In 2018, there will be three Pixel 3 phones to choose from. Interestingly, this was also meant to be the plan for 2017, until one phone was axed. So what can we expect from Google’s Pixel 3 smartphones?
Google only sold 3.9 million Pixel phones in 2017, a paltry figure when you consider how many iPhones Apple ships per quarter (spoiler: it’s almost 80 million).
But despite Google having long had a big stake in the smartphone space via the Android OS, it is relatively new to the game of trying to push its own hardware for a mass audience.
Even though it has been developing hardware for a long time with the Nexus series, the goal of that range was never really huge sales.
Google’s own-brand phones might not have taken the world by storm, but they’ve had a fairly consistent and loyal fanbase for some time now – first with the Nexus series, and now with the Pixel phones.
But with most of Google’s mountain of cash coming from its Android OS, search, ads, services, and YouTube enterprises, the company has enough padding that it can keep trying to make its phones take off. Perhaps 2018’s Pixel 3 series will make it third time’s the charm?
The Pixel and Pixel 2 series were both very impressive, but both releases lacked that all-important wow factor.
Unfortunately, at this stage it’s not really looking like Google has much of a clue on the design side, as the leaks of Pixel 3 hardware look, on the whole, almost identical to the Pixel first and second-gen handsets.
If it is truly the exterior design that’s holding the Pixel brand back from big sales and mass consumer appeal, we can’t see the Pixel 3 faring any better to be brutally honest.
Allegedly the Google Pixel 3 series may lack any navigation keys or software buttons and may, instead, be operated purely by gesture control. If so, this would be a bold move by Google and could actually deter some users. The word comes via an Android Central report following Google’s official release of Android 9.0 as Android Pie.
Android Pie revealed Google’s gesture navigation interface, but it was also noted that on handsets updating to Pie it would be entirely optional; the use of traditional navigation remains for those who want it.
But AC claims this won’t be the case for the Pixel 3 series and other Google devices going forward, traditional buttons will be gone completely. The information is realiable though, as it comes from an interview conducted with Google’s EK Chung, the UX manager for Android and Pixel.
“In the case of the back button, it’s still a necessary part of the interface — but now it’s hidden whenever there isn’t a function to go “back” in the app. The multitasking button, however, was primed to be replaced as user diagnostics showed very few people actually utilized it on a regular basis. So for EK’s team, there was room to improve,” the report said.
According to fresh information, Google’s Pixel 3 series may launch on October 4. The word comes via YouTube channel “This Is Tech Today” which revealed that Google may have leaked the date itself by posting a job advert. Essentially, Google took to online marketing platform FameBit looking for content creators in Canada, specifically, with the goal of said creators to promote the Pixel 3 via YouTube from October 4 onwards.
The description attached to the ad strongly implies the launch date for the Pixel 3 is October 4, but this likely means a launch event rather than the device hitting retail. On top of all this, the first-gen Pixel and Pixel 2 series not only launched in October, but also specifically on October 4 each year, so this seems highly likely at this point.
Canadian publication MobileSyrup has revealed a couple of images captured on a tram in Toronto, where a commuter, believed to be testing the Pixel 3 XL, has been seen twice using the handset.
At first it wasn’t certain it was the Pixel 3 XL, as the first image could have feasibly showed a number of different phones – there wasn’t anything particularly distinguishing it as the Pixel 3 XL. Now, however, with the second image it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what it is. Most notably, the display notch is clearly visible.
The images also show the dual-tone rear panel design in a mixture of glossy glass and matte frosted finishes. We can also see it has a dual front-facing camera.
The Pixel 3 XL has now been spotted in an unboxing video, where the handset design, box content, and included accessories are showcased. Picked up on Slashleaks and Reddit, the leak shows a white handset, and interestingly some headphones are included (which didn’t happen in the second-gen). A USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter is also in there, together with a USB Type-C to USB Type-C connector, and a USB Type-C to USB Type-A adapter. Lastly, there’s the charging plug.
Another leak has occured, this time from Russian blogger Ivan Luchkov who has also unboxed the Pixel 3 XL and recorded it in pictures (though not video this time), showing the design, the handset being switched on, and the box contents, which once again includes a set of new Pixel Buds earphones. We also get a good look at the display notch design aspect.
The Pixel 3 XL has leaked ones more in a case render which shows the glass bodywork and dual-tone finish – this is essentially what we’ve seen on every Pixel handset so far, although the use of frosted glass instead of aluminium which may have something to do with improving connectivity and enabling wireless charging.
Notorious leakster Ice Universe is at it again, dishing up a render of the Pixel 3 XL wearing a case. The apparent product image shows the case on its own, then alongside it is the handset with the case fitted, with the screen facing the viewer.
