Google Pixel 4 – What the ‘Made by Google’ keynote didn’t say!

Google Pixel 4 – What the ‘Made by Google’ keynote didn’t say!

...and what features didn't make the cut

Last year, the entire tech community was convinced that the Pixel 3 was perhaps the most leaked device of the year – to the extent that we knew almost everything about the phone’s hardware. This year, with the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL, Google took a rather defensive step by revealing tidbits about the device itself. This decision to brace the proclivity of the current market, along with the insane number of leaks, meant that the Made by Google event didn’t have many surprises. Unfortunately for Google (we feel you!), a big percentage of the software features were already revealed, thanks to the stream of exposés by our Editor-in-Chief, Mishaal Rahman. Google didn’t even attempt to hide anything and started the keynote by displaying a picture of everything they had to announce.


Pixel 4 XDA Forums / Pixel 4 XL XDA Forums

Quite a few features like the Astrophotography mode, Dual Exposure modes, and even the waving Pikachu wallpaper were shown on-stage. However, many features were struck off of the keynote script or didn’t make their way to the phones at all. This is why we’ve compiled a list of announcements that we were expecting but were skipped from the Google Pixel 4 address.

New Features

Pokemon Sidekick

The feature uses Google’s Soli motion-sensing RADAR built into the forehead of the Google Pixel 4 to work as a live and interactive wallpaper. If you wave over the sensor, your Pokemon Sidekick will acknowledge it and wave back. While Google only showed Pikachu on stage, you can also choose one of the other four Pokemon – Eevee, Grookey, Scorbunny, and Sobble – to be your sidekick. An image of the feature by Mishaal shows that you’ll have to double-tap on the Pokemon to activate it while it’s on your home screen.

Games for learning Quick Gestures

Google is calling the new motion-sensing Soli gestures a new way to “touch without touching” in one of the promotional videos played on stage. While that’s definitely a neat trick for anyone enthusiastic about technology, there’s a learning curve involved in order to get used to these gestures. To help users become more familiar with these Soli Quick Gestures, Google is adding two new mini-games that appear to be exclusive to the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL for now. The two games are called Pokemon Wave Hello in which you can wave your palm over the Soli sensor to interact with the Pokemon. 9to5Google had leaked this game before the launch and their demo shows you can swipe your fingers across the screen if Soli-based gestures are not supported on your phone.

There’s another game called Headed South, which has been made by Google in Unity and also uses Soli gestures to guide avian creatures.

Screen Attention

The Google Pixel 4 devices also come with a Screen Attention, a feature similar to Samsung’s Smart Stay which prevents the Pixel 4’s screen from turning off while you’re looking at it. This happens with the help of the front-facing camera on the smartphone just like Samsung’s Smart Stay. We found references to the feature in the third and the fourth beta of Android 10/Q. Its presence was later affirmed with a Pixel 4 hands-on video that surfaced last month.

Live Caption

Live Caption is an accessibility feature that displays real-time captions for not just videos but any form of content that has an audio output. It was first exhibited at the Google I/O conference earlier this year and very recently spotted by Mishaal in its pre-launch phase, where it appeared to work with several apps such as YouTube, Google Podcasts, Google Photos, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix, even when the volume is turned down to zero. A toggle for Live Caption is available under the volume slider and just like Google’s new Recorder app, Live Caption transcribes audio even when you’re offline. Besides helping out those with hearing disabilities, the feature is also useful if you want to catch some important info or even just enjoy a show or movie without your earphones.

Live Caption is currently exclusive to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL for now but Google says it will be available on the Pixel 3/3 XL and the Pixel 3a/3a XL later this year – although it may be limited to certain regions.

Pixel Themes

The Pixel Themes app on the Pixel 4 will allow users to customize the Style – default font on their device, the shape, icon pack, and accent color of quick settings icons – as well as the Wallpapers – including the homescreen and lockscreen wallpapers, the design of the ambient mode clock face, as well as the grid sizes of the Pixel launcher homepage and the app drawer. More importantly, the app lets users choose from preset themes or save their custom combinations for easy access in the future. Mishaal dabbled with the feature last month to bring us a preview of Pixel Themes after it was spotted in the AOSP source code.

Apart from confirming the existence of the feature, Mishaal also spotted some new font and icon fill presets in the Pixel 4. We don’t know yet if the Pixel Themes app will make its way to older Pixel devices.

