Google Pixel 3: Everything you need to know!

February 11, 2019 — Google Pixel is now the United States’ fastest-growing smartphone brand

According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, Google’s Pixel series of phones has become the fastest growing smartphone brand in the United States.

Per Strategy Analytics:

Google Pixel is now the fastest-growing major smartphone brand in the United States. Like Apple, Google is targeting rich Americans with rich eSIM devices and rich apps. Is Pixel the new iPhone?

February 10, 2019 — Latest Pixel 3 ad sees Childish Gambino in a dance-off with his Playmoji

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After introducing Childish Gambino Playmoji for the Pixels, Google is highlighting the AR feature in a new ad that sees the musician in a dance-off against his virtual counterpart. The ad debuted during the Grammys, with Google noting that it worked with Childish Gambino’s music video choreographer Sherrie Silver to ensure the Playmoji’s moves rivaled that of the artist.

February 8, 2019 — There’s now an AR Childish Gambino Playmoji for Pixel phones

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The Pixel 3’s AR feature for adding characters from Star Wars, Stranger Things, and more, is getting a new addition in the form of popular artist Childish Gambino.

To access this, just open the camera app, bring up the Playground mode, and drop Childish Gambino into the frame. Just like other characters, he can be captured in photos and videos.

Google says that it “worked closely with Childish Gambino and his music video choreographer, Sherrie Silver, to make sure the Playmoji’s dance moves rival those of Childish Gambino himself.

In addition to the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, you can also get Childish Gambino on your Pixel 2/2XL and Pixel/Pixel XL.

January 3, 2019 — A future software update will add LTE Band 48 to the Pixel 3

The Pixel 3, like all flagship phones released these days, is capable of pretty fast 4G LTE data speeds. However, as noted by the folks at XDA Developers, it’ll soon get a nice upgrade with support for LTE Band 48.

An addendum to the FCC was made public today and cites the international model of the Pixel 3 will support Band 48 following a software update.

LTE Band 48 uses 150MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum. That 3.5GHz spectrum is widely considered by U.S. carriers to be an important building block for expanding 5G networks around the globe.

While the Pixel 3 isn’t capable of 5G, this should still allow users to experience faster speeds overall. LTE Band 48 is part of the Citizens Broadband Radio Service, and back in April, Verizon said the following about CBRS-capable devices:

By using LTE Advanced technology and carrier aggregation, Verizon will be able to use this shared spectrum to add capacity to its network. Verizon customers will benefit from more capacity, higher peak speeds and faster throughput when accessing the network.

Although the FCC addendum was just made public, it was actually filed back in November. It’s unclear when the Pixel 3 will be updated with Band 48 support, but it shouldn’t be too much longer at this point. You can have Childish Gambino dance with moves featured in his songs Redbone, Summertime Magic, and This is America.

December 21, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s camera receives a DxOMark score of 101

Whenever a new phone comes out, the folks at DxOMark get their hands on one, puts its camera through a series of rigorous tests, and then provide a highly-detailed explaination on everything said camera gets right and where it could improve.

The Google Pixel 3 recently went through this treatment, receiving a final score of 101 that ties it with the Apple iPhone XR as the best single-lens camera you can get on a smartphone.

Here’s what DxO had to say about the Pixel 3:

The camera is a great all-around performer in a variety of conditions, and has one of our highest-ever Video scores of 98. Autofocus is extremely fast, and detail preservation is also very good in most conditions. Its flash is also an excellent all-around performer. Target exposures were generally accurate, with good dynamic range, although sometimes images were a bit underexposed. There is some luminance noise and color shading in low light, but in good light, the only artifacts were occasional ghosting and slight color fringing.

If you want to dive into the full breakdown yourself, you can check it out here.

December 20, 2018 — Google explains how Top Shot works on the Pixel 3

The Pixel 3’s greatest strength is, undeniably, its camera. Google’s outfitted it with a heap of intelligent software features to help you get the best possible photos every time you press the shutter button, and one of the most impressive is the feature called “Top Shot.”

