6 Months with the Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4 was released in October 2019; it was the anticipated follow-up to the Pixel 3, which has continued to be a favorite for many Android users due to its solid hardware, amazing cameras, and the stock Android experience. 6 months have passed since the Pixel 4’s release. Did you buy one? Has it lived up to your expectations?

6 Months with the Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 series is available in two sizes; the 4 with a 5.7″ display or the 4XL with a 6.3″ display. Both models come with 6GB RAM and either 64GB or 128GB user memory. Pricing starts at $799 for the 64GB Pixel 4 and $899 for the 64GB Pixel 4XL, and both are available in just black, clearly white, or the limited edition ‘oh so orange’. Tejas and I have the 4XL, and Mike and Wayne have the 4; this is our experience.

Judie: I want to preface this review by saying that up until November 2018, the iPhone XS Max was my daily driver. While on a media trip in October, Myriam Joire showed me the superior front and rear portrait camera capabilities of the Google Pixel 3 XL. Like some geek version of kismet, shortly after I returned home, I received an email inviting me to join Google’s Team Pixel Micro-Influencer Program. Within a week of receiving the Pixel 3 XL, it had become my daily driver, and the iPhone (that I was still making payments on) was left lying facedown on my desk. Over the next year, the Pixel 3 XL solidified itself as one of my most favorite phones ever, so you can imagine my anticipation when the 4 XL was announced.

Included in the box were the Google Pixel 4 XL, a USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable, a USB Type-A to USB Type-C adapter, and a wall charging block. With the 4 series, Google did not include the pair of USB Type-C earphones or the 3.5mm to USB Type-C dongle that had come with the Pixel 3 models: I’m okay with that, but others might be disappointed.

The Google Pixel 4 measures 5.7″ long by 2.7″ wide by 0.3″ thick, and it weighs 5.7 ounces. The Pixel 4 XL measures 6.3″ long by 2.9″ wide by 0.3″ thick, and it weighs 6.8 ounces. You can check out all of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL specifications here.

As mentioned, I have the 4 XL, so we’ll be using that device for the walk-around. One of the things that I really like about the Pixel 4 series is that the hardware isn’t the slick, glass slab fingerprint magnet that we have grown accustomed to with just about every other phone on the market. The orange and white Pixel 4 devices have a soft touch (matte) Gorilla Glass 5 glass back, while the black version has a slick Gorilla Glass 5 back. All Pixel 4s have a Gorilla Glass 5 front, and the frame is aluminum that has been coated in a grippy material. Pixel 4s are IP68 dust and water-resistant, which is great if you like to use your phone by the pool. The overall impression it gives is that of a solidly built smartphone.

There are no buttons on the front of the device; the speaker that was at the bottom of the 3 series has been relocated to the bottom of the phone, and the display is solid with the exception of the small ear speaker at the top.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 houses a lot of tech at the top of its display including an infrared face-unlock camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, a MotionSense radar chip, a speaker, a face unlock dot projector, a second face-unlock camera, and a face-unlock flood illuminator. To make it all fit, there is no longer a notch at the top; instead, there is now a 0.4″ bezel at the top of the screen. If you aren’t used to seeing all that extra bezel around your display, it can be … unnerving.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

There is a microphone located on the top of the phone.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

On the right side, there is a power button (orange) and a volume rocker button (black).

6 Months with the Pixel 4

On the left side, there is a SIM tray.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

On the bottom, there is a microphone, USB Type-C port, and a speaker.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

On the back, a square-shaped array holds the spectral and flicker sensor above the rear-facing cameras (a 12.2-megapixel dual-pixel that has auto-focus with dual-pixel phase detection, as well as a 16-megapixel telephoto camera that has auto-focus with phase detection), an LED flash, and a microphone.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

Impressions During Use

Tejas: One of the trademark features of Google’s Pixel line is the clean software and smooth user experience. In my experience, as powerful as Samsung phones have gotten lately, there was always some micro stutter or unnatural feeling to using them when you compare to say the iPhone. Similar to the Pixel 3XL, the Pixel 4XL provides the most fluid and polished user experience on an Android phone. It’s clean, fast, and free of extra stuff that you will likely never use. If I had to describe it in one sentence, I’d say it’s the iPhone of the Android world when it comes to user experience.