Pixel Neural Core

Pixel Visual Core, the dedicated image processing chip that powers the stunning computation photography skills on the last two generations of flagship Pixel smartphones, is now being upgraded and replaced by Pixel Neural Core. Google told us that the Pixel Neural Core is a dedicated TPU (TensorFlow Processing Unit) and will power features like Google Recorder, Motion Sense, Face Unlock, the new Google Assistant, Top Shot, and Frequent Faces. Notably, while the Pixel Neural Core chip should improve the working of the Recorder app, it is not essential for its functioning. We have yet to learn the measure of its capabilities in TeraOPS.

Short videos for Top Shot

Top Shot uses AI to recommend you the best shot when there’s a chance you might miss the right moment you were looking to capture in a photograph. This is done by capturing 10 burst shots out which, Top Shot automatically selects the top two. To use the feature, you must keep Motion photo set to On or Automatic. Now, Google is adding a new method to capture the Top Shot. Besides burst shots or Motion photo, users should be able to capture short videos so that they can finely drag the video seek bar and choose the exact frame. The only caveat, as per Android Police, is that that the images captured in the short video mode will have a resolution of 768 x 1024 compared to the 2048 x 1536 images taken with the traditional Top Shot mode.

As per Google’s support page for the Short video feature, you’ve to turn Motion photo on, head over to the video mode, and then tap and hold the capture button for the duration you want to choose the Top Shot from.

Frequent Faces

The Frequent Faces feature in the updated Google Camera app for the Pixel 4/4 XL identifies faces of the people who are photographed frequently using the device. Based on this data, the Camera app will “prioritize” these people’s faces while focussing or recommending you the best shots with the Top Shot feature. The feature was earlier spotted ahead of the launch in an APK teardown of the Google Camera 7.1 app.

With Pixel 4, the Top Shot feature is also getting updated and the two suggested shots out of a set of 10 burst shots will be primarily focusing on the most important people in your life.

Crash Detection

With the Pixel 4, Google has rebranded the Emergency app to Personal Safety and a key feature in this is Crash Detection. In scenarios when the Pixel 4 detects a sudden change of momentum, it might detect this as an impact or a crash and ring an alarm at the highest volume. If the alarm is not answered, the feature may call 911 automatically. The feature seems to be exclusive to the Pixel 4 for now and limited to the US, as per the Made By Google event master thread on Reddit. However, the Help page for the feature says mentions that the feature will dial 112 in Europe automatically, meaning it might eventually come to regions other than the US eventually.

Social Share

Social Share lets users quickly share photos to their favorite social media apps simply by dragging the thumbnail of the most recently clicked image upwards. Here, Google does not want to overwhelm you with a lot of options so it will list three of the messaging apps that you use the most. While Google will list these three apps, users will also be able to choose up to three apps that they prefer for Social Share. Hopefully, we’ll see this feature on older Pixel devices with an update to the Google Camera app. The feature was spotted previously by Mishaal on the leaked Pixel Tips app earlier this month.

Force 90Hz Refresh Rate

The Google Pixel 4’s display supports 90Hz refresh rate setting, but as with the OnePlus 7 Pro/7T/7T Pro, the 90Hz refresh rate may only be supported in certain apps. This is to prevent the smoother display from draining the battery on the Pixel 4/4XL. If you don’t care about the battery, you can choose to force the 90Hz refresh rate with a toggle in the Developer Options. The feature should be exclusive to the new Pixels for now.

Dual SIM, Dual Standby

The Pixel lineup is still stuck with a single SIM but it will allow users to expand usability with the Dual SIM, Dual Standby feature in which an eSIM can be used as a secondary SIM, alongside the primary SIM. The feature was introduced on the Pixel 3a with the second Android 10/Q beta, removed in the third beta, and readded with the final Android 10 release.

OIS/EIS on the telephoto camera

Alongside the primary camera, the 16MP 2X telephoto camera also supports both optical and electronic image stabilization techniques. This will allow users to zoom in using the telephoto camera without worrying about shaking the images.

Hearing Aid Support

The Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL are compatible with hearing aids and have M3 and T3 HAC ratings. A minimum rating of 3 on a scale of 0 to 4 ensures that the speakers or earpiece on the phone do not interfere with the acoustics on the hearing aids or in-ear implants.