Top Shot works before and after you press the shutter button when taking a picture to help you capture the perfect moment every time. If someone blinked in a picture you took of them, Top Shot will analyze the scene and suggest a new instance of them where they weren’t blinking that you missed. It’s pretty magical stuff, and in a post shared on the Google AI Blog, Google explained exactly how this all works.

According to Google, Top Shot was created using what it learned while developing Google Lens and captures up to 90 different images before and after you press the Pixel 3’s shutter button. From there, those images go through a series of tests and the two with the highest scores are recommended as alternative shots and given the HDR+ treatment.

When a user opens the Pixel 3 Camera app, Top Shot is enabled by default, helping to capture the perfect moment by analyzing images taken both before and after the shutter press. Each image is analyzed for some qualitative features (e.g., whether the subject is smiling or not) in real-time and entirely on-device to preserve privacy and minimize latency. Each image is also associated with additional signals, such as optical flow of the image, exposure time, and gyro sensor data to form the input features used to score the frame quality.

Top Shot primarily looks for a face that’s in focus when determining which alternatives to recommend, but in situations where a face isn’t the main subject, it then rates the other images based on auto focus, auto exposure, auto white balance, motion blur, and motion salience.

Google also notes that:

Importantly, we tested the Top Shot system for fairness to make sure that our product can offer a consistent experience to a very wide range of users. We evaluated the accuracy of each signal used in Top Shot on several different subgroups of people (based on gender, age, ethnicity, etc), testing for accuracy of each signal across those subgroups.

We were pretty blown away when Google first announced Top Shot alongside the Pixel 3 back in October, so it’s cool to get a deeper dive into just how it works.

Read Google AI’s full blog post here

December 3, 2018 — Google is expanding eSim support for Pixel 3 and rolling out new Call Screen transcripts feature

For those sick of dealing with those tiny carrier SIM cards, Google is expanded the Pixel 3’s eSIM support to work with more carriers. In the same blog post, Google also announced that it’s working on a program to allow other Android device makers the option to create their own eSIM-compatible smartphones in the future. From the Google blog:

If you’re in the U.S. and would like to purchase a phone that has eSIM, head over to Google Fi or the Google Store. If you’re in Germany, look out for the ability to purchase Pixel 3 with eSIM functionality from Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone soon. Sprint in the U.S., EE in the UK, Airtel and Reliance Jio in India, and Truphone and Gigsky in various countries will also roll out eSIM support for Pixel 3 in the coming months.

The other bit of Pixel 3 news announced today involves the Call Screen feature which was unveiled alongside the Pixel 3. It appears that Google is slowly rolling out the transcription feature that lets you go back and read the transcript of any screened calls, but not everyone is seeing it just yet. It appears to be rolling out to some users enrolled in the beta program for the moment, with a wider rollout expected in the new year.

November 20, 2018 — New Pixel 3 bug renders the camera useless, Google working on a fix

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL have been no stranger to various bugs/glitches since their release, but a new one that’s popped up over the last few days has proven to be particularly nasty.

According to complaints spanning across Reddit and the official Google Product Forums, some users are reporting that the camera on the Pixel 3 can crash and, in a lot of cases, can’t be permanently fixed.

What in the world causes this? Right now, it looks like any of the following three things:

  • Using a third-party camera app
  • When another app tries to access the camera
  • Doing nothing by using the official Google Camera app

A device reboot can apparently get things working again, but only temporarily. Even worse, it’s said that this problem keeps popping up even after a factory wipe and when using the Pixel 3 in Safe Mode. In other words, your only option is to get a replacement. Yikes.

Thankfully, Google has since reached out to 9to5Google and confirmed that a fix is on the way. Unfortunately, it won’t be here until “the coming weeks.”

November 15, 2018 — Google confirms it’s fixing the Pixel 3 XL’s buzzing speaker issue

There has been a myriad of issues plaguing the Pixel 3 since its release, but according to Google, one of them is in the process of being fixed.