One of the things that’s rarely mentioned, but that’s one of my favorite features on Pixel phones, is the haptic engine. This is the little part in the phone that provides the feedback with vibrations when you type or phone rings etc. Where the Pixel phones really stand out is how crisp and precise these haptics are when interacting with the phone. It really is a really great feeling and makes the phone a joy to use – especially when typing. This is one of those things that even Samsung phones (the S10, for example) struggle with, and once you’ve used a Pixel you will get spoiled.

Software updates are a sore topic for most Android users and rightfully so. You don’t know when or if your phone will get an update which can be frustrating. This is, of course, has been the ace up the Pixel’s sleeve. Google has a history of pushing a monthly update to all Pixel phones every first Monday of each month — like clockwork and without fail. Once you get used to this, you really start to appreciate the fact that at most you have to wait a few weeks for the next patch which might bring a fix or feature you’re waiting for. Further, all Pixels come with 3 years of OS updates, and they always launch with the newest OS (Pixel 4 launched with Android 10,) so given the yearly cadence of new OS releases your Pixel 4 should get updates up to Android 13! Also, Google has done things like continuing to give updates to Pixel 1 users, even though its original support date has passed. Point being, that you never have to worry about software updates or running the latest OS on a Pixel.

Judie: That absolutely was the case when I was using the Pixel 3XL, but I’ve noticed that updates haven’t always been quite as regular since I got the 4 XL, starting with the November 2019 update. There have been a few other months where I didn’t have an update waiting for me by the 5th, and there have also been some months where Tejas, for example, would let us know that he’d been able to download an update while I still had to wait a few more days for it to appear. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal, but it is a minor annoyance.

One feature that the Pixel offers that has absolutely ruined me for every other phone is Call Screen. When someone from any number calls you, you get an option to Decline, Screen Call, or Answer; this is so helpful on calls from unknown numbers! Hitting Screen Call opens a dialogue where a script is read to your caller telling them that you use a screening service from Google and asking your caller to say their name and why they are calling. Their reply will be transcribed on your screen, and you will have the option to report the call as spam, ask them to tell you more, or you can answer or hang up. I love this feature! 8 times out of 10, the caller will hang up. Every now and then I’ll get a legit caller that I’ll answer after the screening, and they often want to know what service I’m using that allows me to screen calls like that. It’s Google magic!

Mike: For context, I need to have two phones between personal and work, and over the course of 2019 my primary phones had been the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Google Pixel 3 (bought on a massive sale), Apple iPhone XS Max, and the Galaxy Note 10+. I have also spent a bunch of time with my wife’s new iPhone 11 Pro Max – and of course, now I have the Google Pixel 4. All of these are great phones, but there is a clear hierarchy – and the Pixel 4 is at the bottom due to the combination of high price and functionality problems.

One of the key things that attracted me to the Pixel 3 was how much it reminded me of an Android version of the iPhone 7, which I loved.  From the physical design, the focus on the camera, and the tighter software update schedules, it was clear what Google was going for. The Pixel 4 continues that trend in every way – from the FaceID to the expanded use of gestures and more. Google has really doubled down on implementing last year’s hot features on the latest Pixel while dismissing any features it chose not to include.

Wayne: Ok, so the marquee feature of Pixel 4/4XL is new Google Assistant which took quite a while to finally show up for G-Suite users like me. Now that it’s here, I am not 100% sold there’s a significant enough difference to sway me to purchase a Pixel solely to get the new Google Assistant.

I waited a long(ish) time to get the December 2019 security update which enabled some Pixel features (photo blur) that despite a lot of speculation did indeed seem to require both the security update AND program updates. It seems like Google listened to quite a bit of user grumbling about this, and subsequent updates have been much faster.

I’m still upset that the new Google Assistant didn’t work immediately with G-Suite account holders. Couldn’t Google have some type of flag for us to set which indicates to “treat G-Suite as a regular account”?

Judie: The Pixel 4 series is the first to use Google’s Motion Sense, which is a recognition system that uses that new radar chip. It opens up the possibility of controlling your phone with hand gestures — like waving your hand across the display to switch tracks in the music player — because the phone is able to detect those gestures as well as the user’s proximity to the phone. I have to admit though, that I don’t ever use this feature.

