Some have accused Google of phoning it in when it comes to the industrial design of their first-party products. This has been especially true for the Pixel smartphone line. Each Pixel has looked like a cross between the iPhone and the phones of whatever OEM that produced it.
This year is no exception. The most recognizable feature of the Pixel 3 is a prominent notch at the top of the phone that houses two selfie cameras. It is reminiscent of the iPhone X-style notch that was introduced last year to much negativity by the tech press. Since then, it is surprising to see a new smartphone without a notch, even if that notch does nothing at all.
The first take from The Verge is that “Google’s Pixel 3 won’t surprise you, but it might delight you.” The hands-on video spends the majority of the time on the camera. Despite the uninspired exterior, the camera on the Pixel 3 is where the real innovation lies.
For a year, the Pixel 2 has received praise for having the best camera on a smartphone. Many believe that lead still stands over the 2018 iPhone lineup just released. This is Google’s opportunity to take a definitive lead in that department. And early hands-on commentary suggests that Google might well have pulled it off.
One new feature afforded by that top notch is variable wide-angle zoom. You can frame your selfie as a normal shot, a closeup, or a super wide zoom. It is controlled by a slider, so you can choose any level you want within the limitations of the hardware.
Speaking of zoom, Google claims to be using the same zooming solutions that are utilized by space telescopes. If Google really has solved the issue of bad digital zoom, that is possibly worth the price of admission.
Top Shot is a new feature for the Pixel, though earlier implementations of the idea came from Blackberry several years ago. Take a picture with someone blinking or looking away, and the algorithm can select a better picture. This is based on the fact that smartphone cameras take a series of pictures starting even before you press the shutter.
While nothing like Apple’s Animoji was announced, Google did include an AR trick that allows the user to drop in AR characters, like Iron Man, into the image they are taking.
Google’s Pixel 3 can easily be overlooked based on its cover. But if you are a smartphone camera enthusiast, the Pixel 3 is worth a second look.