Best alternatives to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

The Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL were announced this week and are without a doubt some of the most compelling Android phones on the market. There’s a lot to love about the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, but what if they aren’t right for you? Maybe you hate the notch, maybe you just weren’t impressed by the direction the Pixel series is taking.

Whatever the reason, there are plenty of great alternatives in the Android world. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at flagship-level devices. If you don’t mind going more mid-range you might want to check out our list of the best cheap phones or the best stock Android phones at any price. 

Want stock and no notch? Here are our top 2 picks

Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL

If you aren’t impressed by the Pixel 3 but are due for a new phone, you might want to consider picking up the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. Especially if your main reason for holding off on the Pixel 3 is the notch. Yes, they are now a year old, but they are still plenty fast and are guaranteed to get the latest updates to Android quickly at least through 2019. They are also likely to go on sale in the near future. 

Both phones come with high-end specs, sport a minimalistic design that appeals to many, and have the unique Active Edge feature onboard that lets you open up Assistant just by squeezing the devices.

There are three main differences between the smartphones. The Pixel 2 XL is equipped with a 6-inch QHD+ display (18:9 aspect ratio), while the one on its smaller brother measures 5 inches and offers Full HD resolution (16:9 aspect ratio). The XL model also has a larger battery (3,520 mAh vs 2,700 mAh) and looks different up front due to its thinner bezels.

Both handsets are powered by the Snapdragon 835 chipset, have 4 GB of RAM, and feature a great 12.2 MP camera that’s still capable of capturing bokeh images despite missing the second lens. Until sale prices start hitting, the Pixel 2 will set you back $650 (64 GB) and $750 (128 GB), while the larger model goes for $850 (64 GB) and $950 (128 GB).

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Nokia 8 Sirocco

Looking for a stock Android experience that comes straight from Google? The Nokia 8 Sirocco is part of Google’s Android One initiative, which guarantees a pure, bloat-free OS experience and timely updates. It runs Android 8.0 Oreo out-of-the-box when released, but Android Pie is on its way to the device in November according to HDM Global.

The Nokia 8 Sirocco has a larger 5.5-inch display (up from 5.3 inches) that’s curved on the sides like the Galaxy S and Note series. It also sports a more eye-catching design with thinner bezels and improved water protection (IP67 vs IP54), among other things. But its biggest feature is the dual-camera setup on the back kitted out with Carl Zeiss optics and 2x optical zoom.

Nokia’s flagship was announced at MWC 2018 in February but surprisingly comes with the Snapdragon 835 chipset under the hood instead of the newer 845 found in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2. Nevertheless, the chipset is still more than capable of handling just about any task you throw at it. 

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Not stock, but still great phones

OnePlus 6 (and the 6T)

The OnePlus 6 isn’t stock Android, but it’s pretty close. It also happens to be super developer friendly and is reasonably fast at updates. Google fast? Heck no, but it has a pretty solid track record compared to many other 3rd party OEMs. 

OnePlus introduced an all-new, all-glass design with the OnePlus 6. The back is sleek — almost resembling the Galaxy S9 — and the front houses the 6.28-inch AMOLED display. Yes, there’s a notch, but you can basically turn it off in the settings menu.

This phone also has the latest and greatest specs available: a Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6 or 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of storage. The cameras have been improved this time around too. It comes with dual 16 and 20MP sensors around back with f/1.7 apertures, along with a 19-percent larger pixel size than the 5T. There are also slow-motion video modes that allow for 720p footage at 480fps and 1080p at 240fps. You can also shoot 4K video at 60fps.

Want something even newer? The OnePlus 6T is just around the corner and is expected to offer all the same great specs and performance found with the OnePlus 6, alongside several new refinements. 

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Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, and Galaxy Note 9

Galaxy Note 9

Okay, so the Samsung Galaxy series isn’t stock like, but it is one of most popular smartphone lines on the planet. If you aren’t impressed by the Pixel 3 lineup and are willing to try something a bit different, the Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, and Note 9 are three great alteratives to the Google Pixel family. 

The Note 9 is still the big, S Pen-touting flagship we expect from the Note line. It has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6 or 8GB of RAM, a crazy 128 or 512GB of storage, as well as the same dual-camera setup we first saw on the Galaxy S9 Plus. It basically has the best specs you could expect to see on a smartphone in 2018.

There are some upgrades worth pointing out. First, the battery. Samsung increased the battery from 3,300mAh in the Note 8 to 4,000mAh in the Note 9. Plus, the S Pen now supports Bluetooth, so you can actually do things like control your phones camera and control music with the S Pen’s button. It’s pretty awesome.

Finally, the dual-camera setup on the back might be the same as the S9 Plus, but the Note 9 can recognize what’s in a photo and automatically pick the best camera settings for each scene.

The Galaxy S9 is all about refinement. Design, display, photography, and performance were all strong areas for the Galaxy S8 line, and the S9 does all of them better.

The biggest improvements in the Galaxy S9 have to do with the camera. The S9 sports a single Dual Pixel 12MP autofocus sensor with OIS, along with support for two apertures at f/1.5 and f/2.4. This mechanical iris lens is able to switch between apertures depending on the lighting conditions. If you need something even more powerful, the Galaxy S9 Plus comes with a dual-camera setup on the back.

Samsung also included its own creepier version of Apple’s Animoji, called AR Emoji, allowing you to make GIFs and send cartoony videos to your friends.

These are new Samsung smartphone flagships, so it’s no surprise that they feature the most top-of-the-line specs currently available. They come with 5.8- and 6.2-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED displays, 4 and 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and both are powered by either the Exynos 9810 or Snapdragon 845 SoC depending on your region.

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These are just a few options worth considering if you are looking for a good alternative to the Google Pixel 3 or 3 XL. Of course there are plenty of other great Android phones. Any other recommendations you’d like to share with the class? Shout about them down in the comments. 

Not completely decided on whether the Pixel 3 series is (or isn’t) for you? Here’s some more Pixel 3 coverage to help you make up your mind:

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