Features

The Pixel 3 was the last Google phone I actually enjoyed holding

With the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro offering 6.4- and 6.7-inch displays, I fear the Pixel 3 will be the last great, small, Pixel flagship

With the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro on the horizon — and looking very exciting to boot — I thought it may be time to wax poetic about one of my favourite Google phones, the great Pixel 3.

Well, mostly great. I’ll be honest, the Pixel 3 was far from a perfect device. Admittedly, most Pixels are flawed smartphones. But the Pixel 3 also stands out to me as being the last truly small Google flagship. With the 2021 Pixels shaping up to be massive, 6-inch+ phones, I find myself longing for a revamped, modern version of the Pixel 3.

Rumour has it the Pixel 5a will drop at the end of August with a 6.4-inch display (although it won’t come to Canada). Likewise, Google confirmed the incoming Pixel 6 will sport a 6.4-inch display, while the 6 Pro will come with a 6.7-inch display. Most people are likely happy about these sizes; big screens seem to be popular, after all.

The Pixel 3 just feels right in my hand

To be fair, I don’t have anything against big screens. It was only recently that I began to prefer smaller sizes. For pretty much as long as I’ve been into phones, I’ve preferred larger screen sizes. But back in the early 2010s, it was easy to ask for something bigger when most phone screens maxed out at 4- or 5-inches.

I generally stuck with Nexus and Pixel phones, beyond a brief stint with the OnePlus One back when it came out in 2014. 2015’s Nexus 6P — of which the Pixel 6 bears an uncanny resemblance to — felt positively massive to me with its 5.7-inch screen, as did the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch display in 2017. While I enjoyed using both those phones, I noticed that I preferred the feel of the smaller 2016 Pixel to both of them. The only reason I got the 2 XL was because I didn’t like how the Pixel 2 bezels looked.

In 2018, I started working at MobileSyrup, which brought the opportunity to try a ton of different smartphones from different manufacturers. I broke away from my Nexus-Pixel mainstay to try phones from Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus and even Apple. It didn’t take long for me to realize I truly disliked big phones. And when I got to try the Pixel 3, I knew it was the perfect size.

The move to bezel-less displays meant bigger screens in smaller phones

The Pixel 3’s matte back helps avoid the fingerprint smudges that plague glossy phones

Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize — I like large screens, but not large phones. The Nexus 6P I mentioned earlier had a 5.7-inch screen, which is only a little larger than the Pixel 3’s 5.5-inch display and technically smaller than the recent Pixel 4a’s 5.81-inch screen. The big difference between the giant Nexus and the tiny Pixels? The bezels. For me, the ideal screen size sits in the mid to upper 5-inch territory, where it’s just big enough to be functional without being so big as to make it difficult to use with one hand (assuming you have rather small hands like myself).

However, the Pixel 3 does more than just offer the right screen size. It’s the correct width too. At 68.2mm wide, the Pixel 3 is quite thin. It also helps that the Pixel 3 measures just 7.9mm thick. All in, the phone feels very svelte and slim in my hand, which I absolutely love, but still offers a large and quite useable amount of screen.

Sure, the Pixel 4a is very, very close at 69.4mm wide and 8.2mm thick. It’s a close runner-up to the Pixel 3 in terms of hand-feel and is honestly one of my favourite phones to use. Unfortunately, the 4a just doesn’t quite fit into my typical day-to-day use like the Pixel 3 does, and it lacks some premium flourishes I really like (for example, wireless charging).

Google Pixel 3

Google Pixel 4

Pixel 4a

Pixel 5

Display

5.5-inch FHD display, 1,080 x 2,160 pixels, 18:9 aspect ratio

5.7-inch, OLED display, 1080 x 2160 pixels, 90Hz refresh rate, 19:9 aspect ratio

5.81-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) OLED display, 443 ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio

6.0-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) OLED display, 432 ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio

Processor

Snapdragon 845

Snapdragon 855

Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G

Snapdragon 765G

RAM

4GB of RAM

6GB of RAM

6GB LPDDR4x

8GB of RAM

Storage

64GB, 128GB

64GB, 128GB

128GB

128GB

Dimensions (in.)

145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm

147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm

144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm

144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm

Weight

148g

162g

143g

151g

Rear Facing Camera

12.2-megapixel (f/1.8, OIS, EIS)

16-megapixel (f/2.4, OIS, wide angle) + 12.2-megapixel (f/1.7, OIS, telephoto)

12.2-megapixel dual-pixel camera with autofocus, OIS and EIS, f/1.7 aperture, 77-degree FOV

12.2-megapixel (f/1.7) + 16-megapixel (f/2.2, ultrawide)

Front Facing Camera

8-megapixel (f/2.2) + 8-megapixel (f/1.8)

8-megapixel (f/2.0, ultra-wide)

8-megapixel f/2.0 fixed focus 84-degree FOV

8-megapixel (f//2.0)

OS

Android 9 Pie

Android 10

Android 10

Android 11

Battery

2,915mAh

2,800mAh

3140mAh

4,000mAh

Network Connectivity

GSM/HSPA/LTE

GSM/HSPA/LTE

LTE, GSM, EDGE, CDMA

GSM/HSPA/LTE/5G

Sensors

Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, Active Edge 2.0, proximity sensor, magnetic sensor

face unlock, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer

Proximity, ambient light, accelerometer, gyrometer, magnetometer, barometer

Fingerprint (rear), accelerometor, gyro, proximity, compass`

SIM Type

Nano Sim

Nano SIM, eSIM

Nano SIM and eSIM

Nano SIM

Launch Date

November 1, 2018

October 15, 2019

September 10, 2020

September 30, 2020

Misc

Colours: Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink | IP68 water and dust resistant, U.S. launch date October 18th

