Google Pixel 4 review: Google’s problematic child

Google Pixel 4

Google’s Pixel line of smartphones has built a well-deserved reputation for being the best Android alternative to Apple’s iPhone. Matching premium build and materials with the Pure Google software experience and a stellar camera has been a winning formula.

Just this year, Google released the low-priced but exceptionally specced Google Pixel 3a, which cut corners on build and materials but maintained the great camera and features. Then, something weird happened: Google launched (read: leaked) the Pixel 4.

The leak on the specs and most of the features of the Google Pixel 4, which was to be the ultimate device to take on the iPhone, was met by the smartphone crowd with typical surprise and fanfare. But perhaps what shocked people more is the Pixel 4’s design; it was a straight copy of the iPhone 11, complete with a square-circle multi-camera enclosure at the rear. Coincidence? Not likely. It’s weird that Google would develop its own design language and aesthetic for over four years just to outright copy a competitor.

Google Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 removes fingerprint scanning and introduces a new Face Unlock. This feature even has new Soli sensors that allow for hands-free gestures for those occasions when your hands are dirty or when you don’t want to touch the screen to swipe to the next song, email, or photos. The problem is that the Pixel 4’s Face Unlock feature is super buggy that it barely works. Without a backup option like a fingerprint sensor, users now only have the option of keying in a PIN or password to secure their phones.

The Pixel 4 has some early battery issues; it barely lasts a day. Given it has a beautiful 5.7- inch FHD+ OLED display with 90Hz refresh rate, it’s inexcusable for a flagship-level device like this to have such poor battery life. Consider that Google makes the software and the hardware for the Pixel 4 and this deficiency is even more baffling.

Google Pixel 4

Camera performance has always been the Pixel phone’s key feature. The Pixel 4 continues on this track and now offers dual cameras that work as a single unit. This new camera enhances digital zoom and also adds more coverage for the Night Mode feature. In my tests, the Pixel 4 camera offered an incremental upgrade from the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3a. However, given that Google is releasing a camera update for older Pixels that will bring them closer to the functionality of the Pixel 4, the camera is no longer the big selling point for this device.

Google Pixel 4 specs

  • OS: Android 10
  • DISPLAY: 5.7” 1080 x 2280 FHD+ P-OLED, 444ppi
  • CPU: 2.84GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
  • GPU: Adreno 640
  • STORAGE: 64/128GB built-in
  • CAMERA: 12MP + 16MP rear, 8MP front
  • CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC, USB Type-C
  • DIMENSIONS: 147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm, 162g
  • PRICE: $799 (64GB); $899 (128GB)

Speed says

In the past years, I was effusive about what Pixel devices had to offer and loved the
simplicity and clean design of the line. However, the Google Pixel 4 is a bit of a mess
and is a hard-pass for me as a device worth considering in 2019. There’s very little
outside of its camera tech that makes it a good option.

Words Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
First published in Speed Magazine December 2019 issue

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