Improved Google Lens Suggestions

The improved Google Lens on the Pixel 4 devices gains suggestions to translate or copy/paste text, scan documents, and save them as PDF files right from the main Camera interface i.e. without visiting the Lens option manually. On the previous devices, Google Lens suggestions are limited to opening links, copying email addresses, or saving business card info. The real-time translation feature is currently limited to English, Spanish, German, Hindi, and Japanese.

New Google Assistant coming to Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a

The Pixel 4/4XL comes with a smarter and more beautiful Google Assistant. The new Google Assistant has a better understanding of screen context and algorithms running locally instead of the network should allow it to give faster responses. While it is exclusive to the Pixel 4 right now, the new Google Assistant should be is now coming to Pixel 3/3 XL and the Pixel 3a/3a XL in the future. At present, we are unsure if these features will make it to other devices.

New Google Assistant ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ does require you to use Android 10’s gestures

The Pixel 4 comes with a new Google Assistant, but according to a Google Support document, it was said to only be available if you use the gesture navigation system. This seemed like a very odd requirement to make. New Google Assistant features typically make their way to older devices. Why would Google maintain two different versions of Assistant? It turns out they won’t.

Google reached out to Android Police to clarify the situation. The original Support document was incorrect.  You only need gesture navigation to use the Assistant swipe shortcut. It can also be launched with your voice, squeezing the sides, and through the search bar. The new Assistant will eventually work with all of these methods.

Update: Google has reached out to Android Police again to clarify that the original Support document was correct. Inexplicably, Google is requiring the gesture navigation system in order to use the new Assistant, even if triggered in some other way.

Update 2: Strangely, the new Assistant also doesn’t work if you have any G Suite accounts added on the device.

Face Unlock works when your eyes are closed

The Pixel 4 does not have a fingerprint scanner anywhere. Not on the back of the phone, like previous models, and not under the display. Instead, Google has opted to rely solely on new and improved Face Unlock tech. This is more secure than Android’s previous rudimentary face unlock as it can be used in places where a fingerprint would. However, it appears to have one major security flaw.

As demonstrated by Chris Fox in the tweet above, Face Unlock will still work if your eyes are closed. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this could be a big problem. There are no options in the Settings to require eyes to be open, either. Google has confirmed that this is the intended functionality and there will not be a “require eyes to be open” option at launch.

If you dive deeper, this gets a little stranger. Nextrifft got their hands on a pre-release Pixel 4 and it did have a toggle for “require eyes to be open” in the Face Unlock settings. Also, Android 10 provides a setting to require attention for Face Unlock, but it’s not present on the Pixel 4. It seems like a very odd omission and we hope Google brings it to the device at some point.

Update: Google shared the following statement with The Verge. They are working on an option to require eyes to be open for Face Unlock (like we saw in prerelease builds), but it won’t be ready until an update in the “coming months.”

We’ve been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months. In the meantime, if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern or password for the next unlock. Pixel 4 face unlock meets the security requirements as a strong biometric, and can be used for payments and app authentication, including banking apps. It is resilient against invalid unlock attempts via other means, like with masks.

Enhancements to Old Features

Along with the bevy of brand new features, the Google Pixel 4 also comes with some enhancements to existing features.

Pixel Launcher with swipe down gesture

The previously discovered Pixel Launcher with the swipe down gesture to bring the notification panel down is present on the Pixel 4.

Night Sight + Astrophotography

#NightSight already helps you take beautiful photos in the dark. Now you can use it for shots of the night sky.🌙✨ Coming to Pixel 3a and Pixel 3 as well as #pixel4. #madebygoogle

— Google (@Google) October 15, 2019

The Pixel 4’s new Astrophotography mode will also work on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a by using Night Sight. All you will need is Google Camera 7.1.

Now Playing is Even Better

The “Now Playing” feature has been improved and Google claims it will recognize more songs than before thanks to “federated analytics.” Here’s the explanation from the Google Support page:

The counts of songs recognized across Pixel 4 phones are aggregated using a privacy-preserving technology called federated analytics. This improves Now Playing’s song database so it recognizes what’s playing more often. Google can never see what songs you listen to, just the most popular songs in different regions.

