New Phone Quest Revisited – Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2

About a year ago, I wrote about my quest for a new smartphone. The general scope of this quest was to satisfy a few parameters; stock/mostly unbloated Android, pocket sized (not a “phablet”), and a good low light camera were the most important considerations. I’ve also always wanted a battery that actually lasts more than a day, but the realist in me knows there’s no phone that will have everything I want. So, I’ve typically focused on the first three things. I’ve been through a few brands over the years (Samsung Galaxy, Apple iPhone, Blu Studio), but the closest I’ve ever come to what I’m looking for has been last year’s Google Pixel 2.

Pixel 2 checked most of my boxes. First, the camera has been absolutely amazing. Definitely the best camera in any light conditions I’ve used, smartphone or not. It also runs on stock Android and has great overall device dimensions, and I can easily use it with one hand. The battery life wasn’t noteworthy from the get-go…but, not many phones excel there anyway. So, if it checked all those boxes, why does this post exist? Why was I on a quest for a new phone again? Well, the answer to that is the Pixel 3.

As much as I like the Pixel 2’s overall dimensions, its actual screen size leaves a lot to be desired. Pixel 2’s top and bottom bezels are absolutely massive by modern smartphone standards. The Pixel 3 corrects that, providing significantly more screen in an overall phone size that is pretty much identical. In addition to the improved screen real estate, the colors also seem better (less yellow and maybe a bit brighter). Check out these comparisons:

Amdall Pixel 3 v Pixel 2 Dark Comparison

Pixel 2 (left) and Pixel 3 (right). Maximum brightness, adaptive brightness on, adaptive colors setting on both devices. Photo taken in a dark room with a Samsung Galaxy S7.

Amdall Pixel 3 v Pixel 2 Bright Comparison

Pixel 2 (left) and Pixel 3 (right). Maximum brightness, adaptive brightness on, adaptive colors setting on both devices. Photo taken in a bright room with a Samsung Galaxy S7.

 

As you can see from the images, the Pixel 3 definitely represents an upgrade in screen size and quality. The phones are pretty much identical in height, width, and weight, and I’m even wondering if I could have used my old case instead of the new one made for Pixel 3. Pixel 3 also has the usual incremental hardware upgrades, but the screen is the big change from my perspective. I’ve been using the Pixel 3 now for a few weeks, and am really happy with the improvement. So far, the only thing that is a downgrade on the Pixel 3 is the new multitasking. You’re now forced to use the iPhone-like upward swipe instead of the old familiar bottom right square button. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but I wish there was a setting to change that back.

A lot of positives and negatives are otherwise pretty similar. I’ll give a rundown below on my impressions after using the Pixel 3 for a while.

Positives

  • Great overall device size, perfect for one-handed use
  • Very nice screen (big improvement from Pixel 2)
  • Stock Android is always my preference
  • The camera is incredible. Great low-light performance, crisp images, handles moving subjects well (like my kids running around).
  • Extremely loud dual speakers (significantly louder than Pixel 2). Seriously, they can be turned up to surprisingly loud levels for music.
  • Hardware specs seem fine (memory usage, storage, etc. all non-factors so far)
  • I’m glad they finally included some USB-C headphones for free.
  • The dual lens front-facing camera is pretty useful. The photos aren’t as flawless as the single back camera, but the wide angle selfie is extremely useful with our kids.

Negatives

  • Being forced into swipe-up multitasking isn’t something I am enjoying.
  • Google “Discover” cards (formerly Google Now or Google Feed) are still sort of a mess. In my opinion, they never should have split the schedule based cards (like flights, commute, etc) off from the main page.
  • I’ve read there are a couple of persistent bugs (call quality, speaker buzzing). I haven’t experienced any of these issues, but I have been watching out for them.
  • I still wish they hadn’t gotten rid of the headphone jack.
  • Like the Pixel 2, battery life on the Pixel 3 isn’t amazing. I can live with it, but I really wish battery life was the next hard push by manufacturers (instead of notches…)

Overall, I’m really happy with it and glad I upgraded. My wife went with the same upgrade and is enjoying hers as well. If anyone is in the market for a new smartphone and has questions, definitely feel free to ask away in the comments section!

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