Everything you need to know about the Pixel 3 in 2020

Pixel 3 in all colorsSource: Android Central

October 2018 marked the arrival of the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, two phones we firmly considered among the best in the Android space. Now, over two years later, the newer Pixel phones’ features and specs have mostly left them in the dust. While you can still find new and unlocked Pixel 3 phones today, their updated expiration date is approaching fast.

Despite all that, the Pixel 3 remains a reliable phone with a great camera and AMOLED screen and has some features that the bargain Pixel Xa phones lack. Pixel 3 owners will want to get the most out of their phones before they’re forced to upgrade, so we have the information you need to do just that.

From the latest Pixel news, our best accessory recommendations, and much more, here’s everything you need to know about the Pixel 3!

A worthy upgrade

Google Pixel 5

The newest Pixel flagship nails all the fundamentals.

The Pixel 3 has a limited update calendar left and is mostly only available refurbished now. You likely need a replacement soon, and the Pixel 5 is a big step up that actually costs less than the Pixel 3 did at launch. Versus the 3, the Pixel 5 has double the rear cams, 1.5X the Hz, double the RAM, and much better battery life — and should updated until at least October 2023.

Google Pixel 3 Price and Availability

Pixel 3 XL in all colors

Pixel 3 XL in all colorsSource: Android Central

Google officially stopped selling the Pixel 3 in its Store in early 2020, and new stock of the phone has only dwindled since then. We’ve collected the best Google Pixel 3 deals still available on storefronts today if you’re attached to the idea of snagging a Pixel phone for cheap.

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If you’re asking yourself, should you buy the Pixel 3 in 2020 or 2021, our recommendation is no, full stop. Every passing month will bring bigger discounts on any 3s remaining, but also less time to take advantage of your phone before it loses access to the latest OS and security updates. We already know of five cool Android 12 features Google is already developing that Pixel 3 owners will miss out on.

That same policy applies to those asking if they should buy the Pixel 3 XL in 2020. Despite its larger screen and better battery, the XL is very similar to the base 3 phone, and it makes far more sense today to invest in a Pixel 3a or 3a XL instead.

Google Pixel 3 History

Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3

Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3Source: Android Central

After their official announcement on October 9, 2018, the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL launched on October 18 of that year. Comparing the Pixel 3 versus the Pixel 2, the newer phone had a 0.5″ larger display, added a second front-facing camera, enabled Qi wireless charging, and slightly improved the battery, Snapdragon processor, and water resistance.

The Pixel 3 was also the first to launch with Android 9 or Android Pie. And from launch, it included Digital Wellbeing tools that were interesting at the time, but have now been forgotten and ignored by most users in 2020.

Unfortunately, according to various reports, the Pixel 3’s sales numbers didn’t live up to Google’s expectations. Then, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL launched in May 2019, after which Google’s phone sales doubled for that year. People appreciated that these phones were more affordable, despite the 3a lacking wireless charging and waterproofing while adopting a cheaper plastic material instead of glass.

Despite these “low” sales numbers compared to bigger smartphone companies like Samsung, millions of people bought the Pixel 3 and XL, and everything we’ve heard suggests they were popular despite some common Pixel 3 issues. Nowadays, Pixel 3 owners can run Android 11 on their phones and enjoy most of the same features as those with more advanced Pixel phones.

Google Pixel 3 Reviews

In our initial Google Pixel 3 review, we praised the Pixel 3 and 3 XL as “exceptional phones with great software, excellent performance, good displays, and standout cameras,” while acknowledging that they didn’t advance much spec-wise compared to the Pixel 2, and were rather pricey. We called out new features that are now fairly commonplace in phones — great selfie cams, wireless charging, and three years of guaranteed updates — as well as some limitations that would hurt its longevity (average battery life, a 4GB RAM maximum, and the missing headphone jack).

In a Pixel 3 second opinion review, we keyed in on just how excellent its camera is, especially at capturing non-blurry photos in low light. Unfortunately, we also noted that thanks to the Pixel 3’s memory and performance issues, using the camera could cause the phone to struggle with other tasks and even stop music playback to focus on the camera. However, these issues were relatively rare, and Google did create a Pixel 3 performance patch that helped ameliorate the problem.

