Google has been making inroads into the smartphone market over the past couple of years, but the company hasn't yet mounted a serious challenge to Samsung or Apple. That could change with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.Credit: MySmartPrice/@OnLeaks
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have turned heads with their top-notch cameras and easy access to Google Assistant. In fact, the Pixel 2 is our top-rated smartphone camera overall. But the Pixel 2 XL, in particular, suffered from several quality-control issues and bugs during its launch window and beyond.
In the past, Google has relied on third-party vendors to help make its smartphones a reality. But after acquiring the HTC smartphone team last year, Google now has its own hardware division at its disposal. And the Google Pixel 3, which is slated for release later in 2018, will be the first high-end handset to come from that marriage.
For now, Google has remained tight-lipped on its plans for the Pixel 3. But that hasn't stopped the speculation and early reports. Here's a look at all the rumors surrounding Google's Pixel 3.
Latest News (Updated Aug. 21)
- Another collection of images of a Pixel 3 XL out in the wild have emerged, this time from a passenger on Toronto's rail system.
- A new leaked video of the purported Pixel 3 XL shows off the notch and reveals key specs, including the battery size.
- Leaked images reportedly show the Pixel 3 XL being unboxed and suggest the phone will include a set of USB-C headphones that look a lot like Google's Pixel Buds.
Release date and availability
Google will once again target an Oct. 4 launch for the Pixel 3. That's according to findings from YouTuber Brandon Lee, who posts content to the This Is Tech Today channel. Lee found a listing for the Pixel 3 on Google's Famebit marketing platform, a service companies use to connect with creators.
Google was apparently looking to court Canadian creators interested in switching to the Pixel 3, to relate their experience to viewers. In the post, Google explicitly shares that the Pixel 3 will launch on Oct. 4.
This wasn't the first time an October release date was linked to the handset — Bloomberg reported as much earlier in the year. Once again, Verizon has been tipped to be the phones' exclusive carrier, though unlocked models will presumably also be made available again. Foxconn will be responsible for manufacturing, based on a report from Winfuture.
Back in March, Valuewalk also stated that Google was planning an October launch. Last year, Google unveiled the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL on Oct. 4, and began selling them on Oct. 19. The release window gave Google a decent buffer away from the September launches of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
Design: A notch for the XL
Back in June, a set of detailed leaks from OnLeaks and MySmartPrice showed both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL from every angle. The Pixel 3 will apparently sport a 5.4-inch screen in the same size body as the Pixel 2, so that means you can expect smaller bezels. The larger Pixel 3 XL shown has a notch that's apparently smaller than the one on the iPhone X.
At 6.2 x 3 x 0.31 inches, the Pixel 3 XL's dimensions are reportedly similar to the Pixel 2 XL, but the display may have an aspect ratio of 19:9.
Those design decisions were seemingly confirmed by yet another leak, this time an image of the Pixel 3 XL posted to XDA Developers by someone named dr.guru. Those images, apparently of a Clearly White version of the phone, show a notched screen up front and a surprisingly big bottom bezel. On the back of the phone, there's a single lens camera, with a fingerprint sensor positioned in the middle of the phone. The two-tone design seen in past Pixels is less evident here, possibly because of the new phone's move to an all-glass design that mixes a glossy finish around the camera with a matte-type finish elsewhere.
Credit: dr.guru/XDAAnd now we have what looks like a production-ready Pixel 3 XL being unboxed by a Ukrainian blogger. Those photos, originally posted to Telegram and then spotted by AndroidPolice, show a phone with the notched display described by other sources. We also got a look inside the box, where the most intriguing thing included is a pair of USB-C headphones that look a lot like Google's Pixel Buds.Credit: Канал Лучкова via AndroidPoliceThe leaks kept continued into late August, when a Pixel 3 XL user was spotted on Toronto's rail system not once, but twice. Images posted by Canadian tech blog MobileSyrup show an individual using what is clearly the larger, notched version of Google's next-gen flagship. The dual front-facing cameras are clearly present, and at one point the user has the phone flipped over, revealing its matte glass backside. In one image, it even looks like the phone is clad in a slim black case.
Everything else we know about the Pixel 3's design comes from two sources: a recent Bloomberg report, which cites individuals knowledgeable of Google's smartphone plans, and additional photos of a prototype device that surfaced on XDADevelopers in June.
According to Bloomberg, the larger Pixel 3 XL will incorporate a notch and edge-to-edge design, while the Pixel 3 will not. This notch will reportedly be narrower but taller than the one in the iPhone X. It will also allow the XL to feature stereo speakers, just like the smaller model and every Pixel to date. Both third-generation handsets will feature dual front facing cameras, but only one lens on the back, according to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, over at XDA, a forum user posted several images that show a Pixel-like device with a notched display, dual front cameras and a back crafted out of a different material than the metal the Pixel 2 employed. If you look closely, there's actually no seam between the glossy and matte portions, leading to speculation that the entire surface is actually glass.
Credit: @Universeice via Twitter
While no source was provided for these images, the prototype on XDA does align with the description of the Pixel 3 XL in Bloomberg's report. Additionally, a more recent leak, courtesy of well-known Twitter leaker Ice Universe, shows the exact same phone in a translucent blue TPU case. In this image, the Pixel 3 XL is also shown to feature a single rear camera and dual front-facing cameras housed inside a notch.
