The first Google Pixel - the small one - was basically a downsized carbon copy of its larger sibling. Price aside, it was what phone enthusiasts had been demanding from Google for years - a smaller smartphone that wasn't compromised relative to the bigger device that came alongside it. With the Pixel 2, that formula changed, and we got a phone with an older display layout, inferior haptics, and build quality that seemed a little "lesser than" the truly premium 2 XL. While the bigger phone had its issues, it was the little things that made the Pixel 2 just that much less special, less modern.

With the Pixel 3, it's a return to form: the smaller phone looks the part of a premium handset and really does just feel like a baby 3 XL. Naturally, the battery is smaller, and the display is a full HD 18:9 panel (a much nicer one) rather than the XL's denser quad HD, but no one's going to notice that. The lack of a display notch is probably preferable for most people, and the addition of wireless charging, dual front-facing cameras, improved front-facing speakers, along with a suite of new camera features bespoking the Pixel 3 make this a meaningful upgrade over last year's phone.

The sticking point, of course, is the price. At $800, the Pixel 3 sits a full $180 above an unlocked Galaxy S9 here in the US, and I won't lie to you: that's just too much money. Google has jumped the proverbial shark on pricing this year, and I think it's going to bite them harder than they expect. Samsung has aggressively priced its phones through discounts over the course of 2018, and both of the new Pixels are asking far too much money relative to the Galaxy S9 and S9+. But, that's not to say you aren't getting anything for the extra money. The latest and greatest Android, a complete and utter lack of bloatware, and what are very likely to be the best-ever cameras on a smartphone aren't trivial things. For a "money is no object" customer, the Pixels will provide the best Android smartphone experience you can buy, and probably the best mobile imaging you can buy, period.

But getting back to the small Pixel, I'm finding I really like the size of this phone. It's a hair narrower than the Pixel 2, but manages to pack in substantially more screen thanks to the wide aspect ratio. The camera launches amazingly quickly, the phone is exceptionally fast, and the screen is wonderful.

I'm also loving the improved haptic feedback on the Pixel 3, which is even better than it was on my 2 XL. The Pixel 2 was saddled with an inferior vibration motor last year, but now it feels essentially on par with the one in the 3 XL by my initial judgment. The motor clicks and jolts in a way that, while not as good as the iPhone's taptic engine, is far better than what you get in any other Android smartphone (aside from, perhaps, LG's V40).

So far, my impressions of the Pixel 3 are quite good, putting the price aside. This is a truly premium smartphone at a size most anyone can manage. But bringing money into the picture makes this a much harder call. Are Google's phones really worth their increasingly substantial premium? That, I think, comes down to your individual demands. And it's a question I won't be able to answer fully until spending more time with this phone.