The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are good smartphones. They’re both a big step up from their predecessors, but, as always, there’s room for improvement.
Luckily, those wanting more out of Google’s Pixel phones don’t have long to wait. We’re expecting Google to release the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL in October 2019. Here’s where we want to see Google improve with its next pair of flagship phones.
Related: Google Pixel 3 in 2019: What’s held up and what hasn’t
At least 6GB of RAM and a brighter screen
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL offer plenty of important upgrades over the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. The most obvious is the display, particularly in the quality of OLED panel used in the Pixel 3 XL. It might offer crisper, more accurate colors overall, but both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL’s displays are dim. They offer only around 400 nits of brightness, making them difficult to see outdoors when the sun is out. That means you’ll often find your Pixel 3 at max brightness outside, which — as you’re probably aware — is not good for battery life (more on that later). We would love to see brighter displays on the Pixel 4 and 4 XL.
One other issue that’s plagued the Pixel 3 line since launch are performance issues. We’ve experienced mixed results with our own units, but a ton of Pixel 3 users have complained about slow, laggy phones as the months go on.
First, it was the overaggressive memory management issue. Google fixed those issues a few weeks after they came to light, but we have to ask: Would this be an issue in the first place if the Pixel 3 and 3 XL had at least 6GB of RAM like other phones? We’d say no. If Google wants to avoid these problems with the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, they need at least 6GB of RAM.
A battery that lasts a whole day
I won’t talk about this too much because, well, I’ve already talked about it quite a bit. The Google Pixel 3 won’t last an entire day on a single charge. Since it launched in October, mine has struggled to deliver four hours of screen-on time on any given day. It’s usually around 2.5-3 hours.
This isn’t so much an issue with the Pixel 3 XL — many of my colleagues have little to no issues with the bigger phone’s battery life.
With top-tier phones powered by top-tier processors, it’s easy to blame the power-hungry SoC as one of the main culprits for poor battery life. The thing is, many other phones are powered by the Snapdragon 845 platform — OnePlus 6T, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, LG V40 and G7, and plenty of others — many of which have stellar battery life.
Some OEMs make their own optimizations to the software to make the battery last longer, while others simply try to cram in as much battery as they can. Whatever the case, it’s clear Google has some work to do to make sure the Pixel 4 doesn’t run into the same battery issues as the Pixel 3.
A more versatile camera
Google’s Pixel phones have long been heralded as the best smartphone cameras around, but the conversation has been changing this year. Google’s phones might be the best point-and-shoot cameras in terms of quality and accuracy, but there are way more flexible cameras out there.
The Huawei P30 Pro has a standard lens, wide-angle lens, telephoto lens, as well as a time-of-flight sensor — and that’s just on the back of the phone. This allows for one of the most versatile camera experiences you can get on a smartphone.
The Galaxy S10 line also provides a flexible shooting experience, even if the quality of photos isn’t P30 level.
Google can do a lot more than other companies with a single-lens camera, but that can only get Google so far. Important camera features like lossless zoom and wide-angle shots simply aren’t possible with a single lens.
If it wants to continue to compete for the photography crown in 2019, it should consider adding a few more sensors.
A design worthy of 2019
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL aren’t ugly, they’re just not really up to the standards set by other phones at this price point.
We’ve talked about bezels and notches ad nauseum, but it’s worth bringing up again. Smartphone display notches are still very much a thing, but the ones on the market in 2019 have either shrunk, disappeared completely, or been replaced by a punch-hole camera. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL leave a lot to be desired by comparison.
The notch on the Pixel 3 XL is the most obvious change Google needs to make with the Pixel 4 line. Even people that don’t mind notches seem to poke fun at the 3 XL’s notch. It’s just too big and too awkward.
See also: OnePlus 7 Pro review
The Pixel 3 line’s bezels are another thing people aren’t thrilled about. Personally, I don’t mind bezels around the display — they make it easier to hold the phone and, in this case, house front-facing speakers. I think if Google was able to cut down on the bezels and minimize the notch while somehow keeping the front speakers, a lot of people would be okay with that.
Face unlock comparable to Face ID
While we’re talking about notches, it’s surprising that the Pixel 3 and 3 XL don’t have any extra sensors to enable secure face unlock. It’s possible to implement face recognition through the front-facing cameras alone, but the best implementations are done with multiple sensors — namely a camera sensor and time-of-flight sensor.
Time-of-flight sensors on the front of a phone allow the device to take a 3D map of your face to help differentiate between your actual face and, say, a photo of your face. Done correctly, this is a secure way of implementing face recognition. We’ve seen it in devices like the Apple iPhone X and XS, LG G8, and others.
It’s time Pixel phones also supported face recognition of this caliber.
Long shot: A headphone jack
The Pixel 3a is proof that Google has the ability to include a headphone jack in its phones. Sure, it might make the engineering process more difficult, but companies need to stop telling us they “ran out of room for the headphone jack.” These ports have been in pretty much all phones since the beginning of smartphones, and taking them away is a step backwards.
Also read: Bluetooth headphones are popular, but science confirms: Mostly terrible
I don’t expect Google to include a headphone jack in the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. When talking about the Pixel 3a’s headphone jack, product manager Soniya Jobanputra said “We really felt that consumers at this price point and this tier really needed flexibility [for the headphone jack].” That suggests Google thinks people who buy more expensive phones don’t want or need wired audio options, but, as our readers have pointed out time and time again, that’s not the case.
Google, listen up!
What would you like to see?
These are just our suggestions. Did we miss anything? What would you like to see in the Pixel 4 and 4 XL? Sound off in the comments!
Next: Google Pixel 3a review | Google Pixel 3a XL review