Some Pixel 3 XL owners have reported poor speaker quality and an unwanted buzzing sound that often occurs. One Google support agent told a user on Twitter that “a software update in the coming weeks” will fix this, and following this, a representative for the company confirmed to Android Police that the agent was, in fact, correct. Hooray!

November 8, 2018 — Take a look at this Pixel 3 that was delivered completely destroyed

Google’s Pixel phones have had quality control issues ever since the original Pixel from 2016. From Bluetooth connectivity issues to phones shipping in an endless bootloop, the Pixel line has seen its fair share of problems.

The Pixel 3 has followed in its siblings’ footsteps, and one Redditor has now been graced with a Pixel 3 that was shipped with a completely smashed up screen.

To be fair, there’s no way of telling whether this is the fault of Google or FedEx that shipped the phone, but either way, that’s not something you want to see after throwing down a minimum of $700 on a new phone.

The poor soul that received the above phone says that Google is currently handling the situation like a regular RMA, so they should hopefully have a new, non-destroyed phone soon.

November 5, 2018 — The Pixel 3’s memory management issues will be fixed ‘in the coming weeks’

As much as we love the Pixel 3 + 3 XL, there’s no doubt that both phones have their fair share of issues — one of which being that neither phone uses is 4GB of available RAM particularly well. Apps tend to force close far too often on the Pixel 3, going to the point where music being streamed on Spotify will simply stop if you try to take a picture while it plays in the background.

Thankfully, Google’s finally addressed what’s going on.

According to a Google spokesperson that sent a statement to 9to5Google:

We’re rolling out a software update in the coming weeks to keep background apps from being prematurely closed in certain situations.

That fix will be available in a monthly security patch, so while we could see it as soon as December, we could also be looking at January or later before it’s patched.

October 29, 2018 — A fix is coming for the second notch bug on Pixel 3 XL

Earlier this month, reports started popping up on Twitter about a bug with the Pixel 3 XL that caused a second notch to appear on the right side of the display — creating for one of the most horrifying things we’ve ever seen a smartphone. Seriously, just look at that thing. 🤮

Thankfully, Google’s aware of the issue and working on a fix!

According to a spokesperson that contacted Android Police, a patch for this odd bug is “coming soon.”

Have you noticed this behavior on your Pixel 3 XL?

October 23, 2018 — Google explains Pixel 3 wireless charging confusion

After it was discovered that the Pixel 3 requires a Pixel Stand to charge at its allotted 10W fast charging speeds, and that other chargers — even those that technically support the Qi standard at 10W — only charge the phone at 5W, Google released a statement:

We don’t limit third-party devices, in fact, we’re working with our partners in the Made for Google program to get fast 10W chargers certified for use with Pixel 3 (Belkin announced its 10W Pixel 3 charger already which will launch in the coming weeks). Pixel Stand and Pixel 3 work together through the protocol we’ve developed for fast charging. Everything else charges at the industry standard Qi 5W.”

In other words, Google made a proprietary wireless charging standard that isn’t Qi, and uses it with the Pixel Stand and other wireless chargers that are part of the “Made for Google” program. The Pixel 3 does support Qi wireless charging, but only at 5W. Disappointing? Yup. Confusing? Yup, yup. Totally Google? Yup, yup, yup.

October 23, 2018 — Early Pixel 3 Night Sight photos are beyond impressive

The Google Pixel 3’s camera is one of the best you’ll find on a smartphone, but one of its most impressive features — Night Sight — won’t actually arrive until sometime in November.

However, a user on the XDA Developer forums modified the latest version of the Google Camera app and has enabled the feature ahead of its official release. XDA then put Night Sight to the test on the Pixel 3, 3 XL, and 2 XL, and the end results are simply amazing.

As you can see in the example above, the first photo without Night Sight turned on is barely visible at all. The second shot with Night Sight enabled looks like a completely different photograph. The amount of detail and light Google’s able to pull in with this new mode is literally jaw-dropping, and it’ll be even more exciting to see how it evolves and improves over time.

If you want to try out Night Sight early for yourself, download this APK to your Pixel phone. After you open it, tap More -> Night, and you should be good to go.

