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Pixel 3 Update Fixes A Multitude Of Sins, But Is It Enough?

Know Your Mobile logo Know Your Mobile 05/12/2018 Damien McFerran
Pixel 3 Update Fixes A Multitude Of Sins, But Is It Enough? © knowyourmobile.com Pixel 3 Update Fixes A Multitude Of Sins, But Is It Enough?

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It goes without saying that most smartphones aren't the 'finished article' when they launch; annoying bugs are present, key features are often missing and there's a solid argument to say you shouldn't really touch a new handset until at least six months after release, when updates will have fixed any issues and added in more functionality.

No phone proves this stance more than Google's recently-released Pixel 3; a great device that boasts a fantastic design, amazing camera and feature-rich software, but one that has been saddled with more than its fair share of problems. Early adopters have arguably never had it so bad.

Some users reported that their text messages were mysteriously going missing, while others found that the handset's camera – its most notable selling point – steadfastly refused to work. Owners of the larger Pixel 3 XL variant were plagued by a second notch, while others discovered that their screens started to flicker randomly, making it look like their phone was possessed by evil spirits. When you factor in problems with the LG-made OLED screens on the smaller Pixel 3 model, it's not been an easy birth. As far as hardware launches go, the Pixel 3 has been a doozy.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: The new Google Pixel 3 XL and a Pixel 3 phone sit on display at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) © 2018 Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: The new Google Pixel 3 XL and a Pixel 3 phone sit on display at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) Google has now issued an update which claims to solve a great many of these bugs and issues (OLED issues not included, obviously). While it's officially known as the December Security Patch, the update includes a wide range of fixes, which, according to Google, "address functionality issues not related to the security of Pixel devices… such as Bluetooth or mobile data [and] improvements."

The full list of changes makes this surprisingly modest 64MB update seem more significant than you'd think; we're looking at improved camera performance – which includes “adjusted autofocus behaviour” and “improved camera shutter performance” as well as “Improved contouring on HDR colour on certain media apps”. Android Auto also gets a compatibility boost, and you can also expect "improved audio performance for when using Android Auto in certain vehicles”. If you own a Pixel Stand, then you can look forward to “improved notification visibility” and “improved hot word performance”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: The new Google Pixel 3 sits on display at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) © 2018 Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: The new Google Pixel 3 sits on display at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) It doesn't end there; "improved USB-C Audio accessory detection”, “adjusted volume behaviour when toggling Bluetooth” and “improved unlocking performance when using Bluetooth" also make the cut. Meanwhile, "improved Always On Display triggering" will hopefully solve the irksome flickering screen problem, which, up until now, was assumed to be something that could only be remedied by replacing the entire phone.

For the vast majority of Pixel 3 owners, the most important change will be the much-anticipated improvements to the way in which the phone uses its relatively meagre helping of 4GB of RAM; while this is a small amount for any 2018 Android flagship, the Pixel 3 is particularly bad at keeping apps in memory and would often struggle to take a photo and keep music playing at the same time. Google promises that the update will “keep background apps from being prematurely closed" and will offer “improved memory performance in certain circumstances".

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by Dennis Publishing Limited

We've installed the update on our Pixel 3 and have noticed that the phone is indeed much better at handling its RAM now; not only it is smoother when you switch between active applications, but they also tend to stay in memory for longer – we also noticed that the phone no longer stutters when you're doing two intensive activities in tandem. It seems silly to be grateful that a 2018 flagship can do two things at once, but that's where we are these days. We were also impacted by the 'screen flicker' issue a few days ago and hope that this update fixes that issue, too – although we still can't be totally sure it's not a hardware problem.

So, the December update is pretty great, by all accounts. Still, we can't help shake the feeling that this is no way to launch a high-profile product which costs over £700. Surely Google could have tested the device more thoroughly before launch and ironed out these issues? Granted, you'll never get as large a test pool as when you actually release a phone, but using your customers as guinea pigs seems a bit cheeky – especially when you're asking them to pay through the nose for the privilege. Perhaps Google should consider releasing its next Pixel at a subsided rate until all of the problems have vanished; that way, early adopters might feel a little less used.

The Google Pixel 3, left, and Google Pixel 3 XL, and wireless charging stand, are shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) © ASSOCIATED PRESS The Google Pixel 3, left, and Google Pixel 3 XL, and wireless charging stand, are shown in this photo, in New York, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Of course, Google isn't alone in this practice and practically every other smartphone maker on the planet has had similar issues with at least one of its phones; the incredibly fast turnaround these devices are subject to (yearly hardware updates are a killer) means this situation is unlikely to change any time soon. These companies have tight deadlines to hit each year with hardware launches and you could argue that if they held back products until they were totally bug-free, they'd never launch them at all.

With that in mind, we should perhaps condition ourselves to resist rushing out and buying a shiny new smartphone the moment it is released; logic would dictate that is the worst possible time to invest as you don't know if the bugs and potential hardware issues it comes with will ever be fixed in a satisfactory fashion. This is easier said than done – after all, gadget lovers adore getting stuff as soon as it is released – but it makes much more sense when you really sit back and think about it.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: A member of Google staff shows the the new Google Pixel 3 to a guest at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) © 2018 Getty Images LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: A member of Google staff shows the the new Google Pixel 3 to a guest at a Google hardware launch event at The Yard on October 9, 2018 in London, England. The tech giant have today launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones, Pixel Slate and Google Home Hub. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images) Of course, it also makes sites like this one all the more important as it's our job to inform you – the consumer – about these myriad problems. We love the Pixel 3 and think it's one of the best Android phones we've ever used, but that won't stop us from reporting on its every software and hardware failing – after all, when you're spending such a huge amount of money, you deserve to know what you're getting.

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