Google launches the Pixel 4 with 90Hz display, Motion Sense gestures, Face Unlock, Dual Cameras, and more
After first teasing the phone 4 months ago, Google has officially unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. For those of you following tech news, you probably know a lot about the 2019 Pixel smartphones thanks to a bunch of leaks. Nevertheless, there were still some details that we were waiting to confirm, and besides, the 2019 Made by Google event isn’t just about the new Pixel smartphones. Google’s new smartphones are definitely the star of the show, though, so here’s our summary of everything you need to know about the Google Pixel 4 series, including the hardware specifications, software features, pricing, availability.
The Pixel 4 is a radical departure from the design of the first 3 Pixel smartphones. The glass back has a single color, that being white, black, or orange, and lacks an indentation for a fingerprint scanner because Google has moved to facial recognition instead. The cameras on the back of the new Pixel are embedded in a square camera bump; there’s the main camera, the telephoto camera, the LED flash, and the flicker sensor in this camera bump. There’s no display notch on either 2019 Pixel because Google is using the entire top bezel for cameras and sensors.
The new Pixels do share a lot of design similarities with older Pixels, though. The Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both lack 3.5mm headphone ports, have a single USB Type-C port on the bottom, have the volume rocker on the right side, have colored power buttons, have flat displays, and have rounded display corners.
While other smartphone makers are experimenting with curved displays, dual displays, pop-up cameras, flip cameras, and other design tricks to reduce bezels as much as possible, Google is packing the top bezel of the Pixel 4 with a plethora of sensors. Besides the front-facing camera, most of the sensors are used for Face Unlock on the 2019 Pixels. No smartphone manufacturer has managed to avoid having a top bezel while also offering secure facial recognition, so at least Google is putting the bezel to good use here. They’ve also added a Soli radar chip here for good measure, which is used to power the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense gestures.
The smaller Pixel 4 has a 5.7-inch display while the larger Pixel 4 XL has a 6.3-inch display. The non-XL device is definitely more compact than most flagship smartphones on the market, while the XL is closer in size to most flagships out there.
Here’s an overview of the specifications for the two new Pixel smartphones. There’s a lot to unpack here, but we’ll highlight the key features that you need to know.
|Google Pixel 4||Google Pixel 4 XL|
|Size||2.7 x 5.7 x 0.3 inches, 162 g||2.9 x 6.3 x 0.3 inches, 193 g|
|Display||5.7-inch Full HD+ OLED|
19:9, 444 ppi
90Hz Smooth Display
|6.3-inch Quad HD+ OLED|
19:9, 537 ppi
90Hz Smooth Display
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
Pixel Neural Core
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 855|
Pixel Neural Core
|Cameras (Rear)||12MP Dual-Pixel (Sony IMX363) + 16MP 2X Telephoto (Sony IMX481)|
[email protected] video recording
|12MP Dual-Pixel (Sony IMX363) + 16MP 2X Telephoto (Sony IMX481)|
[email protected] video recording
|Camera (Front)||8MP (Sony IMX520)|
[email protected] video recording
|8MP (Sony IMX520)|
[email protected] video recording
|RAM||6GB LPDDR4x||6GB LPDDR4x|
|Storage||64GB or 128GB (non-expandable)||64GB or 128GB (non-expandable)|
No fingerprint scanner
No fingerprint scanner
|Charging||18W USB PD (Wired), 10W Qi charging (Wireless)||18W USB PD (Wired), 10W Qi charging (Wireless)|
|Ports||USB 3.1 Type-C, no 3.5mm headphone port||USB 3.1 Type-C, no 3.5mm headphone port|
|Audio||Stereo Speakers||Stereo Speakers|
|Sensors||Soli radar for Motion Sense gestures, Active Edge||Soli radar for Motion Sense gestures, Active Edge|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO|
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo
|Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO|
GPS,⁸ GLONASS, Galileo
|Software||Android 10 with 3 years of security and OS updates||Android 10 with 3 years of security and OS updates|
Display: The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are still comparable to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL in terms of display size and resolution respectively, but the new Pixels are getting two major display-related upgrades. First, the new Pixels have a display with a maximum refresh rate of 90Hz. Google calls this feature “Smooth Display,” and all it means is that the display can refresh at 90 times per second rather than 60 times per second. This will improve the fluidity of animations and certain games, but enabling it will take a toll on the battery life. Another major display feature is the introduction of Ambient EQ, Google’s name for automatic white balance adjustment based on ambient lighting conditions. This feature improves readability is all lighting conditions by matching the color temperature of the Pixel 4’s display with the surroundings.
The Pixel 4 will also be able to play HD and HDR10 videos from Netflix.
Performance: It should come as no surprise that both 2019 Pixels are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, Qualcomm’s best performing chipset for mobile devices. Qualcomm did announce the Snapdragon 855 Plus back in July, but that was only a minor revision with overclocks to the “Prime” CPU core and GPU. More importantly, Google has finally increased the memory capacity from 4GB in the previous 3 Pixel generations to 6GB in the Pixel 4. The Pixel 3 was criticized for memory management issues, so having an extra 2GB of RAM will hopefully prevent similar issues on the new devices. With an upgraded SoC, more RAM, and higher refresh rate, the Pixel 4 will feel noticeably smoother, open apps faster, and keep more apps in memory than the Pixel 3.
