Best answer: The Pixel 3 is still a compact, powerful phone with years of guaranteed software updates ahead of it and an incredibly powerful camera — though with the recent release of the Pixel 3a, which offers most of the same features at a lower price, you'll need to decide if better specs and build materials are worth the extra money.

Who does the Pixel 3 make sense for?

Google isn't worried about packing absolute top-of-the-line specs into its phone, nor is it concerned with supporting "legacy" hardware features anymore, and that could be a dealbreaker for some. There's no headphone jack or microSD card slot on the Pixel 3, and it only has 4GB of RAM, which raises some concerns regarding future-proofing and longterm performance as apps and software get more demanding.

The Pixel 3 offers clean and fast software, an amazing camera, and a compact body.

Instead, the Pixel 3 is for those who care about a clean software experience and timely updates above all else. If you've used a non-Google phone and found yourself irritated by unnecessary software add-ons or slow rollouts of new Android versions, the Pixel is an easy choice. It will get Android updates for years, and security updates every month — and you won't find unnecessary apps pre-loaded.

It's also a fantastic option if you heavily value your phone's camera. The Pixel 3 has one of the best photography experiences on a smartphone, combining a great sensor with Google's intelligent software features to create stunning, DSLR-like images with each shot. There's a new wide-angle front camera for taking group photos, and the rear camera has been improved over last year's, offering better low light, zoom, and dynamic range.

That being said, issues have cropped up with the performance of that camera. It can be extremely slow to open at times, and in some cases photos taken don't even save to the gallery. There's also finally some competition for the Pixel 3 with the Huawei P30 Pro, whose low light performance is somehow even better than that of the Pixel 3 at times. You also get the added benefit of both telephoto and ultra-wide lenses, neither of which the Pixel can match — though the P30 Pro is a much bigger phone than the Pixel 3, and Huawei's future isn't looking great at the moment.

The Pixel 3a costs hundreds less than the Pixel 3 and offers the same great camera experience.

There's one other very important phone to keep in mind when considering the Pixel 3, however: the Pixel 3a. Announced at Google I/O 2019, the Pixel 3a is virtually indistinguishable from the Pixel 3 at first glance. It has the same design language (albeit with a polycarbonate casing, rather than glass) and offers the same minimalist Android interface and even the same camera — all for just $400.

This puts a huge damper on the value proposition of the Pixel 3. If photography is your sole priority, there's almost no reason to spend the extra money on the 3, since the 3a has the same sensor and even offers Night Sight. You do sacrifice some features, though; the Pixel 3a lacks a wide front-facing camera, as well as hardware amenities like water resistance and wireless charging. The processor isn't as fast, either, leading to noticeably slower performance, and you only get 64GB of storage with no paid upgrades or microSD expandability.

If those premium features are important to you, the Pixel 3 is still absolutely worth considering, but many people will be perfectly fine with the cheaper Pixel 3a.

Is it worth upgrading if I bought a phone in the last year?

Assuming you bought a flagship, probably not, unless you're particularly unhappy with your phone. Whether you're using a Galaxy S9, an LG G7, or a OnePlus 6T, the Pixel 3 likely won't be a dramatic upgrade over 2018 flagships in terms of specs or performance — at least not enough to warrant selling your device and spending close to $700 on a new one.

Of course, there's even less reason to buy a Pixel 3 if you have a phone that was released in 2019. The Galaxy S10 has a much more futuristic design, the P30 Pro matches and sometimes even bests the Pixel 3 in the photography department, and the LG G8 has considerably better battery life than the Pixel 3.

The Pixel 3 is for those who care about a clean software experience and timely updates above all else.

If you're coming from a lower-end device or something more than a year old, however, the Pixel 3 is worth considering over some of the aforementioned alternatives. While not everyone enjoys the barebones experience of Google's Android, it's certain to get updates faster than phones from other manufacturers, and just as importantly, it'll get them more often — Google supports its Pixel devices years after they're released.

If size is one of the reasons you're not happy with your current phone, the Pixel 3 offers something different for you as well. It's one of the few modern high-end phones that's decidedly compact, with just a 5.5-inch display. The battery life takes a bit of a hit for it, but there's something wonderful about having a phone that's easy to use in one hand and fits in pockets and bags with ease. The competition has gotten so large over the last few years some people have started looking for smaller alternatives — the Pixel 3 is one such option.

What if I already have a Pixel 2?

It's harder to recommend the Pixel 3 if you already own a Pixel 2. Both from a hardware and software perspective, there aren't a whole lot of major changes made this generation; each model has roughly the same design and identical software.

The Pixel 2 is still a great phone — most people won't feel the need to upgrade to a Pixel 3.

Furthermore, many of the Pixel 3's new features all came to the Pixel 2 in software updates — notably, some of the advanced camera features and improved photo quality. While it's not quite the same as getting a new phone, there are enough new features added to the Pixel 2 in software that it really closes the gap and makes you think twice about spending the money on a Pixel 3.

For some, the few hardware improvements — like the larger, improved display and wide-angle selfie camera — will be worth upgrading, but unless you plan on taking a lot of group selfies or just can't stand your 16:9 display any longer, you're probably fine to hold off for now. Or, if you're itching for something new, maybe consider picking up the Pixel 3a.

Pure Android

Google Pixel 3

Stunning cameras and Android the way Google intended.

The Pixel 3 isn't a dramatic upgrade over last year's model, but it makes minor improvements that all add up to a more cohesive experience with clean, intuitive software and some of the best cameras in mobile.

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