If you’re specifically curious about the XL, our Pixel 3 XL three-month review should give you a clearer look at what it’s like to use for long periods of time. The phone itself is so similar to the regular Pixel 3 that the strengths and weaknesses will sound familiar. The camera amazed us, and the easy-to-use software impressed us; unfortunately, we ran into the same memory issues and had issues with battery life lasting us a full day.

Google Pixel 3 Software Updates

When the Pixel 3 was first released in late 2018, it shipped with Android 9 Pie, with the promise of three years of Android updates before Google could end support. Pixel 3 owners then got access to Android 10 in September 2019 and Android 11 in September 2020.

We’re big fans of the newest Android OS, as we made clear in our Android 11 review. It drastically overhauled and improved chat notifications, smart home controls, privacy features, security updates, and other quality-of-life improvements. The fact that you can access these features on a 2018 phone is pretty awesome in our book.

The Pixel 3 lineup comes with three years of guaranteed updates, meaning it’ll keep getting new software through October 2021. That means you’ll get the fully optimized and secured version of Android 11 before Google stops supporting it officially. We assume that Android 12 will follow the annual pattern and launch in September 2021, but that doesn’t mean the Pixel 3 will get 12. That would mean patching out any issues well after the October deadline.

Google Pixel 3 Accessories

Pixel 3 XL in a Bellroy leather case

Pixel 3 XL in a Bellroy leather caseSource: Android Central

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL are great phones, but you can make them even better with a good collection of accessories. Whatever you need to keep your old Pixel chugging along smoothly, start your search with our list of the best Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL accessories.

Even if we recommend upgrading your Pixel 3 at some point, you should still take good care of it in the meantime so that you can wait for a Pixel deal on your own terms. So assuming you don’t have one already, invest in one of these best Pixel 3 cases or best Pixel 3 XL cases. They’ll keep that beautiful display and powerful cameras from getting damaged.

Of course, we assume that anyone with a still-functional Pixel 3 likely owns a case already. So now may be a good time to treat yourself to a more exciting accessory. Try one of these wireless charging pads for Pixel 3, and keep its lightweight battery charged up without having to deal with a charging cable. Or, if your Pixel is your companion during your morning commute, we’ve collected the best car mounts for Google Pixel 3 that’ll help you keep your eyes on the road.

Google Pixel 3 The best Pixel 3 upgrade

Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5G

Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5GSource: Hayato Huseman / Android Central

As we’ve already said, we don’t recommend buying the Pixel 3 today, with so little time left until Google drops support. Thankfully, there are some excellent Pixel phones that will feel comfortably familiar to Pixel 3 owners and will even cost you less than your 3 did originally.

The closest equivalent is the Pixel 3a, which was designed as a budget upgrade to the Pixel 3. In our one year later Pixel 3a review, we praised it as still being worth buying in 2020 thanks to its excellent camera for a low price; and in our Pixel 3a with Android 11 review, we noted how well the phone is handling the latest software update. At the same time, it has the same limited memory as the Pixel 3, so you’ll run into similar problems. And it lacks some Pixel 3 features like water resistance and wireless charging.

That being said, the more recent Pixel 4a is a better purchase in most areas besides price. It improves the processor, adds 2GB extra RAM, doubles the default storage, and gives you a guaranteed extra year of upgrades through October 2023. It doesn’t upgrade the cameras of the 3a, but we love the 3a’s cameras!

Ultimately, your main decision should weigh the Pixel 4a versus the Pixel 5. The Pixel 5 has 8GB of RAM, a second rear camera, 5G connectivity, a much better battery, wireless charging and reverse wireless charging, IP68 water resistance, and a better battery by about 900 mAh. It’s also not as expensive as most flagship smartphones.

Ultimately, both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a made our best Android phones list, so you can’t go wrong with either as a Pixel 3 replacement. It’ll just depend on your price range and needs.

A worthy upgrade

Google Pixel 5

The newest Pixel flagship nails all the fundamentals.

The Pixel 3 has a limited update calendar left and is mostly only available refurbished now. You likely need a replacement soon, and the Pixel 5 is a big step up that actually costs less than the Pixel 3 did at launch. Versus the 3, the Pixel 5 has double the rear cams, 1.5X the Hz, double the RAM, and much better battery life — and should update until at least October 2023.

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