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Google spent much of the presentation effusing about its latest smartphone’s camera. Unlike many of its competitors’ phones, it uses just one 12.2-megapixel camera (instead of two, three, or more)
to create sharp portrait-style photos, zoom, and generally perceive depth in the world. Because it’s Google, which increasingly is trying to jam AI into ever-more aspects of its business and our lives, it achieves all this with a lot of proprietary algorithms.

Quartz spent the last few weeks testing out the Pixel 3 XL on and off, to see how those algorithms actually hold up, and whether Google’s latest Android device stands up to the competition. And within hours of testing, it became clear that it has a truly excellent camera—one of the best I’ve ever used on a smartphone.
Last year, Google’s Pixel 2 set a new standard for smartphone photography. Benchmarking website DxOMark gave the phone what was its highest score ever soon after it was released. The organization has yet to review the Pixel 3, and in the year since the last phone came out, the competition has stepped up: Apple’s new iPhone Xs Max and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 are both excellent phones that far outstripped the Pixel 2’s score.

Google seems to have spent much of its time over the last year refining the camera even further. This is not a technical review (I’ll leave that to DxOMark), but the photos my very amateur self took on it were some of the nicest I’ve ever taken, without me really doing much other than pointing the camera at something cool.

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