Mike: When I took the Pixel 4 out of the box, it was love at first touch! I loved the feel of the Pixel 3, and by adding the grippable edges on the Pixel 4 and keeping the overall size basically the same, Google ensured I would love the feel. While I love everything that comes along with the massive Note 10+, the Pixel 4 is just the right size and disappears into my hand or pocket.

Because of the size, the Pixel 4 can be used easily as a one-handed device.  The proximity of the screen switch and volume rockers for both right and left-handed use was perfect, and combining face unlock with the camera and volume button location allowed me to take pictures quickly with one hand starting with the phone in my pocket.

Google’s FaceID clone works pretty well in general, but it’s perhaps over-zealous in a way that makes it less trustworthy.  Aside from the well-documented issue with unlocking when your eyes are closed, I frequently found that the phone would unlock when I picked it up off the desk or even as I was putting my phone into my bag. It seems like the facial unlock was simply seeing me somewhere in the frame rather than forcing me to actually look at the phone within a range of distances.  This is troublesome, and I consider it a significant issue that I’m surprised hasn’t been highlighted elsewhere.

I mentioned how the Pixel is Google’s attempt at the iPhone in many ways – and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way!  By getting the brand new ‘pure Android’ releases immediately, and very fast roll-out of new features and updated capabilities, Google gains control of a proving ground for their direction.

Here is my problem: just because a feature is in ‘pure Android’, that doesn’t make it the best option of approach.  As someone who has used mostly non-Pixel Android devices, I had to spend a lot of time trying to decouple what was my history, and what is ‘better’.  There were many things about the Pixel 4 that felt inefficient compared to Samsung’s interface to me, even after using the Pixel 4 exclusively for a while. And even though the Pixel is on Android 10 and the Note 10+ is still on Android 9, the special updates and tweaks Samsung has made give the Note an even more modern feeling than the Pixel. Years ago I would pine away for the new Android update to land, now I am in no rush.

Wayne: I’ve used the Pixel 4XL outside in fairly bright light. No complaints from me. I don’t really know whether 90 HZ is making my life more enjoyable, but I don’t think so. The swipe to navigate is a PITA. Guaranteed you’ll swipe more than once and introduce some unintended consequences such as changing windows when you meant to close them (or vice versa). One feature I love (that is a carryover from Pixel 3 XL) is the squeeze to activate Google Assistant. I use this ALL THE TIME.

Mike: Much has been made about the OLED display of the Pixel 4/XL and its 90Hz refresh rate, but there are some issues that make it yet another disappointment on a phone already brimming with shortcomings.

Google changed up a number of things with the Pixel 4, moving from a large notch (XL) and forehead (3) along with a big chin – which they justified as critical as others went to all-screen designs – to just a large forehead.  The forehead is due to a large number of sensors: dual selfie cameras, face unlock sensor, the Project Soli radar sensor and more.

But what bothered me about the Pixel 4 screen is the massive corner radius, particularly at the top of the screen.   At the bottom, the screen radius is greater than the actual device radius, leaving an arc wedge of wasted space – but at the top the curves come out of the forehead for no reason, squishing the notification area by more than 12mm on a 60mm widescreen!  After using the much more display-efficient Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, you really notice the impact this inefficient screen usage has on how apps display data.

Judie: Yeah, I never thought I would say that I preferred a huge notch, but I was disappointed to see the overly large blacked-out area at the top of the 4 XL. I realize that a lot more sensors were added to the top of the device that required more room above the display, but the result is a screen that seems too small for the device’s size. It’s really noticeable when you place the Pixel 4 XL with its 6.3″ screen next to another phone. Here it is next to the Huawei P30 Pro (6.47″ display), the iPhone XS Max (6.5″ display), and the LG V40 ThinQ (6.8″ display). Look at the size of the Pixel 4 XL in relation to the bezels and the size of its display compared to the sizes of the other phones; you’ll see what I mean.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

From left to right: iPhone XS Max, Google Pixel 4 XL, Huawei P30 Pro, LG V60 ThinQ

Mike: One side-effect of extending the display to the bottom was losing the front-facing speakers.  With the Pixel 3, Google made a big deal about the location of these, but now with the Pixel 4, suddenly bottom facing is the way to go. While the rationale seems random, the result is the same — both phones sound great and are plenty loud to use as your own little boom box.

