The Best Android Experience With Pixels 4 And 4 Xl – Its Pixel 4 times. You know the drill. Two sizes, three colors, two storage options, a million leaks, Google software, a perfect camera, the whole Pixel deal. It’s high expectations, in other words. The Pixel 4 is the flagship. It’s what Google says Android should be. It also wants it to be like the default Android phone. Plus, this is the first year that Google is selling it on all four major US carriers. So, we expect it to be good enough to really start selling in significant volume.
But it’s not selling in India. I guess I didn’t expect that. Anyway, the point is, the Pixel is all about expectations. You knew what to expect because everything leaked. But now that it’s here, can it live up to those expectations, especially when it starts at $799 and goes up to 1,000? Let’s get into it.
Google Pixel 4 Design
If we’re talking about design, we just have to say it out loud at the start. The Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11 look kinda the same. It’s not only funny, but it’s also almost uncanny. They both have matte glass on some models and glossy on other models.
Both have the square camera bump. And have some weird stuff at the top of their screens. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I see the differences. Which one looks better to you is a matter of taste. The Pixel has these pronounced matte rails on the side. It’s not trying to hide them or polish them away. They’re the central part of the look of this phone. The matte rails make it easier to grip too. So far, I think the whole thing is a little bit less scratch-prone than Pixel 3 was. Whatever.
I still love the color pop on the power button. I still think the black one is the most boring. But you know what, they all look the same when you put ’em in a case anyway. But before you put ’em in a case, take a second to appreciate that this is the best build quality Google has ever done on the phone.
Okay. Let’s talk about the forehead. It’s there. It’s funny-looking, and it’s not symmetrical. Samsung’s hole-punch probably looks a little bit better, or a Notch would give you just a little bit more screen to put status bar stuff, but the Notch kinda looks goofy. Can we just stop having these arguments? Unless you want stuff popping out of the top of your phone with motors, maybe you do, there’s gonna be stuff at the top of your screen. I think this looks okay. I’ve gotten used to it.
Google Pixel 4 Face unlock
Face unlock on the Pixel 4 uses infrared projectors just like the iPhone. Just like on the iPhone, it looks super wild when you point a real infrared camera at it. It has a decent field of view, but it’s maybe not quite as wide as the iPhone 11’s.
The infrared means that it works in the dark and the system is designed to detect depth. So I wasn’t able to track it with a video or a photo of myself. Maybe it could be tricked with a mask, though. I don’t know. But if you’re worried about somebody making a life-like mask of you, maybe you should look at other things that are going on with your life.
One thing you should know is that it doesn’t do the extra security step of making sure that you’re looking at it. That means if you’re asleep, someone could just point it at you and unlock it because it works with your eyes closed. So, only sleep around people you trust? I mean, I don’t know. That’s just good life advice.
Anyway, once it’s set up, it just works like you would expect it to. It unlocks the phone, and it can also authenticate Google Pay or bank apps or whatever. You just point your face at it, and it opens. It’s fast, like a swift. It’s at least as fast as the iPhone. I wanna talk about why it feels so soon. But before I get there, let’s talk about radar.
You’ve heard it, right? The Pixel 4 has a radar chip up top. It’s a Project Soli chip, but the feature is called motion sense. It’s the thing that I’m sure everybody is going to say is a little flaky because it is a bit flaky. You can wave your hand left or right to go back or forward if you use it like a podcast is playing. You can also shake your hand to dismiss phone calls or snooze alarms. It’s the most prominent, most engaging feature of motion sensors. That’s why it’s a bummer that it’s the flakiest part.
There are times where it works every time. I don’t even have to think about it. I’m just keeping my eyes on my computer or whatever, and I’m flicking away songs that I don’t want. But then it doesn’t work, and I’m like, “what? Also, why?”. There have been gestures on phones before, and nobody used them.
I think these gestures are gonna fare slightly better because they don’t hit your battery life, and you can just be a little bit more flippant with your gestures when you use them. But you know what, feel free to be annoyed with them or just ignore them completely. It’s cool. It’s cool because even if Google just took those gestures away entirely. I would still be glad that Soli is on this phone because of the other two things that it does.
The first is it detects your presence. It just knows if you’re nearby. When you walk away, the always-on screen turns off. That’s cool. It actually works really well. The other thing that works really well is to reach. The phone knows if you’re reaching for it, and it can do stuff when that happens. So, if a ringtone or alarm is blaring, it quiets down when your hand gets near it. So you can look at the phone and then decide what you wanna do, wave it away, or whatever. And if the screen is off and you reach for it, it lights up the face unlock cameras and starts looking for you.