This shows us a couple of things, firstly the render depicts the Pixel 3 XL’s display as having a notch at the top for the camera and other front-facing sensors – this fits with previous leaks and rumours on the presence of a notch.
In addition, we can see with the case shown on its own that it has a cut-out for a single-sensor rear camera and another hole for the dual-LED flash, meaning the Pixel 3 XL will not embrace dual-sensor technology. On top of that, we also see a cut-out for a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, so there will not be in in-display one.
Live photos have leaked showing what is alleged to be a Pixel 3 XL prototype. The images were posted on the XDA Developers forum displaying both the front and back of the handset. On the front fascia, the phone appears to feature a notch at the top of the display and a chin at the bottom.
The notch also seems to have two openings, which either could be a camera and some other kind of sensor, or two cameras operating in a dual-lens setup. If the latter is true we could see some kind of 3D face unlock feature.
Meanwhile, on the back, the design is very similar to the second-gen Pixels, including a single-sensor primary camera and the return of the circular fingerprint scanner.
According to some on-screen specs on the display, the Pixel 3 XL shown has 128GB of onboard storage and 4GB of RAM, as well as a previously leaked codename “crosshatch”.
We now have some Pixel 3 concepts to look at courtesy of Concept Creators. Granted, none of these concepts are official, but they are based on the current run of rumours, so they might be quite close to what we actually get to see later on this year.
Now the Pixel 3 has been spotted in the Android Open Source Project code for the first time. As expected, the details come via the watchful eyes of members at the XDA-Developers forums, which reveals that a new AOSP “commit” (a modular piece of code) has been spotted, known as “Cherrypick”. The description of this piece of code mentions the Pixel 3:
“This change added the config because the HAL V_1_2 only supports Pixel 3, and the new Auto Selection Network UI is based on HAL V_1_2. So we set the flag to decide which Auto Selection Network UI should be used based in the device type.“
HAL stands for Hardware Abstraction Layer, which XDA describes as “a piece of software that bridges the gap between the Android OS and the hardware”.
I’m a huge fan of the Pixel 2 XL, but I do think the design of the phone is a bit, well… pedestrian. Google could – and should – give its 2018 Pixel phones are BIG update in the physical design department. Doing this would increase the appeal of the handset as well as make the price of the devices a little more palatable.
The bezels on the Pixel 2 are too big and the next generation of Pixel phones, if 2017 trends are anything to go by, will see more display and less bezel on the front of the handsets. I also love the color options used in the concepts as well, so fingers crossed Google steps up its game in both regards in 2018.
The fact that there will be three is definitely interesting, as it could mean Google is looking at releasing a budget-oriented model, something similar to the Nexus 4/Nexus 5 from a few years back.
According to reports from local news sources in India, Google has plans to release a mid-range Pixel handset in the region, with the claim allegedly being backed up by “at least four senior industry executives”. It’s claimed that the plan is to launch the new phone by Diwali.
“Another one of the senior industry executives said by August a new mid-range smartphone by Google should hit the market, while the new Pixel will be ready to go at the beginning of November when the smartphone series traditionally launches,” reports GSMArena.
What’s not clear is whether this handset forms part of the three Pixel phones already rumoured, and may in fact therefore be available outside India as well, in all the regular Pixel markets. Alternatively, it may be an entirely separate product with no ties to earlier Pixel rumours and plans.
Time For A Notch?
In a bizarre move, Android phone makers seem to be copying the worst features implemented on iPhone and bringing them to Android handsets. The first instance of this was the removal of headphone jacks. The second will be the “notch” – a unit on the front of the handset that houses a camera and sensors.
The notch wasn’t exactly popular on the iPhone X, it broke up the display and looked, well, a little out of place. Why Android phone makers are copying this feature remains to be seen, but they ARE copying, as Android P even has references to a notch in its source code. So notches are coming to Android in 2018.
The notch does serve a purpose, however, as for a phone to be completely edgeless it has to have one, so you can get a phone speaker and a camera unit, as well as sensors, in the front of the device. In years to come, these features will likely be integrated into the display – just like what Samsung will do with its fingerprint scanner this year – but this is likely a ways off yet. So for now we’re stuck with the notch.
A New Kind of Nexus 5-Style Release For 2018?
The Nexus 5 was one of the most loved Android phones of all time. If you spend any time on Reddit, you will know that the handset is still thriving despite its age and lack of support from Google.
And the reason why the Nexus 5 was so popular is simple, it was a great phone with a great price tag. Made by Google in cahoots with LG, the Nexus 5 was all about value for money, software, and getting stuff done with minimal fuss or fanfare.
The hole left by the Nexus 5 was never really filled, though OnePlus has made a valiant attempt to do so with its excellent phones over the years. But as good as the OnePlus 5T is it still misses the one thing that made the Nexus 5 – and all Nexus phones, for that matter – special; updates.
