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Pixel 3 review: Six months later, is it still worth it? Here's what's great and what's not

Hanging up on robocalls with Call Screen is still incredibly satisfying!

Sarah Tew/CNET

In May, Google announced the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL, midrange variants of its main pair of flagship phones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. While the Pixel 3A phones include many of the same features we like about the original Pixel 3 for a cheaper price, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 still remain two of the best phones you can buy today, despite having launched in October 2018. With premium hardware, a fantastic camera and prompt software updates, the Pixel 3 became and remains my daily Android driver. After six months straight of using it, though, there are things that continue to be great and a few things that aren't. Here are my key takeaways.

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Pixel 3 camera is still amazing

The Pixel 3's single rear camera is just as impressive today as it was when Google launched the phone. New competitors like the Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10 Plus have appeared with multiple cameras on the back. Though I haven't handled those two phones for any significant amount of time -- and I know each are packed with their own great cameras full of new features -- I'm still more than satisfied with what the Pixel 3 does with just its single lens and software.

Because I've been using the Pixel 3 for months, I don't often think about the camera when I'm using it. While out taking casual photos of my friends, scenery or food, I don't think twice; I suppose I became used to a certain photo quality standard.

But then I'll take a photo of a particularly tricky situation, say, a super dark scene at night or I'm in a moving car, and the Pixel 3 turns out a fantastic photo. At that moment, I'm reminded how impressive the camera is all over again. Night Sight is a particular game changer. Now I bust out my Pixel 3 confidently in environments that I thought were once impossible to take a decent photo of (even with flash), like my friends at a dimly lit bar or an attractive dish at a dark restaurant. Photos turn out so clear and bright that I don't think I'll ever go back to using the phone's flash.

Be aware of troubling call quality issues

I haven't experienced this for myself, but there are enough reported incidents that I'd be remiss not to mention that some Pixel owners experienced bad call and audio quality with their phones. Users on Reddit and Google forums reported issues like audio cutting in and out, echoing, voices sounding really tinny or audio delays that stack up words on top of one another.

These problems are the kinds of issues that come to light months after phone launches. Even the first Pixel in 2017 had microphone problems, and in May Google settled a class action lawsuit that stemmed from these issues. So far, Google hasn't released a reliable fix for the Pixel 3, but a representative from the company reported that it's working with users and actively looking into it. Still, the issue is annoying and inconvenient for a lot of people. The moment your phone's audio or call quality starts acting up, send it back, return it as soon as possible for a replacement and know that you're not the only person who ran into this problem.

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Some Pixel 3 users reported problems with their audio call quality.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pixel wouldn't stop flashing me

One bug that I do have personal experience with is screen flashes. Every now and then when I unlocked my screen, it would flash a bright white light for just a second. It's really jarring and unexpected. Many other people have had this problem, and for a while the fix seemed to be turning off the ambient display feature.

But even after doing this, once in a while the flashes still occur. It's been reported, however, that Google just got around to fixing this problem with its latest April update. I downloaded this update recently and so far it hasn't happened again, so here's hoping it's finally solved.

Love me some Call Screen

It's unfortunate, but I use Call Screen way more times than I should. Robocalling, spam and telemarketers are an irritating, modern-day problem. (On Thursday, the FCC approved a proposal that grants phone companies more power to "aggressively block" unwanted calls.) Call Screen will be available on non-Pixel phones including the Moto G7Verizon has an app to block spam and in addition to its recent ruling, the FCC is trying to fine robocallers.

I get about three to four spam calls a week, and they're incredibly annoying. Having Call Screen is great because I tap a button and I start reading the little transcript to the spammer. And it's so satisfying to either see them hang up or hang up on them without even picking up the phone. It's one of the Pixel features I use a lot.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Using Call Screen to answer a call.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Digital Wellbeing is eye-opening

Digital Wellbeing is available on other Android phones in addition to the Pixel 3 and it has been eye-opening for me. Because I stare at screens all day at work, I'm determined to limit how much I use my phone in the evenings. Keeping tabs on how much I unlock my phone or how much time I spend on certain apps allow me to set those boundaries.

On average, I spend about two hours looking at my phone. This is shorter than the national average of three hours, but I can always improve. On days I only spend 30 or 45 minutes (usually weekends), I feel accomplished, and having that data is crucial. I limit my apps, too, giving myself 15 minutes a day to browse Instagram. Whenever the timer pops up or I get locked out, it's actually a relief. I can put the phone down and say to myself that that's enough for today and perhaps it's time to step outside.

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Digital Wellbeing helps you keep tabs on your phone usage.

Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

When I first reviewed the phone, my bottom line was that the Pixel 3's "truly exceptional cameras and AI-powered call screening give it an edge on the other great phones in 2018's crowded winners' circle." That still holds true today, and I look forward to what Google has in store for its successors, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. Rumors are circulating that the phones may have dual rear cameras, which would be interesting given that the Pixel 3 takes excellent photos with just one lens. And if you're interested in a Pixel but you're on a budget, remember that the Pixel 3A starts at just $399.

Originally published April 12.
Update, May 7: Adds information about Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL.
Update, June 9: Adds class action lawsuit and FCC robocalls information.