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Week one with the Google Pixel 3 XL

I have been using a Google Pixel 3 XL since last week. Here are a few follow-up notes about my experiences so far.


First, let's talk a little about money. This is a topic that I take very seriously, and I think this is especially important when you consider how cavalier most reviewers are about the costs when it comes to the expensive toys that they usually get for free indefinitely. But I don't have an infinite amount of money to spend, and when it comes to buying my own devices, which I do, I try to be as economical as possible.

And half is about as economical as it gets on what is still the flagship of Google. I have complained about the high costs of the Pixel setup for each of its three years and generations, and I mourn the days of the reasonable Nexus 6P and 5X prices. But $ 500 is a lot easier to swallow than $ 1000. The math is so simple, even that I can follow it.

In this case, I also had $ 300 in PayPal, which I use for discretionary, typical gadget-related purchases. And a Pixel 2 XL that doesn't get younger, or more valuable as a trade-in. So the timing was good too.

I thought the Pixel 2 XL was worth about $ 200 for trading, but that assumption was based on nothing more than a random estimate. It turned out that my estimate was inflated by around 25 percent: both Gazelle and Amazon Trade-In tell me that the phone is really worth around $ 150. Oh yeah.

Regardless of the actual value of the transaction, I like to trade in an old device for a new one, and I do this whenever possible. This is especially good for expensive devices: I traded in an old iPad Pro and MacBook Air when I bought the new MacBook Air and traded in an iPhone 7 when I bought the iPhone XR, but getting rid of clutter is just as good something else. One device in, (at least) one device out.

With the Pixel 3 XL specifically, I hope it will be worth more if a Pixel 4 XL really make sense this fall. Or that it lasts longer than the Pixel 2 XL. Especially since the Pixel 2 XL that I used is an update.

Simply put, the Pixel 3 XL that I purchased is not worth $ 1000. But $ 500? Absolutely.

Protective cover

I really enjoy the feeling of modern smartphones, but with their full glass designs, it is accidents that still have to happen. So I will always cover my phones in cases to protect them and keep their final trade-in value. I really like the cases Apple makes for its iPhones and try to find cases like those for my non-iPhone purchases. But for the Pixel 3 XL, I have decided to abandon an expensive ($ 40 to $ 50) leather bag from now on – it is still possible that I will not even keep the phone – and will go cheap. Cheap but hopefully effective.

The two cases that I have chosen are the Tuopuna Air Armor and the ESR Essential Zero Case. Neither are noticeably more than the fact that each proves that you don't have to spend a lot of money on a decent thing.

Tuopona case

I prefer the ESR housing, because this makes the natural color of the Pixel 3 XL (officially "not pink" but really a brown color) visible. But it's not that moving, and I've used the Tuopuna case more, especially when I go to the gym, so the phone doesn't just slip out of my pocket when I'm using a machine.

ESA case

And regardless of your feelings about matters, you shall want one if you go with a Pixel 3 of any kind: the all-glass casing is just as smooth as a bar of soap, as my wife pointed out the day before the suitcases arrived. She was afraid to even pick it up.


It is impossible to discuss the Pixel 3 XL without pointing out that note. It is larger than any notch on every telephone, with a wide margin. It is so ridiculous that when images leaked from the device, a popular conspiracy theory proclaimed that Google just made up spotters. They could in no way release a phone with such a terrible design.

Well, they did. And as every Pixel 3 XL user will tell you, yes, you get used to it. This is true for almost everything, actually, just no phone notches. But it's true regardless. Only people like me, who have different phones every year, would ever really complain about it.

And it is worth pointing out that even with that notch, there is more usable real estate on the screen than was the case with the Pixel 2 XL. It is not much anymore, maybe a quarter of an inch vertical, but it is there.

Anyway, I look forward to Google and eliminate this with a camera in front of the screen in the following pixels.


Since the Nexus 6P and 5X in 2015, Google has the very best cameras & # 39; s in smartphones. It hasn't even been around. (Sorry, iPhone fans. It's true.) And then Huawei happened.

Thanks to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, which was released at the end of 2018, Google's Pixel series is now second in general in terms of photography skills and the Pixel 3 series only outperforms low-light areas. But with the P30 Pro, Huawei has permanently removed the title: not only does the performance improve in low light, the reviewers say – I'll review the P30 Pro myself soon – but the 5x optical zoom is transformational.

The Pixel 3 XL is suddenly also part of the photography department. But consider two points.

First, it is one magnificent Although it will never compete with the optical zoom capabilities of the P30 Pro, the Pixel 3 XL takes great photos in all lighting conditions. It is only a step down if you are used to using a recent Huawei device.

Secondly, that Google can achieve this with a single camera lens, at least on the back, is a miracle: other mobile phone manufacturers, including Huawei, rely on multiple lenses to achieve their star shots. Google uses only one, plus its amazing AI capabilities. Should Pixels finally use a second or even third lens in the future, then this could again be a real competition. (The Pixel 3 XL has two cameras & # 39; s on the front, which makes a special super-wide mode for selfies possible that is really useful.)

I have not done side-by-side comparisons yet, but it seems that this Pixel 3 XL is a sideways move for anyone with a Pixel 2 XL. Meaning, not upgrade only for the camera. But for all others, without Huawei customers, the camera is a good reason to upgrade.

Reliability issues

Given the number of problems with the Pixel 3 XL – some of which have been remedied since the launch, some of which are not yet – I am naturally very curious how this device works in real life. This is double stressful because my previous Google device, the Pixel 2 XL, has also been a nightmare of unreliability. (I replaced mine twice due to hardware issues.) So I used the unofficial Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL bug and issue tracker on Android Police and my own previous experience with the handset as a guideline.

The biggest problem I saw with my original Pixel 3 XL has been solved: the memory problems that caused the background audio from music, podcast or audiobook apps that stopped when I used another app (such as Camera) are no longer present and apparently were fixed in a December 2018 software update. So far, and yes, it's an early implementation, has been excellent across the board.

The audio problems I saw were partially solved. The strange vibrations experienced during audio playback are still present in the body of the device, I think, on the transition to aluminum glass, but they no longer cause audible distortion. The stereo issue, where the volume is biased toward the right (non-notches) when the device is held in landscape (such as during movie playback), is still there, but it is not dramatic. Some of the other phones that I have used still have mono sound, so this is acceptable. Not good. But acceptable.

The sound problem I mentioned last week, where my Powerbeats earphones stopped working when I was in the gym, was possibly a user error. (Shocker.) I noticed the next day that the volume on the earphone itself was all the way down, and that was clearly resolving. Since then I have brought an extra pair of (wired) earplugs to the gym, just in case.

The other, perhaps related problem where the phone seems to heat up during use – also at the gym – I have experienced again. But it doesn't happen often – it may have happened literally twice – and I haven't been able to figure out what triggers it.

As far as I know, I have no experience with a problem that has been reported a lot and that photos are not being saved, but I need more time to know for sure. And I have not experienced any of the other issues listed on that bug and problem tracker page. I will continue to use the phone and of course measure reliability and performance.

I am happy with the Pixel 3 XL in general. I love the form factor, the clean Android image and the full compatibility with Google Fi. The camera, if not as HDR-happy as that of the Mate 20 Pro, is excellent. The battery life was generally good, although I can already determine that it does not correspond to the Huawei. I wish Google had kept the headset connection. And the return to a rear-mounted fingerprint reader was nice: it is poorly fast and works very well.

More quickly than justified.

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