Bloomberg's in-depth report falls in line with something hinted at in May by a pair of leaked screen protectors that emerged from Weibo and SlashLeaks. These panels may illustrate the difference in how the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL will look. If Google does indeed decide to go this route, it would follow the example set by the Pixel 2 range, where the two devices featured dramatically different designs despite nearly identical internal hardware.
The likelihood of the Pixel 3 getting a notch started receiving renewed attention thanks to new features in Android 9 Pie, which is now available for Pixel phones. As spotted by Android Police when Google's next OS was in beta, the new version redesigns the status bar to show a maximum of four notifications; meanwhile the clock shifts to the left corner of the status bar, leaving a notch-sized gap in the middle.
Wireless charging: A Pixel first
New code in the latest beta of Android P describes a feature that could relate to wireless charging, according to XDADevelopers. The report mentions a service called "dreamliner" that doesn't relate to any existing Google-produced Android package, and frequently appears alongside battery status changes in the beta software.
That hint, coupled with photos leaked earlier of a Pixel 3 XL with a back material resembling glass rather than metal, has promoted speculation that Google's next flagship will support wireless charging. According to the report, Google is currently testing the "dreamliner" service internally, so it's likely that this isn't the last we've seen of it.
A new report at 9to5Google found references to something called a Pixel Stand in the latest version of the Google app. This is thought to be a wireless charging accessory developed for the new Pixel phones. It's likely to include the Google Assistant as well, so that you can ask about calendar appointments and other information, even if your phone is locked.
Possible third Pixel in the works
According to a report in Droid Life, Google is working on three new Pixel devices for this year. The devices, which were discovered in a source code leak last year, are code-named "crosshatch," "albacore" and "blueline."
Pixel 2 XL (left) and Pixel 2. (Credit: Tom's Guide)Two of the handsets will be considered "premium" devices, and the third will fall into the "high-end" category, a source told Droid Life. Exactly what the difference is and what that might mean for features, however, is unknown at this point.
What we do know is at the very least, the Pixel branding will continue. A Google employee working on the Android Open Source Project recently referenced the device as "Pixel 3" in a record of changes to the operating system's framework. The mention was spotted by XDA Developers and relates to improvements in cellular connectivity for the new model. It is unclear whether the particular changes reflect all rumored Pixel 3 variants, the more premium ones or the lower-cost option.
The Pixel line-up has historically been priced to compete with flagships such as Samsung's Galaxy S models and Apple's iPhones, but rumors have claimed that Google is working on an affordable option for emerging markets.
A lower-priced Pixel 3 could be marketed as part of the company's Android One initiative, which guarantees a stock Android experience and two years of software upgrades out-of-the-box. According to India-based Economic Times, the device could launch as early as July or August in India. It's unclear what the device would look like or whether Google plans to launch a lower-priced device in the U.S., too.
Software: Android P inside
The new Android 9 Pie will ship with the new Pixel phones this fall, but it's already rolling out to Google's current Pixels. Some of the highlights include new power-saving features and digital wellness features to give you a fuller picture of your usage so you can be more present in the real world.
But the biggest upgrades have to do with the interface. Android Pie supports gestures via its new Home button. Similar to the iPhone X, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see your open apps, but you'll also see the Google search bar and your most-used apps in the same view. Swipe up once more, and you'll see the apps menu with a twist. New predictive Actions will present helpful shortcuts, such as navigating to home via Google Maps or calling a favorite contact.
It's too early to tell what Google is planning in terms of new forms of biometric authentication, like advanced 3D facial recognition or iris scanning. However, the presence of dual front-facing cameras on both Pixel 3 prototypes has only added fuel to speculation regarding the feature.
At the very least, a story from Android Police back in February claimed that the company may be preparing future versions of Android to more easily integrate manufacturers' own custom authentication methods. That wouldn't mean much for the Pixel 3 specifically, though as we get closer to the devices' fall launch, we may have a better idea if or how Google intends to answer the iPhone X's Face ID.
Camera: Dual lenses on the front
Bloomberg's report points to dual camera lenses for selfies on both models of the Pixel 3, while the rear-facing lens will remain singular. That's about all we know about the Pixel 3's cameras, but it'd be safe to expect improvements.
Over the past couple of years, virtually every premium smartphone maker has elected to market its devices around their camera capabilities. The difference in the Pixel's case is that Google actually has the game to back up those lofty claims. After all, in our camera shootout between the Pixel 2 XL, iPhone X and Galaxy S9, Google's phone came out on top.
Considering both Samsung and Apple are making improvements to their smartphone cameras this year, the onus will be on Google to deliver its own set of improvements.
Performance: Snapdragon 845 onboard
It's perhaps no surprise that Google is planning to bundle the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 into its next generation of phones. The chip is expected to find its way to most high-end handsets this year.
What we don't know is how much RAM or storage Google will offer. The current Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL come with 4GB of RAM and a choice of either 64GB or 128GB of storage. But we'd like to see the XL model of the Pixel 3 bump that up to 6GB of RAM standard, as Samsung has done with the Galaxy S9+.
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