Dual Frequency GNSS

We’ve previously written about dual frequency GNSS and why it’s an important location feature that a lot of phones don’t have. The good news is Google is working on bringing it to the Pixel 4. On the tech specs page for the Pixel 4, you can scroll all the way down and see “Dual Band (L1+L5) or (E1 +E5a). Support — coming soon.” When will that be? Your guess is as good as ours.

Portrait Shots with Telephoto

The second camera on the Pixel 4 is a telephoto camera. Google is now using this camera for Portrait Mode shots. The good news is that this improves the results of Portrait Mode, but it also means you may have to step back a bit since it’s zoomed in more. A worthy trade-off.

Fast Wireless Charging with Qi-certified Chargers

First spotted by our own Mishaal Rahman, the Pixel 4 supports 11W wireless charging with all Qi-certified chargers. This was discovered from the Wireless Power Consortium listings. Last year, the Pixel 3 only supported fast wireless charging with Google’s own Pixel Stand. Reviewers with the Pixel 4 have been able to confirm this. We have reached out to Google for confirmation as well.

Features that didn’t make the cut

Here’s a list of things that were previously discovered, leaked, present on past Pixels, or otherwise thought to be coming to the Pixel 4, but aren’t included.

Driving Mode

Google introduced the Google Assistant’s new driving mode at the I/O 219 conference in a likely attempt to replace the Android Auto app on smartphones. This mode takes up the entire screen when you say “let’s drive” to the Google Assistant and shows up only information and features you might need while driving. More importantly, everything here is voice-controlled. Although expected to launch with the Google Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL, the feature is nowhere to be seen yet.

Unlimited original-quality Google Photos storage

Surprisingly, the Google Pixel 4/4 XL only support the free, unlimited storage for your photos in high quality instead of free, unlimited original-quality Google Photos storage, that used to be bundled with the Pixel 2/2 XL and the Pixel 3/3 XL. Google does offer three months of free Google One subscription with 100GB of Google Drive storage after which, you’ll have to pay $1.99 a month.

Quick Wallet Access

The Quick Wallet Access is a feature in Google Pay that should let you access your cards, passes, or movie tickets directly from the power menu when you long-press the power button. Since Mishaal had spotted the Quick Wallet Access feature in Android Q beta 4 and once again after the final Android 10 release, we were expecting to see this as a default feature on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL but it is still missing.

Rules, Ramping Ringer, and Now Playing album art

Back in July, three new features were discovered at the beta stage of Android 10/Q and these include the Rules – which helps you automate changes in settings that you often make, Ramping Ringer – which makes the phone vibrate first and then increases ringer volume gradually when you receive a call, and lastly, album art being shown in the Now Playing history. All of these features are currently missing from the Pixel 4 duo.

Now Playing location and activity tracking

Google is presumably working on recording your location and activity along with the album art in the Now Playing history. This feature, too, was expected to go live with the new Pixel smartphones but Mishaal hasn’t seen the feature on his demo unit yet.

Playground integration with Photobooth

The AR emoji in the Google Camera’s Playground feature lets you have fun with animated characters from popular movies and animated series franchises. Meanwhile, Photobooth in the Camera automatically clicks pictures when you smile or kiss your partner. Certain references in the Google Camera 7.0 APK suggested that Google might merge the Photobooth and Playground – or perhaps, some integration that allowed the two features to work in overlap but nothing of this sort is seen yet.

Audio Zoom

Quite a lot of smartphones focus on or improve the volume of certain sound sources when you zoom into it while recording a video and the same was expected to be added to the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL as “Audio Zoom.” While the feature is still not present, we were told that directional microphone focus has been improved.

Daydream VR support

With the Pixel 4/4 XL, Google killed another feature i.e. support for Daydream VR headset. As per the official statement, this is due to the limitations that VR headsets pose to mobility and their challenges in terms of safety. Moving forth, Google will be focussing its efforts on AR so that users can continue to experience virtual elements but without being separated from the real realm.

In the future, no devices will support Daydream even though the headsets will continue working while the Android app will be available on the Play Store for existing users.

Raise to Talk and Hold my Phone

Before the Pixel 4 launch, a couple of tentative Google Assistant features were spotted that could have made their way to the new smartphones. These include Raise to talk, which lets users continue conversations with the Google Assistant simply by lifting the phone up as an alternative to saying the wake words or squeezing the edges again. Additionally, “Hold my Phone” is a feature accessible from the call menu and it makes the Google Assistant inform you when the call has been resumed after you were put on hold. Neither of these features have been spotted yet.