October 18, 2018 — The regular Pixel 3 uses an LG OLED display

Earlier this week, a teardown of the Pixel 3 XL revealed that it’s using an OLED display made by Samsung. The folks at iFixIt recently put the smaller Pixel 3 through that same treatment, and while doing so, discovered that its OLED panel is sourced from not Samsung, but LG.

If you remember the Pixel 2 series, this is a total flip-flop of what was going on last year in which the Pixel 2 had a Samsung panel and the Pixel 2 XL had an LG one.

In that situation, the Pixel 2 XL’s screen was noticeably worse with greater burn-in potential, color shifting, and more. That’s not the case for the LG panel on this year’s Pixel 3, and in fact, both displays have been tuned to look nearly identical to one another. Even so, it is interesting to see that Google’s still not relying on just one supplier when it comes to its smartphone displays.

October 17, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Titan M security chip works

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have a lot of tech packed inside them, and while it’s easy to get excited about their new OLED displays and improved cameras, one of the most important features is the new Titan M security chip.

Titan M is an all-new chip that’s designed with the single goal of keep the Pixel 3 secure, and in a post on the Android Developers Blog, Google recently dived into further detail about just how Titan M works.

The chip is a security module that was made by Google itself, and it works to protect the Pixel 3 + 3 XL against all sorts of potential threats. Since Titan M is a physical piece of tech, it’ll help protect against hardware-specific exploits such as Spectre, Meltdown, and Rowhammer much more efficiently than phones without it. On the technical side of things, Google explains the following:

Titan M’s CPU is an ARM Cortex-M3 microprocessor specially hardened against side-channel attacks and augmented with defensive features to detect and respond to abnormal conditions. The Titan M CPU core also exposes several control registers, which can be used to taper access to chip configuration settings and peripherals. Once powered on, Titan M verifies the signature of its flash-based firmware using a public key built into the chip’s silicon. If the signature is valid, the flash is locked so it can’t be modified, and then the firmware begins executing.

With the chip, Google notes that it hopes to achieve “transparency and building a platform for future innovation.”

Custom hardware allows us to provide new features, capabilities, and performance not readily available in off-the-shelf components. These changes allow higher assurance use cases like two-factor authentication, medical device control, P2P payments, and others that we will help develop down the road.

October 16, 2018 — The Pixel 3 XL uses a Samsung OLED display

While last year’s Pixel 2 XL had one of the worst displays for a phone in its price range, that’s an issue that’s been completely squashed with the Pixel 3 XL.

The screen on this year’s larger Pixel is brighter, colorful, and has less blue shift + burn-in potential compared to the 2 XL. The reason for this? A Samsung OLED panel.

Google opted for an LG-made OLED display with the Pixel 2 XL, but thanks to a recent iFixIt teardown, we now have confirmation that the Pixel 3 XL is using a Samsung one.

October 16, 2018 — Google explains how the Pixel 3’s Super Res Zoom feature works

The Pixel 3 comes chock-full of neat camera tricks, but perhaps one of the coolest is Super Res Zoom. This is the name of Google’s process for improving the clarity of digital zoom by collecting data from your hands shaking as you hold the phone in preparation to snap a photo.

Recently, the Google AI team took to their official blog to detail how exactly this works.

The Super Res Zoom technology in Pixel 3 is different and better than any previous digital zoom technique based on upscaling a crop of a single image, because we merge many frames directly onto a higher resolution picture. This results in greatly improved detail that is roughly competitive with the 2x optical zoom lenses on many other smartphones. Super Res Zoom means that if you pinch-zoom before pressing the shutter, you’ll get a lot more details in your picture than if you crop afterwards.

If Super Res Zoom detects that the camera isn’t shaking (e.g. the Pixel 3 is on a tripod or propped up on a table), it’ll actually start moving around on its own to simulate natural hand movement.

The post goes on to dive into of color filter arrays, multi-frame super-resolution, and a bunch of other nitty-gritty details. If that sounds like something you want to dig into, you can check it out here.

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