That is part of the reason why face unlocks feel so fast. It is a split second more quickly than the accelerometer method that the iPhone uses. Google also defaults to going straight into the phone instead of unlocking to the lock screen, which makes it feel even faster yet.
Oh, by the way, if you want, you can keep the lock screen and then have to swipe up to get into the phone. That’s helpful if you use your phone mainly through notifications as I do. Oh (laughs), also, there’s Pokemon. Yes, there’s Pokemon wallpaper. It is adorable. It’s also useful because you can show weather conditions on top of the Pokemon. You can wave them, or you can pet at them.
Look, I have seen people say that they would prefer an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and I am saying that face unlocks unequivocally better. Maybe in a year or two, they’ll do both the fingerprint and face open, but I’m not asking for it.
Google Pixel 4 Camera
Okay. It’s camera time, and I know what you’re here for. You wanna know whether or not the Pixel 4 took the best smartphone camera crown back from the iPhone 11 Pro. Let me tell you why that’s complicated. Now I’m reviewing the Pixel, and I have to say that Apple’s Deep Fusion’s sweater mode software upgrade is right around the corner. So, I have to mention it. It’s practically diabolical, and it means that I can’t make a definitive judgment right now.
Look, if you force me to pick one right now, I have to admit that the iPhone 11 Pro gives you much more versatility. It has an ultra-wide camera for taking more phone photos, and it’s way better at the video. But when it comes to photo photography and night mode and all of that still, I do think there are a lot of useful things to talk about with these two cameras. Plus, the Pixel has a few new features that we need to talk about, especially now that it has a second telephoto lens.
All right. Next, let’s talk about telephoto. You see, Google chose a telephoto lens instead of an ultra-wide lens or, you know, just giving us both for some reason. But the main reason is, Google thinks that it can use its super zoom tech along with that second 2X lens to make zoom way better. You know what? It’s way better. So, what have we learned?
The Pixel wins on zoom. The iPhone gets detail better sometimes, but it is a little bit yellower. The Pixel gets the color balance better on the whole, though, and it is more opinionated. The Pixel has a look, and it consistently gets that look.
What about night mode? You can kind of get either one to make a better photo. It’s a little bit of a crapshoot. The iPhone’s multiple frames use more prolonged exposure, so it can get a little bit more detail on still objects, but it messes up moving ones.
All right. What about portrait mode? The Pixel uses the second telephoto lens to improve portrait mode, and it is better than it was before, but I still think it’s not up to the iPhone’s standard, which has a better gradual drop-off, and it also manages the hair better in the photo. The other feature is astrophotography.
Now the Pixel has a new feature that lets you adjust the shadows of HDR+ along with the photo’s overall brightness. It’s an extra slider basically. Once you get how it works, you can take a picture from meh to really good.
There’s only one selfie camera, which I’m kinda sad about. Cause I really did like the ultra-wide selfie camera last year. But Google did set the field of view on this selfie camera to 90 degrees. Which is a little bit wider than usual, and that helps. It’s a good selfie camera because Google is good at software. Once again, it gets that very consistent Pixel look.
Finally, and you knew this was coming, Google has some catching up to do with the video. You can get excellent footage. But you max out at 4K 30P on the rear camera and 1080 on the front. Apple and Samsung are just way ahead of Google when it comes to video. Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned the camera hardware specs, like, at all?
I mean, here they are, but they’re not that different except for the existence of the second lens. Though I do hear that the sensor is a little bit less noisy this year. Google is still using custom silicon, but now it’s the Pixel Neural Core.
That’s why you can see the HDR+ preview in the viewfinder. It also speeds up a few other operations. But the truth is, the whole story now is software. And Apple caught up, which means that on a technical level. These cameras are basically equivalent, but they’re making different choices about how they take and process photos.
You’re dealing with different cameras having different aesthetics. This is basically Nikon versus Canon or Kodak versus Fuji for film nerds, I don’t know. They both look nice, but they’re definitely different. Now, will Apple’s Deep Fusion change that when it arrives?
I kinda doubt it. I played it within the beta a little, but until it actually comes out, it’s just not fair for anybody to make that judgment. What I can tell you is that both phones are great, but the Pixel has a look, and it nails it almost every time while the iPhone is just a little bit more neutral. I still think that my RX100 camera takes better photos than either of them. But the Pixel and the iPhone take better pictures than any other phone. The camera still shouldn’t drive your purchase decision between these two phones, but if you care mainly about the video, the Pixel 4 is probably not for you.
