The Esquire Review: Google Pixel 3
We have reached a day where your phone, instead of your flesh-and-blood self, can have a conversation with someone who has called you. That kind of voice-recognition technology is nothing new. Anyone who instinctively presses zero when calling their credit card company to talk to a human knows this. But the fact that this can be performed from a ubiquitous device soon to be in the hands of millions of people around the world gives further credence to the idea that, well, we just might be living in a simulation.
But before we get to the part of this real-life Sims game where we kneel in front of our robot overlords, can we talk about how awesome A.I. and software makes the new Google Pixel 3 that will be available soon.
Yes, similar to the auto-responses that Google now provides when you reply to a message on Gmail, the Pixel 3 is able to respond to calls for you with canned responses so you don’t actually have to talk to a robocaller, debt collector, or the urgent call from the school nurse while you’re playing Fortnite. It's a neat parlour trick that seems to be the seed for a Black Mirror episode. But when it comes to everyday usefulness, Google’s technical prowess truly shines in the imaging and smart assistant departments.
As was the case with the Pixel 2, the Pixel 3’s camera is the best there is on a phone. And it's not the hardware—it has a 12.2 megapixel camera, and an impressive wide-angle selfie cam, that gives you 184% more room than the iPhone XS—but the software that makes all the difference.
The "Top Shot" feature can automatically trigger a burst of photos and choose the best shot for you, so you don’t have to flip through dozens of options. A new feature that will be rolled out later in the year called “Night Sight” captures impressive photos in even the lowest of lighting, based on the samples that were shown to me. Like the iPhone XS, it can add or reduce background blur and change focal points, but the Pixel 3 just nails the shot most of the time, where the iPhone XS has trouble detecting what’s supposed to be clear and what’s supposed to be blurry too often.
In a nutshell, the Pixel 3 photos are just better than the competition, offering vibrant images that don't feel overly processed. And in difficult low light situations, like shooting food in a dark restaurant, the Pixel is what you want to be armed with. Bonus, the photos will be saved in the cloud at full resolution for free.
While the Pixel 3 has a new suite of wellness features like timers for how much you want to spend on certain apps and turning your screen to grayscale towards the end of the day, the best way Google gets you to detach is with the Pixel Stand, a $79 accessory that essentially transforms your phone into a Google Home smart speaker.
While in the stand it can act as a photo frame, an alarm that wakes you with a slowly brightening screen, and a smart assistant. To play a song, a YouTube video, or find out any obscure fact you’d want to settle an argument, all you have to do is say “Hey Google.” You can ostensibly ask Siri to do all of these things for you too, but trust us, it won’t work as well.
As good as the Google Pixel 3 is, it’s still the underdog. 6.8 million Pixel phones were sold since they were introduced in 2016. Does that sound like a lot? It’s not. According to the WSJ, that’s around “one-tenth of 1% of the 3.6 billion smartphones sold globally during that time.” Apple sold 41.3 million phones in just the latest quarter.
The Pixel 3 an underdog that’s worth rooting for, even if those big brains might one day end up ruling us.