and doing your thing. Google also lets you open up Photobooth mode with your voice via Google Assistant.

Super Res Zoom

Super Res Zoom takes a burst of photos once you’ve zoomed in on a subject. Then, it stitches all of the pictures together taking the best bits of each to create the best picture available.

Top Shot

Another burst mode! Much like Super Res Zoom, your camera takes multiple bursts shots and automatically suggests the best one.

What’s up with Google Lens?

Google Lens is the search giant’s image recognition software. It allows you to search for products on the web, just by identifying them in a picture. It can also pull off cool tricks like entering a WiFi password from a picture of the bottom of your router.

Now, there are two new and easier ways to access Lens. First off is in the Camera app. You no longer have to hit the Lens button and be taken into a new mode. Now, Google is always looking at what’s in the viewfinder and giving you possible results.

Secondly, Lens works in the multi-tasking window. With the new recents menu, a full page preview of your previous app is shown when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. When you do that, Lens looks for whatever was displayed on your screen and sees if it can perform a search.

Any other new software features?

Yes! The Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL have some other exclusive software features. Not only that, they will be the first to gain access to others before the roll out to other Android devices.

Google recently detailed its new Smart Compose feature that allows the Gmail app to create emails for you from contextual clues. Think of this as the smart reply you normally see, but much larger. You can find out more about Smart Compose here.

The other two features we’re going to look at both revolve around phone calls. The first is called Call Screen. This new feature screens a call from a suspected Spam number and allows you to pick up the call if its someone you want to talk to. If not, you can let the service do its thing and come back to it later.

The second feature is the popular Google Duplex. This is the service debuted back at Google I/O that can place calls for you to do things like set up a hair appointment. The genius of Google Duplex is that it sounds like you’re talking to a real person. In a couple of examples we’ve seen, the person on the other end of the phone had no idea they were talking a computer. Pretty crazy.

Both Call Screening and Duplex will roll out to more devices, but they’re coming to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL first.

What does the new IP rating mean?

If you’re unfamiliar with Ingress Protection (IP), the numbers can be a little confusing. You’ll usually see an IP rating displayed with two numbers. Some popular examples are IP57 or IP68. The first number stands for how well a device is able to keep out dust and particulates. The second number is for water resistance. The highest rating you can achieve is IP 69K, but you’ll normally see consumer devices top out at IP68.

Last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL had an IP67 rating. That means it is totally resistant to dust and particulates and could withstand immersion in water for up to 30 minutes down to 1-meter depth.

Google was able to up the rating this year to an IP68 rating. So, what does that mean exactly? The new devices can withstand immersion in water of more than 1 meter and will generally work down to 3 meters.

A slight improvement, but a welcome one.

Speaking of hardware, is the headphone jack back?

Nope.

Google is including its new USB type-C headphones in the box, but the headphone jack is sadly dead for good. The new type-C headphones are in the same style as Pixel Buds so if you don’t like those, you probably won’t like these either.

But still, it was pretty cool for Google to stick them in the box. Too few companies include earbuds these days.

What’s up with gesture navigation?

Starting with the Android Pie beta, Google gave users the option to choose traditional navigation (back, home, recents buttons) or its new gesture navigation.

Well, starting with the Pixel 3, that’s no longer the case. Users quickly noticed that Google no longer allows you to turn off gesture navigation. In fact, the device maker has stated that gesture navigation is the path forward and will spread to other Android devices in the future.

Can I charge with other wireless chargers besides the Pixel Stand?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: yes, but you lose some features. The Pixel Stand is a wireless charger, but it does more than that too. When the Pixel 3 or 3 XL detect its connected to the Pixel Stand, it acts more like a Google Home Hub than as a phone. It can show you picture slideshows, your calendar events, and more. Your phone won’t do that when it’s connected to a different charger.

But, if you for some reason have a Pixel Stand but no Pixel, you can still charge your device on it. The Pixel Stand uses the Qi standard which is included pretty much every device with wireless charging built in. So, if your friend with a shiny new Apple iPhone XS Max comes over, he can use your cool new $80 fast charger too.

So, did we answer all of your questions? Those are some of the most asked questions we’ve seen so far, but if you have more, please hit us up on Twitter and we’ll try to help you out.