Google’s new smartphone is almost here. If you want to see the Google Pixel 4 being officially revealed then watch the Made by Google event on October 15 and follow our coverage here at Digital Trends. We’re expecting to see a Pixel 4, a Pixel 4 XL, and maybe a Pixel 4 XL 5G, alongside a handful of other devices and a lot of software innovation. At this stage, so much has been leaked already that it may be quicker to talk about what we don’t know.
Beyond the official teasers from Google that have given us glimpses of a square dual-lens camera on the back, fresh color schemes, and an interesting new front-facing camera with a motion sensor capable of facial recognition for phone unlocking and air gestures, we’ve also seen hands-on videos of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, detailed spec sheets, and more.
We’ve gathered everything we just mentioned together for you, along with everything else we think we know about Google’s new phones, so let’s take a closer look.
What will the Pixel 4 look like? Google surprised us back in June by tweeting a photo of the back of the Pixel 4 which shows off a square camera module on the back. The company confirmed to Digital Trends that the image is “the real deal” and it’s clear Google has made changes compared to previous Pixel phones. In the camera bump, it looks as though there are two camera lenses, whereas previous releases have all stuck with a single lens in that main camera. Not only that, but the image shows that the company is ditching the two-tone look for the Pixel 4. All previous Pixels had a matte section at the bottom and a glossier look at the top. There’s also no sign of a fingerprint sensor on the back of the new phone.
— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) June 12, 2019
Google only showed off the backside of the Pixel 4 to begin with, but we already knew the front would contain face-sensing tech powered by Google’s Project Soli chip. That was confirmed at the end of July when Google released a video showing a woman unlock the Pixel 4 with her face and then swipe through content with a wave of her hand. We’ll dig into the front-facing camera and motion sensor in more detail later on.
Recently, the packaging of the device leaked too — along with the accessories in the box. Along with the phone itself, you’ll get an 18W USB-C charger, a charging cable, and a USB-C to USB-A adapter. Unlike other devices, there are no headphones in the box, nor is there a headphone adapter for the USB-C port. The leak was first published to Reddit by user mseven97.
A flurry of leaks from accessory manufacturers all confirmed the square camera module on the back and the large bezel on the front at the top of the screen. But our clearest look at the new phone came courtesy of Evan Blass, known as @evleaks on Twitter, who frequently posts reliable intel and photos of new phones ahead of their official releases.
Alongside the “Oh So Orange,” he also posted renders of a “Just Black” handset and a “Clearly White” variant. Assuming these renders are legit, we can see that the camera module is going to protrude very slightly at the back, and that there’s going to be a sizable top bezel to accommodate the front-facing camera and sensor array. We can also see that Google is sticking with a colored power button as a highlight on the right edge with the volume rocker further down, that the SIM tray is on the left edge, and that the frame and corners of the screen are gently curved.
Multiple Pixel 4 hands-on video leaks posted to YouTube confirm the design. It appears that the glass back will have a textured matte finish that should help to prevent fingerprints and smudges from accumulating.
With a Pixel 4 and a Pixel 4 XL, we’re obviously getting two different sizes of the phone. While the underlying tech has remained the same in previous releases, the two sizes of Pixel phones have had slightly different screen designs in the past, with the Pixel 3 XL embracing a notch, while the Pixel 3 did not. Everything we’ve seen so far suggests that the new phones will have the same design this time around with a large top bezel above the screen, but they will have different screen sizes.
A spec sheet posted by 9to5Google suggests that the Pixel 4 will have a 5.7-inch, Full HD+ display, and the Pixel 4 XL will have a 6.3-inch, Quad HD+ display. Both will be OLED. If true, the Pixel 4 has a larger display than the Pixel 3, but a body that’s only slightly larger, which Google has achieved by shrinking the bezels. The Pixel 4 XL’s display looks to be more or less the same size as the Pixel 3 XL’s, but with a slightly taller, thinner body. Happily, the ugly notch seems to have been expunged.
That all sounds perfectly plausible.
What’s more exciting is the revelation that the screens will run at up to 90Hz. The so-called “Smooth Display” in the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will reportedly run at 90 frames per second instead of 60, which should make for a much smoother and more responsive experience. So far, 90Hz displays have typically only been included on gaming phones, though OnePlus has also embraced the trend in the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OnePlus 7T.
You can see the 90Hz display being demonstrated with PUBG Mobile in the video above if you skip to the three-minute mark.
While it’s no surprise to find that Google is likely using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor in its new phones, just like almost every other Android flagship this year, there are some interesting tidbits on the leaked spec sheet.
It looks as though RAM is getting a major bump over last year’s phones going from 4GB up to 6GB, which should make for better memory management and multitasking. The phones will be available in 64GB and 128GB variants, they’ll have stereo speakers, and they’ll charge via USB-C. We assume they’ll also support Qi wireless charging. Alarmingly the battery size in the Pixel 4 appears to be smaller than the capacity of the Pixel 3, which frequently gave us battery anxiety, so we have to hope that efficiency improvements will counterbalance that. Interestingly, the Pixel 4 XL appears to have an extra 270mAh of capacity, so it will likely be the Pixel to choose if you want stamina.
The other thing that jumps out here is the “Pixel Neural Core” which we assume is an updated version of Google’s Pixel Visual Core and something that will no doubt enable new A.I. features, such as what we saw Google Assistant do back at Google I/O.
There have been a series of apparent marketing videos leaked that show the new capabilities of Google Assistant on the Pixel 4 and how the air gestures, called Motion Sense, will work — more on that below.