Google Pixel 4 Specs And Performance
Once your phone hits a certain level of speed, once it feels more than fast enough for most stuff. The most critical performance spec is actually battery life. You can have the fastest processor or the highest resolution screen, but it won’t matter if your battery dies. The battery life on the smaller Pixel 4 is not great, Bob.
I’ve averaged like four hours of screen time every day, which is not enough. It’s about what I was getting on the Pixel 3. You could get through a whole day by using it less intensively and staying in dark mode, reducing screen brightness, and turning off the 90-hertz display option. All that is just a recipe for battery anxiety.
You shouldn’t have to think about all of that. The 2,800-milliamp battery is not enough. Luckily with the Pixel 4 XL, you don’t really have to worry as much. It should go a full day for most people on the 3,700-milliamp battery without having to do a whole bunch of tweaks. But when it comes to actual performance stuff, it’s okay. But the main thing is Google went with six gigs of RAM, which means that apps aren’t closing in the background on me as often, which thank God.
Anyway, look, there’s no getting around it. You will find Android phones with better specs. That has just never been what the Pixel is about. It’s about a cleaner, more excellent overall experience. Really, the Pixel 4 makes Android 10 just make way more sense to me now. The two things were really designed for each other.
Google Pixel 4 Screen
The best part of that experience is the screen. It’s really good with subtle angles and excellent color, but it is a little bit too dim, especially in bright sunlight. Google also says that it can change the color temperature based on the color in the room that it’s in kinda like Apple’s True Tone. Google calls it Ambient EQ, but you know what, it’s so subtle that I can hardly see it. But the main thing that I love about this screen is the new smooth display feature that lets the refresh rate go at 90 hertz.
You notice it the most when you scroll. It just makes Android feel smoother and less janky. Google does say that it drops down to 60 hertz when it’s not needed to save battery life. So, we got that going for us. Now the other reason that the Pixel just feels faster and more beautiful is that it’s way, way better at understanding spoken English. Google loaded its entire model for understanding English into the Pixel Neural Core, so it doesn’t have to ask the Internet to transcribe your speech for you.
It speeds up everything. It has me using the Google Assistant more because I trust that it’ll go faster. This seems like a small thing, but it really does change the vibe of the phone. So, when I need to talk to the Google Assistant, I just point my face at it to make sure it’s unlocked, and then I say, “hey google.”
But before, I’d have to pick it up and hit the fingerprint sensor. Now it’s just so much better, except when it’s not better because, for some reason, if you have a G Suite account on your phone, even if it’s not the primary Google account for your Android phone, you don’t get access to the new Assistant. Hopefully, Google will fix this problem or at least explain why because it’s super annoying.
Now that the Pixel 4 is better at language, it can also do live caption, which makes captions on any video that you’re watching on the phone. It even works with the sound completely off. Just remember to turn it off when you’re not using it because it can eat up battery life. They also added a new record app, and it does live transcriptions. It works pretty well. There are a few missed words here or there, but it’s more than good enough for you to go back and search for that one thing that you’re looking for.
The thing that you can’t get from the leaks or the specs or even the early impressions is what it’s like to just use the Pixel 4. You have this expectation, this perception of what the phone is. But the Pixel 4 is actually a little different from other Android phones because it feels like a more complete experience.
You pay for that experience, though. It’s 799 for the small one with 64 gigs. The big one is 100 bucks more. And you have to pay 100 dollars more on either one for 128 gigs of storage. In a world where the iPhone 11 costs 699 and the OnePlus T costs 600 bucks, that’s a lot.
Plus, Google stopped giving out free original quality photo uploads for Google Photos to Pixel users, which means that you’re probably gonna need to start paying for a Google One cloud storage. The Pixel 4 and the 4 XL, they ain’t cheap. Is it worth that much money?
Here’s my calculus. Face unlock is just better than a fingerprint because it skips the step of having to tap a thing to get into your phone. The voice recognition skips a phase of having to ask the Internet to figure out what it was, you just said. Motion sense makes the phone react to you just a little before you even touch it.
The smooth display is just more seamless. And the camera is better than any other Android phone, and it matches the iPhone 11 Pro in a lot of ways. It might not be faster on paper than other Android phones, but the Pixel 4 feels faster. It feels more seamless.
Now there are issues. The battery life and the video quality in both of them could be a lot better. But I can tell you that I enjoy using the Pixel more than other Android phones because all those little improvements, they really do add up. The Pixel 4 is the best example yet of why specs don’t tell you the whole story about whether or not an Android phone is actually any good because the Pixel 4 is perfect.