Colours: Just Black, Oh So Orange, Clearly White | Motion Sense, face unlock, New Assistant (coming to Canada), Active Edge

Colour: Just Black

Colours: Just Black | Subtle Sage, 90Hz refresh rate

Display

Google Pixel 3

5.5-inch FHD display, 1,080 x 2,160 pixels, 18:9 aspect ratio

Google Pixel 4

5.7-inch, OLED display, 1080 x 2160 pixels, 90Hz refresh rate, 19:9 aspect ratio

Pixel 4a

5.81-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) OLED display, 443 ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio

Pixel 5

6.0-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2340) OLED display, 432 ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio

Processor

Google Pixel 3

Snapdragon 845

Google Pixel 4

Snapdragon 855

Pixel 4a

Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G

Pixel 5

Snapdragon 765G

RAM

Google Pixel 3

4GB of RAM

Google Pixel 4

6GB of RAM

Pixel 4a

6GB LPDDR4x

Pixel 5

8GB of RAM

Storage

Google Pixel 3

64GB, 128GB

Google Pixel 4

64GB, 128GB

Pixel 4a

128GB

Pixel 5

128GB

Dimensions (in.)

Google Pixel 3

145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm

Google Pixel 4

147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm

Pixel 4a

144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm

Pixel 5

144.7 x 70.4 x 8.0mm

Weight

Google Pixel 3

148g

Google Pixel 4

162g

Pixel 4a

143g

Pixel 5

151g

Rear Facing Camera

Google Pixel 3

12.2-megapixel (f/1.8, OIS, EIS)

Google Pixel 4

16-megapixel (f/2.4, OIS, wide angle) + 12.2-megapixel (f/1.7, OIS, telephoto)

Pixel 4a

12.2-megapixel dual-pixel camera with autofocus, OIS and EIS, f/1.7 aperture, 77-degree FOV

Pixel 5

12.2-megapixel (f/1.7) + 16-megapixel (f/2.2, ultrawide)

Front Facing Camera

Google Pixel 3

8-megapixel (f/2.2) + 8-megapixel (f/1.8)

Google Pixel 4

8-megapixel (f/2.0, ultra-wide)

Pixel 4a

8-megapixel f/2.0 fixed focus 84-degree FOV

Pixel 5

8-megapixel (f//2.0)

OS

Google Pixel 3

Android 9 Pie

Google Pixel 4

Android 10

Pixel 4a

Android 10

Pixel 5

Android 11

Battery

Google Pixel 3

2,915mAh

Google Pixel 4

2,800mAh

Pixel 4a

3140mAh

Pixel 5

4,000mAh

Network Connectivity

Google Pixel 3

GSM/HSPA/LTE

Google Pixel 4

GSM/HSPA/LTE

Pixel 4a

LTE, GSM, EDGE, CDMA

Pixel 5

GSM/HSPA/LTE/5G

Sensors

Google Pixel 3

Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, Active Edge 2.0, proximity sensor, magnetic sensor

Google Pixel 4

face unlock, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer

Pixel 4a

Proximity, ambient light, accelerometer, gyrometer, magnetometer, barometer

Pixel 5

Fingerprint (rear), accelerometor, gyro, proximity, compass`

SIM Type

Google Pixel 3

Nano Sim

Google Pixel 4

Nano SIM, eSIM

Pixel 4a

Nano SIM and eSIM

Pixel 5

Nano SIM

Launch Date

Google Pixel 3

November 1, 2018

Google Pixel 4

October 15, 2019

Pixel 4a

September 10, 2020

Pixel 5

September 30, 2020

Misc

Google Pixel 3

Colours: Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink | IP68 water and dust resistant, U.S. launch date October 18th

Google Pixel 4

Colours: Just Black, Oh So Orange, Clearly White | Motion Sense, face unlock, New Assistant (coming to Canada), Active Edge

Pixel 4a

Colour: Just Black

Pixel 5

Colours: Just Black | Subtle Sage, 90Hz refresh rate

The Pixel 4 is also fairly close with its 68.8mm width, but it’s not quite as thin at 8.2mm. What’s worse, I have the glossy black model which, frankly, feels disgusting in my hand — I cannot stand using the Pixel 4 without a case. I can’t speak to the Pixel 5 since I haven’t held one, but at 70.4mm wide, I can’t imagine I’d like it. Every other phone I’ve held that’s 70mm or wider hasn’t matched up to the Pixel 3.

All this is to say that, excited as I am for the Pixel 6, I am almost certain I won’t enjoy holding it. At least, not nearly as much as I enjoy holding the Pixel 3. It just feels right in my hand in a way that no other phone — Pixel or otherwise — has matched.

I’d love it if Google released a Pixel 6 Mini (or Micro, or Nano, or whatever other synonym you want) that matched the Pixel 3 dimensions. I’d buy it in a heartbeat. But it won’t happen — Google’s Pixels typically sell great, and even Apple couldn’t move the iPhone 12 mini well — but one can dream.

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