Tech Savvy: Pixel 3 offers a more flexible, evolving direction for the smartphone

Holding the Pixel 3 in the palm of your hand is a slick experience--high gloss, smooth glass composite exterior--which is to say little of a operating system that moves at a nice clip and its smooth, user-friendly interface.

A review of the Google Pixel 3 -- a device with a new software take on the old hardware-heavy smartphone mold. Coming this weekend.
The Google Pixel 3 -- a device with a new software take on the old hardware-heavy smartphone mold. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Holding the Pixel 3 in the palm of your hand is a slick experience-high gloss, smooth glass composite exterior-which is to say little of a operating system that moves at a nice clip and its smooth, user-friendly interface.

But, then, that's the case with pretty much any modern smartphones and, ostensibly, manufacturers in the future will continue to raise the bar in these areas.

Verizon Wireless provided a Pixel 3 to the Dispatch for review. What separates this phone from its peers is that, at its heart, the Pixel 3 leans just that much more on software than hardware. It's an operating system that's more non-material than the likes of iPhones or the Samsung Galaxy series. The Pixel 3 can also be purchased as a larger Pixel 3 XL model. Verizon is the sole telecommunications carrier for the phone.

While the result is perhaps a phone that's a little less stable and dependable in its features, the upside is a piece of technology that serves as a living article. Google's favored child is able to incorporate new features substantial enough to alter the phone significantly. It can update it's fundamental processes and adapt itself to the needs of its user in a way that traditional smartphones, for the most part, can't.

Advanced features include a sophisticated bevy of abilities-from the wherewithal to translate a real-time conversation in French or contact area pizzerias and make an order, all the way down to determining how much processing power should be allocated to each app to prolong battery life.


Simply put, artificial intelligence, tied in with all the features that can be uploaded and attached to it, is soul of the Pixel 3. Just bear in mind that means a bit more updates and installations-as well as time spent syncing your phone up with a variety of external Google cloud programs-than you might have experienced in the past. Not all of these features are immediately available on the physical phone, but have to uploaded-as will any new developments down the road.

In terms of performance specifications and performance, the Pixel 3 compares similarly to other Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9-both of which feature 4 gigabytes of RAM on Octa-core processors, as well as identical Android 9.0 Pie operating systems and Adreno 630 graphics processors. Generally speaking, it also bears out in terms of screen size and resolution, as well as the overall dimensions of the phone.

However, memory is where the Pixel 3 differs significantly from other Android phones and other makes, featuring only 128 gigs of internal storage while the S9 has 256 gigs and the iPhone XS has 512 gigs-which should be accounted for if the prospective owner has any need for extensive memory reserves on their phones. Many of us don't.

Bear in mind that the Pixel 3 is hovering around $800 currently-depending on the model and seller-which may point to a larger issue in the industry, exemplified by Apple and it's lacklustre sales of the newest iPhone X on account of its higher price tag and lack of developments to justify an upgrade. The iPhone XR is about $750, the iPhone X sets at roughly $1,000.

By shopping around-no matter the phone make or model-consumers should be able to find the right deals or, potentially, a refurbished phone to shave a substantial portion off the price. Buyers should also look at what value they can get via trade-ins. It's all a matter of weighing pros and cons, and-with investments of this nature-what kind of features you feel are necessary to have a positive experience. All that glitters is not gold, especially if you realize you're just fine with silver or bronze.

Thus, it's up to a prospective buyer to decide if the Pixel 3 and it's shiny new features is just that much better than, say, a Galaxy S9 or comparable Android phones with price tags sitting closer to $600. At any rate, getting a solid case is in order-because of the phone's glass composite exterior. It's able to charge wirelessly, but it's extremely susceptible to scratches or scuffing, so don't expect it to look pristine after any amount of everyday use.

That being said, there's a lot to like. The Pixel 3 features what may be the most sophisticated camera in the current market lineup, which-coupled with different functions like a swooped up portrait mode, super high resolution zoom, photobooth mode, wide angle selfies, motion auto-focus and especially the lowlight function Night Sight-gives you the capability to take stunning photos and video in a wide array of different circumstances.

Interestingly, audio isn't up on the same level. The forward facing speakers are a welcome change from older smartphones, but the microphone-in particular, during speakerphone or conference calls, as well as recordings-has been flagged as a concern by the internet community in the past. I haven't found poor audio quality in these areas myself during my brief time with the Pixel 3, so it may have been a bug that's been worked out since the phone's launch, but it's worth a closer look if you're thinking of buying the phone.


Inundated with robocalls or unknown numbers? Hit the call screen button and the Pixel 3 is adapted to answer these calls and vett potential contacts-whereupon the user can either listen in themselves, or get a transcript of the conversation. Similar AI features-everything from the usual Alexa-esque functions like answering questions, setting alarms or playing music, to contacting local restaurants to set up a date reservation or its elaborate interpreter mode.

My take? It's a fascinating development in technology and another step in the evolution of smartphones into the kind of automated technology that only showed up in science fiction. While it offers intriguing features, and it's adaptive nature means more features can be accessible down the road, a prospective buyer should ask themselves if these features meet a need or desire on the part of the buyer, or if they're unnecessary gizmos that don't justify the phone's price tag. Either way, it's hardly a cut-and-dry decision.

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