And this got me thinking, especially after reading that there would be three Pixel 3 phones released in 2018, that perhaps it is time for Google to revisit what it was doing with the Nexus 5? In a sea of almost-£1000 phones, a low-priced Google phone would be extremely popular, especially if it borrowed from the Nexus 5’s modus operandi.
Will this happen? Don’t count on it – reports suggest the third Pixel option will be an ultra-premium affair, meaning Google is keen to go after the example set by the iPhone X and charge $1000 for a phone.
This is the wrong approach, however, as I am sure it would have more success with something similar to the Nexus 5, only dressed in Pixel clothing. By using its old model, Google could create an exceptional phone that, when priced around the same as the OnePlus 5T, could do some serious damage to Apple’s dominance of the space.
Google wants to be more like Apple. But competing with the company head-on, and on pricing, I feel, is not the way to go about it. A better approach would be to offer up something that gave users unparalleled value for money, get them locked into the Pixel ecosystem, and then, a year or two later, try and get them upsold to a bigger and more costly model.
This is basically what Apple has done, although over a 10 year period, and it definitely works. Android is not iOS, it’s always been more inclusive, and I think this is something Google should reflect with its product choices in 2018.
By offering a compelling-but-easily-affordable Pixel phone in 2018, Google would increase brand exposure, secure itself millions of new users, and help push its Pixel install base from barely anything at all to something approaching decent.
I am a HUGE fan of the current Pixel phones, but you definitely do not need an even more expensive version. There’s not much else you could do to make the phone better, for instance, unless you’re talking about its physical appearance. And even then, why would you pay more just for some arbitrary design tweaks?
A cheaper, functional handset that undercuts the OnePlus 5T is definitely more compelling. It offers something different, something that is attainable for more people, and it is something that could be used, over a period of 24 months, to lock a user into Pixel phones for good.
The world does not need another £1000 Android phone, it needs more value for money like the OnePlus 5T. So, come on, Google, sort it out!
Don’t count on it, though. Most seem to agree that Google’s third handset will be an ultra-premium model similar to Apple’s iPhone X – so, expect to pay around $1000 for it.
I don’t think there much of an appetite for this kind of thing in the Android space, even more so when you factor in how irked many users were by the price of Google’s Pixel phones, to begin with.
But this is where the problem resides in the mind of phone makers: they love profits and will do anything to get their hands on them. A value proposition would add more value and make more sense, something close to the OnePlus 5T for instance, as it would encourage people to give Pixel a try.
And once they’ve experienced the Pixel, its fast updates and superb camera, it’d be easier to convert them to more expensive models. As it stands, Google’s Pixel phones account for hardly any of the mobile space. Google needs market share for its phones, not higher profit margins (these will come in time with volume).
I was worried that everybody else would follow Apple down the $1000-Phone route and, if early reports are to be believed, it looks as if both Google and Samsung definitely are with their 2018 plans.
Finger’s crossed Google goes for value this time around, as the Pixel 2 XL is already VERY expensive anyway.
Google Pixel 3 Will Use Snapdragon 845 CPU
Qualcomm releases a new Snapdragon CPU every year and 2018’s flagship device will be the Snapdragon 845 CPU. Samsung will take the lion’s share of these chipsets during the first part of the year, though Google, HTC, LG, and others will pick up plenty of these CPUs during the latter part of 2018.
So what can you expect from the Snapdragon 845 CPU with respect to performance and new features? Quite a bit as it goes; here’s what Qualcomm said about the 845 at launch:
“Thoughtfully designed with tech-savvy consumers in mind, Snapdragon 845 utilises Qualcomm Technologies’ industry-leading wireless heterogenous compute expertise to design a platform for immersive multimedia experiences including eXtended reality (XR), on-device artificial intelligence (AI), lightning-fast connectivity, and introduces our new secure processing unit (SPU) delivering vault-like security for premium, flagship mobile devices.”
The Pixel 3 XL has now been spotted in Geekbench benchmarking results running its Snapdragon 845 SoC with 4GB of RAM and Android P 9.0. The RAM is somewhat surprising considering most rivals are now running between 6GB and 8GB on flagships, but then perhaps Google really is following the Apple model which has always packed less RAM than its contemporaries.
The 4GB RAM has been spotted again, this time for the Pixel 3 XL seen on results from Chinese benchmarking suite Master Lu. There’s talk that the 4GB RAM models could be pre-production units, with the idea implied we’ll see 6GB RAM – more in line with other Snapdragon 845 handsets – when the phone launches. Frankly, although we like the optimism, we’re not holding our breath.
You can check out a full breakdown of the Snapdragon 845 CPU here.
More as we get it!