As a former Android user, the switch I made to iPhone about five years ago changed my life. The stable and you-know-what-you-get model Apple runs on was a refreshing change for me, and I haven’t looked back since.
But a recent fling with the Google Pixel 3 XL made my heart flutter for a number of reasons.
Here’s what surprised me about Google’s newest phone, and what is still holding me back from abandoning my laggy iPhone 7 for a new life with the Pixel 3 XL.
Possibly the best camera experience
Let’s get straight into it – a lot has been said about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL having one of the best phone cameras right now.
This was probably what impressed me the most about this phone.
First of all, portrait mode works on both front (dual 8mp) and rear (12.2mp) cameras, and the results – on both humans and objects – were amazing.
Not only was the blurring effect perfect, you can also choose between “natural” and “soft” touch-up effects on the portrait mode. The results for both were pretty convincing, unlike other well-known cameras which tend to make people look like plastic mannequins.
The wide-angle toggle on the front camera also made wefies effortless, especially for someone with short arms like me.
And even before Night Sight was implemented on Nov 17, the low-light shots taken on the Pixel 3 XL were already pretty impressive.
Google’s new phones also come with new features such as the Playground AR stickers – which interact with you and each other (to some extent) – and the Top Shot feature, which records multiple frames in a photo and uses AI to recommend the best shots captured.
While Playground was pretty fun, it was sometimes wonky and stickers flickered or disappeared behind objects in the frame. The novelty also wore off pretty soon for me, although I do think kids will have a lot of fun with it.
Top Shot, in contrast, worked pretty well for me and I relied on it quite a bit to capture the best photos. Reviews for the feature have so far been pretty dull, but I did get better shots on most of the photos that I applied it on.
It doesn’t hurt to also have Google Photos’ assistant suggest edits to photos, and auto-create albums, animations and movie clips from your photo and video library.
Easy to use
A major factor that has held me back from transiting to Android phones is the fear that it’ll take me a long time to get used to the interface.
One month with the Google Pixel 3 XL and I’m happy to report that the experience was stress-free and I had a very unexpectedly smooth transition. In fact, I eased into the phone so well that I started to teach others how to use it.
Part of the Pixel system’s attractiveness lies in how integrated it is with Google’s suite of services. As a heavy user of Google’s apps and tools, the phone’s Google-reliant system made life a lot easier for me especially while I was working.
But there was one thing that I found slightly annoying – the inability to switch between my personal Gmail account and work Gmail account on one app. Instead, I had to click on a separate Gmail shortcut saved to my work profile to access my work email.
Google Assistant understands me – and plays games too
I’m one of those iPhone users who rarely turns to Siri for help. But for some reason, I found Google’s Assistant pretty helpful on most days.
Perhaps it’s the fact that it understands the Singapore lingo I use. For instance, it helped me source a list of laksa shops nearest to my home.
It was also able to identify songs on its own while my phone was on ambient mode. This worked most of the time, except for moments when music in other languages was playing in the background. I felt this was quite a waste – I’d like to be able to identify Jay Chou songs as well!
And while it has its flaws, Google Lens did quite a good job at identifying objects I wanted to purchase, like this pack of Calbee chips in the photo on the right (below).
One more Assistant feature which deserves special mention is the wide array of games you can choose to play.
Lucky Trivia (on the right in the photo below) was my favourite. You can also ask it to pick a number from one to 10, so you no longer have to call your best friend for help when you can’t decide what to eat for dinner.
Pixel Stand – great but expensive charger
At $119, the new Pixel Stand is an extremely expensive charger.
There’s no denying that the technology is cool. At 10W, it isn’t the fastest but it is good enough and I managed to get a full charge in just two hours.
What supposedly makes the Pixel Stand stand out from other wireless chargers is its compatibility with Pixel 3 phones.
The Assistant is further enabled while connected to the stand, and the Pixel 3 is meant to do much more than it would when it is charged via cable.
Unfortunately for me, one of the most hyped-up features of the Pixel Stand was an almost complete failure.
In the one month I had the phone, the digital photoframe worked a grand total of one time – and for just 5 minutes before hanging. This was a major disappointment, especially since the photoframe function was the key non-charging feature announced for the Pixel Stand.
If this feature does not work, there’s little that will convince me to splurge S$119 on what otherwise is just another charger that allows my phone to double up as a digital clock.
Another feature called the sunrise alarm worked perfectly fine for me, but it was simply nice to have. In reality, I don’t think it justifies the S$119 price tag on the Pixel Stand, no matter how beautiful and relaxing its sunrise effect is.
Alas, as much as Google tried, there’s no such thing as a perfect phone.
Although I loved the camera – enough for me to consider switching to a Pixel 3 XL – there are some other issues that are stopping me from rushing out to get my very own Google phone.
For starters, I had a terrible time trying to connect my brand new Bluetooth earphones. The Pixel 3 XL just refused to connect the device despite discovering it.
Another thing that’s holding me back is the very plain and boring colours the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL come in – Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink.
At $1,199 and $1,349, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are among the most highly-priced smartphones in the market, but their sterile look lack a certain sense of luxury or sophistication. And while it’s a problem that is easily solved by getting a phone case, the official Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL fabric phone cases come with a S$60 price tag – pretty hefty if you ask me.
Still, if you ask me which phone I’m leaning towards getting when my contract expires next month, I’d say the Pixel’s camera makes it a very strong contender and there’s a chance I might actually make the jump to Google when the time comes.