pixel 3 pairs an amazing camera with serious AI samarts

Of all the things I liked about the Pixel 3 (and its larger counterpart the Pixel 3 XL), I was most impressed by the vibrant and sharp photos it takes, even in low light, with a single rear camera. That’s something the Pixel’s competition, including the OnePlus 6TiPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9 need two cameras (or at times, even more) to pull off.

But the other half of the Pixel’s draw is Google’s software and the entire ecosystem it’s ingrained with. Google wants you to use Assistant and it wants you to integrate it with other Google services like Gmail and Calendar. At times it’s useful — particularly Assistant’s new ability to answer calls on your behalf. (Yes, it’s as bonkers as it sounds, but it does help to combat the scourge of spam calls in my life.) The constant notifications and tips and prompts get annoying, but fortunately you can turn these functions off.

So is an outstanding camera (which at times takes better photos than the iPhone XS) and Google’s user experience worth the $799 (£739, AU$1,199) starting price for the 64GB Pixel 3? At face value, the phone seems to cost as much as the Galaxy S9 ($630 at Amazon) and it’s cheaper compared to the iPhone XS’ $1,000 (£999, AU$1,629) baseline price. But when we start factoring in storage capacity — like the fact that the S9 can hold up to 400GB of extra data and that the 256GB iPhone is actually cheaper in terms of price per gig — things get more complicated.

Keep in mind, too, that the Pixel 3 is available in a larger model. The Pixel 3 XL starts at $899 (£869, AU$1,349). It offers a larger 6.3-inch screen (compared with this model’s 5.5-inch display), a bit more battery life and a soon-to-be “hideable” notch on its display. But features, including the cameras, are otherwise the same, so you’re basically choosing between two sizes.

If the Pixel 3 and 3 XL are out of your budget, consider the OnePlus 6T. It also has a solid camera and top-tier specs, but starts at only $549 (£499 and AU$774, converted) for 128GB. If you’re open to iOS, the iPhone XR  is $50 cheaper than the Pixel 3 and is worth looking into as well. (Keep in mind that all three phones don’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but Google does include USB-C headphones and a 3.5mm adapter in the box.)

But if you are willing to pay up, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL are one of the best phones you can buy. They may not look as luxurious as the iPhone XS or Galaxy S9 but they enjoy the extra perks that come from being a Google phone, which include unlimited cloud storage and timely software updates. And with their first-class and easy-to-use cameras, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL are top notch.

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