Smartphones like the Google Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3a established Google’s dominance of smartphone photography, but Apple fought back with the iPhone 11 range and Google has some work to do to reclaim the best camera phone title. It appears as though the main camera in the new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will have two lenses.
The 9to5Google report says there’s a 12-megapixel “Dual-Pixel” sensor, paired with a 16-megapixel telephoto lens. That means the new camera will likely be able to zoom in and the dual-lens setup should enable an even better bokeh effect, where the subject is in sharp relief and the background is blurred.
A promo video that leaked on September 9 also showed off the Pixel 4’s astrophotography features, which enable it to take better photos of stars at night.
Digging into the video leaks a bit more, the main camera in the Pixel 4 seems to have a 12.2-megapixel lens, just like its predecessors, but the aperture may be slightly bigger at f/1.73, which should let in more light for better night-time performance. It also looks like the front-facing camera will just be a single 8.1-megapixel lens with an f/2.0 aperture. The Pixel 3 had a dual-lens, front-facing camera with a second 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle lens to enable you to cram more background into your selfies or fit more people in with group selfies, which we appreciated, so it will be a shame if Google cuts back, although we’re sure the sensor array will make up for it with some new tricks.
Google confirmed that the Pixel 4 will be the first phone to use Project Soli, the company’s new gesture-recognition technology. The tech works by using radar to detect gestures, and can be used to control music playback, snooze alarms, silence calls, and more — and this new feature will be called Motion Sense.
Motion Sense appears to work in a similar way to the air gestures on the LG G8 ThinQ and Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus — essentially, wave your hand in a specified way and the phone will react accordingly. The hope is that Google has implemented these gestures in a way that doesn’t feel gimmicky and actually adds value to the phone. Motion Sense will reportedly be launching with support for nine music apps on launch (including Spotify and Pandora), immediately boosting the usefulness of the feature.
We also now have confirmation Motion Sense will be available in 38 countries on launch, with notable exceptions being Japan, New Zealand, India, and Australia.
Motion Sense is most likely why Google is giving the Pixel 4 a larger forehead. In a blog post, the company showed off the array of sensors that will be found in the Pixel 4, including infrared sensors, dot projectors, the Soli radar chip, and more. The trade-off, of course, is that the Pixel 4 may have a slightly dated design.
The Pixel 4 will also include facial-recognition technology, which allows you to unlock your phone with your face, like Apple’s Face ID. According to Google, however, the facial-recognition tech in the Pixel 4 will be a little more convenient than other phones. For example, the Project Soli chip will be able to detect that you’re reaching for your phone and activate the facial-recognition sensors, which could help cut out seconds off the facial-recognition process. It also won’t require any swipe or slide to unlock after it recognizes you.
We assume the introduction of advanced facial recognition tech means that the Pixel 4 will not have a fingerprint scanner, and there’s no sign of one in any of the leaks we’ve seen.
Will there be a Pixel 4 5G?
A total of four Pixel models were submitted for FCC approval, and some of them have requested the high-frequency band that’s used in Project Soli, which is the mmWave band that some 5G networks employ, sparking the idea that a 5G Pixel 4 may be in the works. Interestingly, the phones listed have model numbers that seem to follow on from the Pixel 3a budget phones that were launched earlier this year, so perhaps they denote new versions of Google’s budget range. Could Google be planning to release a Pixel 4a and 4a XL alongside the regular Pixel 4 and 4 XL? The model numbers include G020I, G020J, G020MN, and G020PQ.
To throw further fuel on the rumor fire of a 5G Pixel, there’s this Geekbench result which is listed as a Google Pixel 4 XL 5G, though it has been flagged as inaccurate. The device also appears to have a Snapdragon 855 processor and 8GB of RAM.
It’s probably best to remain skeptical about the possibility of a Pixel 4 5G for now.
A previous rumor about the Pixel 4 is that it could have much better dual SIM support, according to a Google engineer who posted comments on code for the Android Open Source Project. He noted that the device may have better support for dual SIMs, which will likely mean it will be able to connect to two cellular networks at once. It’s not surprising to see Google add dual SIM support for the Pixel 4, but how it ends up working could be very different from previous Pixel phones. The Pixel 2 and the Pixel 3 have both an eSIM and a physical SIM tray, but they can’t be used at the same time.
On the Google Pixel 4, Google could include two SIM card slots, or space for two SIM cards on the one tray — though that will still require a few software tweaks. More likely is that Google would include an eSIM, or an electronic SIM that can be connected to different networks through software, on top of the physical SIM tray.
Because the Pixel 2 and 3 already have both an eSIM and physical SIM, it’s possible the feature could roll out as part of a software update that would bring the functionality to the older phones. Google appears to be testing ways for stock Android to handle dual SIM cards. There are two ways the company could go about it. One of those ways is called “Dual SIM Dual Active,” in which both SIM cards can be used at any time. The other is called “Dual SIM Dual Standby,” where the second SIM isn’t always active, but can receive calls and texts.
Dual-SIM functionality is relatively important to a lot of people, especially those who travel a lot. With a dual SIM, users can keep their regular SIM installed in their device, while also connecting to a second local network to use while they’re in a different country.
There are still a lot of things we don’t know about the forthcoming Pixel 4 — will there be an in-display fingerprint sensor, is the front-facing camera a single lens, and, perhaps most importantly, what will it cost? You can be sure to find the latest news and in-depth coverage of the Made by Google event right here and we’ll update this article as we hear more about the upcoming Google Pixel 4.
Updated on October 4, 2019: Added a range of new leaks including renders of the Pixel 4 and a spec sheet.