Cameras: While its competitors have moved on to quad cameras with crazy megapixel counts, Google is making the modest jump to dual cameras this year. However, it’s never been about the camera hardware on Pixel smartphones as the software has always been the key focus. We’ll talk about the new camera features in a bit, but to recap the camera hardware, the Pixel 4 has: the same 12MP camera sensor as the Pixel 3, a 16MP roughly 2X telephoto camera sensor, an 8MP front-facing camera sensor, and the “Pixel Neural Core” for image processing.
Security: When the bootloader is locked, the Titan M security chip verifies that your device isn’t running tampered or outdated software, protects against unwanted attempts at data decryption, and secure transactions in third-party apps. Speaking of third-party transactions, you can no longer use your fingerprint to unlock apps or make purchases since the Pixel 4 doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner. It does, however, offer secure facial recognition which can be used for these purposes and for unlocking the screen, of course.
The Google Pixel 4 launches with Android 10 out of the box and Google promises 3 years of OS and security updates. That means you’re guaranteed to receive Android OS upgrades all the way to Android 13 and monthly security patch updates until October 2022.
Motion Sense: Powered by the Soli radar, Motion Sense gestures let you control music, silence alerts, or check your phone by waving your hand over the Pixel. This is a headlining feature of the device, so we’ll go into more detail below.
Battery & Charging: Google has yet to match other smartphone makers in offering a battery with a capacity of 4000mAh or higher, but the Pixel 4 XL does come close with its 3700mAh battery. However, when you factor in the fact that it has a 90Hz QHD+ display, the 3700mAh battery capacity is slightly concerning. Even more concerning is the Pixel 4 with its 2800mAh battery. Until we review or see reviews of the two devices, we can’t speak for how long they’ll last, but it’s disappointing to see these battery capacities when other companies have more to offer.
USB Power Delivery is still the preferred way to charge the Pixel, and that’s no different with the new Pixels. You can charge the Pixel 4 using the including 18W USB Type-C to Type-C charger or any compatible USB PD charger. Wireless charging support returns, but Google only offers 10W fast charging via the Pixel Stand. When Huawei and Xiaomi are able to offer 27W and 30W fast wireless charging respectively, it’s hard to see why the Pixel’s wireless charging is comparatively so slow. At least it’s better than nothing.
Audio: The Pixel 4 has stereo speakers like the Pixel 3, but they’re no longer both on the front. The top bezel houses one of the speakers while the other is bottom-firing. The Pixel 4 lacks a 3.5mm headphone port and doesn’t come with a dongle in the box, so you’ll have to use wired USB Type-C or wireless Bluetooth earphones. Only Google’s mid-range smartphones have a headphone jack.
New Camera Features
Pixel smartphones are known for taking great photos, and that’s thanks to the Google Camera app and Google’s computational photography algorithms. The Pixel 4 retains most of the improvements and camera features seen in older Pixel smartphones (with the exception of the wide-angle selfie camera) including HDR+, Portrait mode, Night Sight, and Super Res Zoom. There’s also Photo Sphere, Playground AR stickers, Google Lens integration, Time Lapse, Panoramas, and Slow Motion.
New with Google Camera 7.1 on the Pixel 4, however, are the following features: Astrophotography (up to 15 seconds of exposure), 8X zoom, Live HDR+ (real-time, approximated HDR in the viewfinder), dual exposure controls, quick video, and social share. Portrait mode has been improved as it can apply to large objects and with SLR-like bokeh, too. Learning-based white balancing will continually improve the color of shots in low-light or yellow-light. Google says they’re committed to improving the Pixel 4’s camera with software updates, so stay tuned.
Astrophotography lets you take pictures of the stars and moonlit landscapes so long as you place the Pixel 4 on a tripod to keep it very still while taking a photo in Night Sight. Thanks to the new ~2X telephoto camera and Super Res Zoom, the Pixel 4 can take high-quality photos at up to 8X in magnification. With dual exposure controls, you can independently adjust the brightness and shadows of scenes to get the best lighting for your shot. Quick video lets you never miss a moment by capturing a short video and snapping 10 photos when you press and hold the shutter button. Finally, social share helps you quickly share photos to social media by providing a quick access shortcut to 3 of your chosen apps.
Some of these features will be available on older Pixel smartphones with the Google Camera 7.1 update, but for others, you’ll have to wait for Google Camera modders to unlock them.
New Software Features
Android 10 officially adds support for facial authentication, and the Google Pixel 4 is taking advantage of that. You’ll be able to authenticate payments in apps like Google Pay or the Google Play Store. You’ll be able to unlock your device or supported apps. Face Unlock on the Pixel 4 is very fast, but it’s also secure unlike the purely software-based facial recognition features you’ll find on most other smartphones. You won’t be able to easily fool it with a static, 2D picture of your face since it relies on 3D depth data of your face. Google warns that someone who looks like you may be able to fool it, though.
