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October 11, 2018

Google Pixel Stand hands-on review

by John_A

Research Center:

Google Pixel Stand

Following an industry trend, Google’s latest smartphones — the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL — support Qi wireless charging. That means you can place them on any Qi-supported wireless charger, and the phone will charge up; there’s no need to fiddle around with cables. Google has made an optional charging stand to complement the new phones, but instead of releasing another basic accessory in a crowded market, the Pixel Stand brings the artificial intelligence in the Pixel 3 to the forefront, and it packs so many genuinely-helpful features that make it one of the smartest wireless chargers we’ve ever seen.

The basics

The Pixel Stand is a 10-watt wireless charging stand that’s made of silicone and polycarbonate. Only one color option is available — white — and while it matches all the different colors the Pixel 3 comes in, we wish the stand came in different colors as well. It may also attract a good deal of lint or dust over time. The device has a grippy bottom, so it won’t move around on any surface you place it on.

It comes with an USB-C to USB-C cable, which plugs into the included 18-watt USB-PD (Power Delivery) wall adapter into the Pixel Stand. Google says the Pixel Stand offers fast wireless charging for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, but it’s important to note that it won’t be as fast as charging with the included wired USB-C cable you get with the phones.

The wireless charging stand itself looks simple and understated, which means it should blend into the home without sticking out. You can place any Qi-capable phone on it — including newer iPhones — in either landscape or portrait orientation, and the Pixel Stand will be able to juice it up because it has two charging coils (one on top of the other).

Smart features

The Pixel Stand may look like just another wireless charger, but there’s a good deal of special features that come alive as soon as you place a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL on it.

Placing a Pixel 3 on the wireless charger also introduces a more helpful user interface on the always-on display.

Inside the Stand is a microprocessor that triggers a secure “handshake” when you place the Pixel 3 down (there’s no Bluetooth, NFC, or Wi-Fi involved in the connection). The Pixel asks the Stand for its unique ID number, and then the phone computes it so they both have the matching number, a process known as hashing. This number is then stored in both the phone and the stand. This ensures that your phone recognizes this specific Pixel Stand, in case you have multiple, because you can customize each Pixel Stand to have different purposes.

You can access the Pixel Stand’s settings in your phone’s Connected Device settings. One option is the ability to completely turn off your phone’s screen, including from the Pixel 3’s always-on display, so you get no visual disturbances. That’s handy if the Pixel Stand is next to your bed.

What’s also helpful is you can set a Pixel Stand to trigger your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode. This doesn’t necessarily turn off the screen, but it does mean the screen won’t light up or alert you to any notifications when the phone is docked. It’s another way of minimizing alerts if you’re trying to go to bed, but this is something you can toggle on or off. So, if you have own another Pixel Stand — say, by your desk — then you’ll likely want to make sure it doesn’t trigger Do Not Disturb mode.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Alternatively, you can also turn your Pixel 3 into a digital photo frame when it’s on the Pixel Stand. You can set up “Photo Frames” using Google Photos, and your phone will display photos from albums you’ve selected. It’s a nice way of making use of what’s often a blank screen as you wirelessly charge.

But perhaps the feature we’re most excited to try is Sunrise Alarm. Fifteen minutes before your alarm is set to go off, the Pixel 3 will start showing an ambient light to help wake you up. It remains to be seen how useful this feature is, but we’ll certainly be checking it out when it’s available.

The Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your phone useful when it’s out of your hands.

Apart from these core features of the Pixel Stand, placing a Pixel 3 on the wireless charger also introduces a more helpful user interface on the always-on display. You get one-tap access to Google Assistant (or you can still say, “Hey Google”), and depending on the time of day, you will get suggestions to tap on — powered by Assistant. For example, if it’s early in the morning you’ll get the option to trigger the Assistant’s “My Day” feature. This will automatically pull up your calendar, reminders, and weather and traffic alerts, and it will start playing the day’s news or podcasts (you can tweak your source preferences in Assistant’s settings).

If you’re playing music on the Pixel 3, you’ll get big music controls on the always-on display when the phone is docked on the Pixel Stand, which makes it easier to tap and control playback. It will also display larger album artwork, which is a nice aesthetic.

Google Pixel Stand Compared To

Olloclip Filmer’s Kit

Merge Blaster

TimeFlip Magnet

Ventev Wirelesspro

Insta360 One

Samsung DeX Station

Oaxis InkCase i7 Plus

Ampy Move

Motrr Galileo

Typo keyboard case

Moga Mobile Gaming Controller

Iomega SuperHero

BlackBerry Presenter

Callpod Chargepod

Griffin Elan Holster

And finally, there’s also a smart home tie-in, though it seems to be quite limited at the moment. If you have a Nest Hello video doorbell, you can quickly see who’s at the front door with just a tap of a button when the Pixel 3 is resting on the Pixel Stand. There’s no mention of other smart home integration, but we imagine support for other products could be added over time.

Price and availability

The Pixel Stand costs $79, and it’s available for pre-order now from the Google Store (it ships early November). While you can certainly find cheaper wireless charging pads, this price is in line with wireless charging pads from brands such as Mophie and Belkin. But where those wireless chargers simply juice up your phone, the Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your phone useful when it’s out of your hands.

While the Pixel Stand will charge any Qi-compatible phone, its features only work with the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Don’t buy this if you own a Samsung or Apple phone — there are far cheaper alternatives — unless you are planning to upgrade to a Pixel 3.

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