Google made a big deal about the 90Hz refresh rate, but since release, it has come out that 90Hz was more of a marketing push than an actual feature.  The display is limited to lower refresh rates most of the time, only ramping up to full 90Hz under specific conditions. This was obviously done to enhance performance and battery life (more on those later), so while the November update loosened those restrictions and there are workarounds to enable permanent 90Hz refresh, both come at a cost that the Pixel 4 really can’t afford.

The final thing I want to say about the display is that it is DIM. Like REALLY dim. I found myself playing around with the brightness level and comparing it with my iPad, Galaxy Tab 6, Note 10+ and iPhone 11 Pro Max … and the ambient settings for all of those devices are relatively similar … but even when I manually set the Pixel 4 to MAX, it is darker than the rest of the devices and worse if I let the system control brightness — which you really need to do because you honestly need every mAh of battery you can get! Once again, we have a limitation made due to battery life, and once again — I will detail the battery life later.

The Camera

Judie: So, let’s talk about the camera! The Pixel 4 allows you to adjust brightness and contrast before you take the photo; it works very well for taking photos that require little to no editing after shooting, and it’s especially handy for me because I use my Pixel to take (almost) all of the product shots that I use for reviews.

Mike: Let’s be clear — there are two reasons to own a Pixel: getting new Android versions first (albeit incomplete and buggy) … and the camera.  Mostly the camera.

If I had to summarize the Pixel series cameras it would be “the victory of great software over mediocre hardware.” Also “we reserve the right to totally reverse our position at any time without notice.”

Judie: I think the portrait mode on the Pixel 4 is better than what’s offered by many other flagship phones, but I feel like the ball was really dropped on the rear cameras. On the Pixel 3 series, we had one lens that did an excellent job of taking photos, period. Google stuck a large camera array on the back of the Pixel 4 series, adding the telephoto lens, yet they neglected to add an ultra-wide lens. If Google was going to jump into the multiple rear camera game, it seems odd that they didn’t go all in. Even so, I haven’t had any real complaints about the front or rear cameras when taking photos.

Mike: Bottom line, the Pixel 4 still photo camera is EXCELLENT.  It is within normal variance of the Note 10+ and iPhone 11 Pro Max for pretty much every photo shooting situation.  It is not a clear selling point anymore — unlike comparing the Pixel 3 to the Note 9 for example. In fact, taking into account disparate shooting situations and videos, the imaging systems on the Pixel 4 are another disappointment.

The first disappointment is the video capture system. The Pixel 4 lacks a number of recording modes. The biggest deal is 4K video at 60fps (which is offered on other flagship phones), the lack of an ‘audio mic zoom’ that lets the microphone focus on the area the video system is recording, and a generally average quality to the videos captured. This was clearly not a priority for Google when designing the Pixel 4.

In the ‘things you never knew you cared about’ department, the lack of an ultra-wide camera makes the Pixel 4 feel like something out of 2017.  Sure, as noted, you do not really NEED the added sensor, but once you have one you will find yourself using it frequently while outdoors or in a crowd.  I immediately saw the number of panoramas I took drop as the Note 10’s wide-angle camera did a great job. And unlike a zoom lens, there is no software or positioning fix to simulate an area that the lens you have cannot capture.

Speaking of zoom lenses, remember when the Pixel 3 came out how Google made a big deal about how there was no need for a telephoto lens – and then backed it up with incredible ‘beyond the spec’ camera zoom performance on the Pixel 3?  Exactly. Now we have a telephoto lens, and the zoom pictures are great … but I am not sure that there is a commensurate benefit.

The biggest thing for me has been the simultaneously adjustable brightness and contrast sliders.  I have had mixed results, but the very presence — backed up by Google’s legendary photo algorithms — is a great feature that I am sure better photographers than I could properly exploit.  The downside of the interface for me is the zoom control. I prefer ‘pinch to zoom’ as it is what I have done for years, and while you can do it on the Pixel, the system is laggy and wants you to use the sliders instead. And even those I found laggy and sluggish — owing to the mediocre system performance I’ve already mentioned.

Once again, Google has an excellent smartphone camera; depending on who you ask, it is one of the top two still photo smartphones available, and I have enjoyed taking a variety of pictures with the Pixel 4 in a number of settings.  However, the camera that once leap-frogged the competition now feels like just another phone: better in some ways and worse in others. I would choose my Note 10+ over it due to the versatility and performance.

