The Pixel 3 phones are not the first from Google with wireless charging. However, it has been a while since the Nexus 6. In 2018, wireless charging is a lot faster and safer than it used to be. It’s also a lot more enticing for manufacturers.
Google’s implementation of wireless charging in the Pixel 3 phones is Qi charging only. This makes it pretty easy for Google to offer their own wireless charging solution. As this is Google’s first go at making a wireless charger, we thought we’d give it a thorough review.
So what is it?
The Pixel Stand is very Googley in it’s design. It is designed to be unobtrusive when sitting on a desk, table, or anywhere in a room. The soft white colours do not make it stand out (unless you have black walls and benches) but at the same time they also make it fairly plain – are there any non-plain chargers out there? The downside is that white is the only choice in colour. The surface itself is a soft plastic coating that feels rubbery with some grippiness to it.
The Pixel Stand has a white circular base where at the back the USB-C charger plugs into — interestingly the charging cable itself can be plugged directly into the phone giving it 18W PD charging. On top of the base sits the charging plate, angled at around 20 degrees from the vertical and a small wavy ledge to anchor the phone in place. Underneath the stand is a nice orange tinge but can only be seen when looking at it at eye level – a subtle colouring and design choice by Google.
Once in place the Pixel 3 will display a charging animation on the centre of the display and when the display times out it will then go into the Pixel Stand display with all of it’s smart features.
As for charging speed the Pixel Stand will charge your Pixel 3 phone at 10W thanks to a digital handshake between the two. This digital handshake is already on the Belkin BOOST↑UP wireless chargers and hopefully coming to more soon. It is unknown how fast it will charge other phones but it will charger non-Pixel 3 phones which support wireless charging but it is unlikely it will charge them at 10W nor will the phones have the smart features that are enabled when a Pixel 3 is placed upon the charger.
The smart features that the Pixel Stand enables on the Pixel 3 phones are impressive to say the least and Google seem to have put a lot of thought into them.
- Triggering Do Not Disturb – you can set the phone to automatically turn on DND when it is placed on the Pixel Stand. Obviously this is only really useful when charging beside the bed or overnight. You can of course decide to turn this on or off.
- Photo frames – as a screen saver you can have folders from your Google Photos account displayed on the phone while charging. It is possible to select multiple folders and it will display randomly from each folder. The phone will decide how best to display the image, with some showing in full screen but also some in two to a page — landscape photos are usually two to a display while portrait photos are full screen.
- Sunrise Alarm – This is a functionality where the phone slowly lights up starting at a dark red, slowly changing to a yellow just before the alarm goes off. I’m not convinced that this does help you wake up more naturally because when I’m asleep I have my eyes closed. The idea is to slowly light up the room naturally but it annoyed me because I want that extra 15 minutes of sleep.
- If you have music playing on your phone/casting, the music album cover will display on the lockscreen along with basic controls for the music. Obviously this is more useful if you charge the phone on your desk or somewhere other than the bedroom.
- There is one tap access to Google Assistant using the icon on the lockscreen allowing you to get your daily agenda displayed/read to you (along with all other Google Assistant functions).
What makes it worth your money?
- Smart features – see above. If you own a Pixel 3 these will come in very handy. I am sure that someone will eventually come up with similar functionality for other phones too.
- Design – the design is unobtrusive and fits in well with most decors. Importantly, you can place your Pixel Stand anywhere.
- Design part 2 – the name implies added functionality. Stand. The standing up of the phone allows you to see the display and interact with it, something many Qi chargers do not allow.
- Another USB-C charger – you can take your stand with you and if you need faster charging than the 10W the Pixel Stand offers you, unplug the Pixel Stand from the USB-C cable and plug it into your phone for 18W PD charging.
What could be better?
- Price. At $119 it is one of the more expensive chargers we have seen make it to our shores. When you are spending so much for a Pixel 3 phone in the first place it might be pushing the friendship a bit too far to ask for another $119 on top of that. There are a lot of cheaper chargers around with one other at this stage also supporting the full 10W charging speed (Belkin BOOST↑UP wireless charger)
- Some chargers will charger faster than 10W but Google have capped this at 10W.
Should you buy it?
That is the $119 question isn’t it. The Pixel Stand is handy and so is wireless charging. This allows you to charge the phone while being able to see the display and interact with it. The smart features are great but do you really need them? Will they make your life $119 better?
The Pixel Stand is a great first start by Google to making accessories specifically for their phones. However, it comes down to cost. If you have a spare $119 and have a Pixel 3 phone then it is a must have. The added functionality the Pixel Stand gives to the Pixel 3 adds value to your Pixel 3 in daily use.
On the other hand, the Pixel Stand isn’t especially cheap. After the expense of a Pixel 3 purchase, the Pixel Stand might be a bit too much. You can buy other Qi chargers for much less, though they probably won’t charge the Pixel 3 at 10W speeds. If you use something other than a Pixel 3, the Pixel Stand is most definitely not for you.
The Pixel Stand is a great accessory to the Pixel 3 phones. Most importantly, though, at $119 the “must have” becomes a luxury item for many. Let’s face it, for most of us the spare change in our pockets for luxury items is diminishing weekly.
Google have not sought the return of the Pixel Stand post review.