Desktop mode

The Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL also seem to be lacking support for any desktop mode similar to the Samsung DeX. At Google I/O 2019, the team working on a native desktop mode did talk about new APIs that allow using an external display as the second monitor as well as customize Android apps to work on a bigger screen. However, as Mishaal noted the HDMI-out function did not seem to be working initially, so it looks like, the feature is absent.

RCS compatibility

Certain operators may not be empathetic with Google’s plans to make cross-platform RCS messaging available to all users as early as possible. Android Police spotted that T-Mobile will not support RCS messaging on the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL at the time of its launch.

4K at 60fps

The Pixel 4 duo may be one of the best smartphones for photography but it is still lagging behind in terms of video. The new smartphones will continue to lack 60fps recording at 4K resolution and the feature is limited to 1080p. On the front camera, the video recording is limited to 1080p at 30fps and you’re definitely not getting those iPhone 11 Slofies.

Update: Google explained in a tweet why they don’t support 4K at 60fps. Basically, they don’t think enough people use it.

Front camera autofocus

While Google is taking a big leap by adding a second camera with 2x telephoto capabilities on the back, it has taken a step backward with the front camera. While the Pixel 3 had dual front cameras, including a primary camera with autofocus and a wide-angle sensor, the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL have single selfie cameras with fixed focus. As per the official spec sheet, the front-facing camera is a fixed focus similar to the Pixel 3a. We don’t know whether this is because Google needed more space in the forehead to accommodate the sensors for face unlock and Soli RADAR tech or simply a decision from the sales perspective. If you’re a selfie buff, you’re likely to be disappointed by the limitations.

Box Accessories and Availability

Last year, the Pixel 3 series came with a few extra goodies in the box. Google included a nice pair of USB-C earbuds that work really well with Google Assistant. They also included a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter for anyone who misses the headphone jack. However, the Pixel 4 doesn’t come with either of those things. Here’s what comes in the box:

  • 18 W USB-C power adapter
  • 1 m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Quick Switch Adapter
  • SIM tool

It’s common for a phone not to come with headphones, but the lack of a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is sure to annoy some people.

The Google Support page gives us the full list of countries where the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are available: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the U.S. India is not on that list and Google has already confirmed the device won’t be coming to the country. Motion Sense won’t be available at launch in Japan, but it will be coming in the Spring of 2020.

Speaking of Motion Sense gestures, what if you travel to a country where they aren’t supported? Motion Sense will automatically be disabled in those situations, as explained in this help page.

The flashy “Oh So Orange” model is limited edition and it appears to already be sold out in most places. Bummer.

Carrier Offers

  • AT&T – $300 in bill credits to current customers for trading in an old phone. $700 for customers who switch carriers and trade in an old phone.
  • Google Fi – $100 Fi service credits.
  • Spectrum Mobile – $200 toward a new device.
  • T-Mobile – Free Pixel 4 or $800 off a Pixel 4 XL for switching carriers and trading in a Pixel 3 or Pixel 2.
  • Sprint – Lease one Pixel 4/4XL and get a second for free.
  • Verizon – Buy one, get one free on a monthly Unlimited plan. $450 off for trading in an eligible phone. $200 prepaid Mastercard for switching carriers.
  • Visible – $200 prepaid Mastercard for switching carriers.

Update 1 (10/17/19 @ 11:01 AM EST): Removed details about the ambient music ticker on the lock screen as it isn’t new.

Update 2 (10/17/19 @ 3:51 PM EST): Added details about the new Google Assistant requiring the use of Android 10 gestures and Face Unlock working when your eyes are closed.

Update 3 (10/19/19 @ 12:10 PM EST): Removed the part about automatic updates overnight as it isn’t new. Thanks to Artem Russakovski from AndroidPolice for pointing this out! Also updated to mention that the new Assistant requires that there not be any G Suite accounts on the device.

About author

Tushar Mehta
Tushar Mehta

I am a Senior Editor at XDA. I have been reviewing gadgets for over five years and gained experience by working for prominent tech publications in India before joining XDA. I enjoy fiddling with all smart objects and my love for software customization dates back to the Symbian S60 days. I like to devote my spare time idealizing the romantic union of technology and philosophy or spacing out on Pink Floyd. You may email me at [email protected]

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