6 Months with the Pixel 4

Pixel 4 Astrophotography by Michael Anderson

Wayne:  I’m taking just as good pictures with the Pixel 4 XL as with my Pixel 3 XL. Admittedly I haven’t pointed my phone at the sky to take astrophotography, but then again, once all the initial reviews came out I haven’t seen anyone else taking these (gimmick) photos, either.


Tejas: Modern smartphones are overpowered as it is, and I rarely felt my old trusty Pixel 3XL was too slow to handle my tasks. One thing I did notice regularly was aggressive memory management on the 3XL due to the 4GB of RAM. Mercifully, Google has put 6GB of RAM in the Pixel 4XL and in real-world use, I am happy to report the issues I had with the 3XL are completely gone. Apps stay in memory for long periods, and when I expect an app to be where I left it, it is right there. I haven’t had background tasks killed when using the camera like on the prior generation, and that extra RAM also makes the phone truly fly. Sure it’s not the 8GB+ of RAM on many other phones, and maybe that would have been better (who would complain about more RAM?), but rest assured the 6GB of RAM shouldn’t cause you any problems in your daily use.

Mike: When you hear someone say that “all [flagships] smartphones are overpowered” there are two things to think: first — that is correct, and honestly any top-tier device is likely more powerful than the laptop you bought a few years ago.  The second thought is “apologist” — because no one talking about the top-end iPhones or Galaxy Note devices over the last several years has said that, as those devices have consistently been blisteringly fast and powerful. No, if someone says that about a phone, it is because the performance is mediocre and well below expectations.

And I have seen TONS of people on social media and some reviews talking about the Pixel 4 in this way, which should tell you all you need.

The Pixel 4 has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB of RAM.  The 855 was Qualcomm’s flagship until the mid-2019 and is also the processor used by Samsung in the Note 10 series.  But if you expected to get similar performance between the Note 10 and Pixel 4 devices, you would be seriously disappointed.  There is nothing I have done where the Pixel 4 didn’t obviously lag behind the Note 10, and while some things (like having more open browser tabs) are due to more RAM on the Note 10+, the majority is due to poor hardware and software design unable to take advantage of the 855.

Since my initial assessment on the release day Pixel 4, I have gone back with the November and December patches and continued to see lags, slow performance,  delays, and other clear signs that nothing Google does with the software will compensate for the poor performance of the Pixel 4 hardware due to poor design.

Judie: The Pixel 4 has a 2,800mAh battery while the 4 XL has 3,700mAh. From the beginning of the 4 series’ release, I was hearing horror stories from other reviewer friends about terrible battery life on the 4, specifically. I have the 4 XL, and while battery life isn’t excellent by any means, it’s not terrible. Bear in mind, though, that I have been conditioned from so many years of iPhone use to expect decent but never spectacular battery life, and I have been trained to basically top off my phone’s battery every chance I get. Put simply, the Pixel 4 XL does nothing to ease my range anxiety, so my ‘top-off every chance I get’ mentality hasn’t gone anywhere; that pretty much sums up my experience with the 4 XL. If I know I am going out at night and I don’t want to carry an external battery, I make sure I’m at 100% before I go. Always.

Tejas: Battery life is one of the most if not the most subjective things on a phone, so there’s not much point really talking numbers because depending on how you use your phone you could get wildly different results. For me, the Pixel 4XL gets better battery life than the 3XL it replaced. What I’ve noticed is better screen time and a better standby as well. Part of that could be that the new CPU draws less power and some of the neat tricks Google does like turn off the always-on display when the phone detects you’ve walked away from it. Don’t worry it will turn it back on when you get nearby.

Mike: Without power, a device is useless – and given that we do more and more using our smartphones, having a true all-day battery should be considered ‘table stakes’ for an expensive flagship smartphone from a major company.  And in that regard, the Pixel 4 is an abject failure.

Remember what I said about how people would try to cover for the Pixel 4 performance problems?  Same thing for battery life, only this time by talking about how battery life is ‘subjective’. Again, on the one hand, this is true because everyone uses their devices differently … but once again it is an apologist dodge because it is pretty simple for the same person to set up multiple devices very similarly and use them about the same and then evaluate the battery life.