Motion Sense Gestures
The Google Pixel 4 is the first commercial device to incorporate Google’s Project Soli radar. Soli allows for precise hand gesture detection no matter the lighting condition, and it can even detect gestures through plastic materials as it operates at the 60GHz frequency. Because the radar transmits at this frequency, however, Google had to seek certification from the regulatory agencies of each country they’re selling the Pixel 4 in. For example, the U.S. FCC has approved the Pixel 4 to transmit in this frequency. Sadly, Google hasn’t received approval in all regions yet, though they’ve made decent progress.
So does the Soli radar chip actually let the Pixel 4 do? Right now, you’ll be able to control some parts of your phone using what Google calls “Motion Sense” gestures. In summary:
- Skip music tracks by waving your hand left or right.
- Silence phone calls or alarms by waving your hand over the device.
- Turn the screen on to check for notifications by reaching your hand close to the device.
- Turn the screen off when walking away to save battery life.
Here’s a video demonstrating these features:
Privacy is built-in as you can turn it on or off at any time. When it’s on, sensor data is processed on-device and never saved or shared with other services.
New Google Assistant
At Google I/O this year, Google showed off a newer, much faster version of the Google Assistant. Google reduced the Assistant’s speech recognition and language understanding models down to <0.5GB in size, allowing the Assistant to process speech with “nearly zero latency,” transcribe speech “in real-time,” and operate “even when you have no network connection.” It’s promised to be up to 10 times faster than before at querying your speech and delivering an answer. It’s not only faster, but it’s smarter, too. The new Assistant can integrate with other apps like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Photos.
Here are a few screenshots showing the new Google Assistant on the Pixel 4. If you’re looking for more details and a video, check out this article I previously wrote on the new Assistant.
Google is also adding new privacy features to the Assistant. You can ask it to show your personal data page or even to delete your activity data. For tips, you can ask the Assistant on how to keep your data safe.
There are a bunch of other new software features on the Pixel 4 to mention but aren’t worth their own sections. In summary:
- Screen Attention. This feature keeps your Pixel 4 awake so long as you’re looking at it.
- Live Caption. Originally touted as an Android 10 feature, this feature is debuting on the Pixel 4. It lets you transcribe audio playing on your phone into floating captions on screen. This is useful if you are hard of hearing, can’t turn up the volume, or don’t have headphones at the moment. It works with most audio, including from podcasts, videos, or audio messages, but it doesn’t work with phone calls or video calls. It also only works in English (US) for now. For a hands-on of the feature, check out our article or video on the subject.
- Car crash detection. This feature detects when you’re in a motor vehicle accident by using your location, motion sensors, and ambient audio. It’ll trigger a dialog that, if left unattended to, will call emergency services to alert them of your situation. This feature is limited to the United States for now.
- Google Recorder app. This new app lets you record audio using your Pixel 4’s microphones, which can be useful for recording lectures or interviews. However, what makes it special is that it can automatically transcribe and label your recordings for searching.
- Pro Sessions. New to Pixel? If you speak English and you’re in the U.S. or Canada, you can schedule a Pro Session in the Google One app to get help from a Pixel expert.
- Pixel Themes. This app lets you customize the icon shape, font, accent color, etc. on your device.
- New Live Wallpapers that are compatible with Android 10’s dark mode toggle. Some of the new live wallpapers are also interactive, such as one that points a Compass at a location of your choice and another that lets you draw doodles on screen. Check them out here.
- Updated Pixel Launcher with a swipe-down notification gesture. Since there’s no longer a fingerprint scanner to swipe down on, Google has updated the Pixel Launcher to add a swipe-down notification gesture. All you have to do is swipe down anywhere on the launcher screen and the notification panel will be pulled down. More details here.
Besides those new features, other features like Now Playing ambient music detection, Active Edge squeeze gestures, text/image selection in the recent apps overview, Digital Wellbeing, and Flip to Shhh are all available on the 2019 Pixels.
Pricing & Availability
Google’s Pixel smartphones have never been cheap, and that’s no different with the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Here’s what we know so far about the pricing.
|Google Pixel 4 (64GB)||CA$999||$799||€749|
|Google Pixel 4 (128GB)||CA$1,129||$899||€849|
|Google Pixel 4 XL (64GB)||CA$1,129||$899||€899|
|Google Pixel 4 XL (128GB)||CA$1,259||$999||€999|
We’ll continue updating this chart as we get more information. From what we know, the Pixel 4 will not be sold in India. Pre-orders start today with availability starting October 24th.
As for U.S. availability, the Pixel 4 will be available through Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and for the first time in Pixel history, AT&T. The device will also be sold in multiple regions around the world including Canada and Europe. Google’s iconic fabric cases will be sold separately; they will come in 3 different colors: black, blue, and gray. For a limited time, Google will offer 3 months of 100GB Google One storage with a Pixel 4 purchase, but only for new, eligible members.
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