That is what I did … and to be honest I would be going back a number of years to remember a phone with battery life as AWFUL as the Pixel 4.  It is atrocious – the very thought that a company in 2019 would think it is OK to increase screen size, add battery-draining subsystems and then install a smaller battery?  Inexcusable. As for the Pixel 4XL? I know it is better than the standard Pixel 4, but based on comparisons it is still 50% below the iPhone 11 and Note 10 in terms of battery life.

The battery on the Pixel 4/XL is an unmitigated failure and an embarrassment.

Mike A: The Pixel 4/XL comes in 64GB and 128GB variants, with the lower end similar to Apple’s iPhone offerings – and since neither phone offers expanded storage both have been subject to criticism for offering too little storage at too high a price.  Other criticisms are that Google should have offered higher storage options such as 256 or 512GB at additional cost.

I bought the 64GB option, which is the lowest storage phone I have had since the 32GB iPhone 7 my work bought for me. Unlike that phone, 64GB has proved to be more than adequate for me. I tend to stream music and videos rather than downloading them, and I have been streamlining the apps and services I have on my devices recently. Depending on your usage profile, 64GB may or may not be adequate — but if you tend to download playlists or audiobooks, I would recommend the higher storage option (or another phone).

One change this year is that Google is no longer offering free unlimited storage of full-resolution photos taken on Pixel devices, dialing it back to high-resolution JPEG images instead. For me, there has been a little issue, but it is a concern that when your sole real selling point is the camera that you would suddenly offer diminished storage capabilities for those images.

Judie: Losing free unlimited Google Photo storage of full-resolution photos taken with my Pixel phone was a disappointment. If you take a ton of photos as I do, being able to offload those full-resolution photos to the cloud — for free — and then deleting those photos from my device was the only consolation for not having easily accessible photos stored on my 128GB Pixel. I’ve since subscribed to Google 1, which was likely the point of Google doing away with the free storage in the first place.

Wayne: I bought mine on Black Friday with a $500 Google Fi credit plus another $250 trade-in for my old Google Pixel 3XL. No complaints. PS – I read a few posts on Reddit from people who had devices stolen while in transit (aka they received an empty Pixel box). After I placed my order, I went and created a FedEx Delivery Manager account which allowed me to redirect my shipment to a Walgreens where picked it up in person.

I subscribed to Google 1 for additional storage. It would be nice to have free storage of full-sized pictures, but I am also happy to have more storage to share with my family.

Judie: Compared to my experience with the Pixel 3XL, my time with Pixel 4XL has been mixed. My main issue has been that rather than adding an in-screen fingerprint reader on the Pixel 4 in addition to facial recognition (like other flagship phones have done), Google went all-in on facial recognition.  Google did away with the physical fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone, and there seems to be a shortage of secure apps that automatically unlock on Android without fingerprint access. Google removing the fingerprint login option completely and going solely to facial recognition has meant that I can no longer easily biometrically sign into all of my banking apps. It’s totally a convenience that I miss having, but it is something I can take for granted on just about every other Android phone because they have fingerprint readers. Slowly but surely in the months since the 4’s release, face unlock has been added to a lot of the secure apps I use that needed it, but it’s still not available on all of them. That’s my biggest Pixel 4 complaint.

Tejas: the Pixel 4XL is the best Pixel yet. Not just because of hardware or software improvements but because this phone feels like the first Pixel that successfully marries the two together. In the time I’ve had the phone since launch, I’ve yet to find any bugs or weird behavior. This is a huge departure from the 3XL which had its fair share of launch issues. What Google has done is taken the 3XL and improved on it in every possible way while adding a few more features. For the display, they’ve added 90hz, and while it works brilliantly for me, I know Google has said they will be tweaking it more. For the camera, they’ve added a telephoto lens which, honestly, until you start playing with it you don’t realize how useful it can be. For authentication, they’ve swapped fingerprints for face unlock, which has worked perfectly for me so far. Then there’s the radar, called Soli, which works well now but promises a lot of cool possibilities for human interaction and phone awareness in the future.

Pixels have never been and will never be about specs and cutting edge hardware. It’s about the experience and the Pixel 4XL, in my opinion, is the best user experience you can have on Android today.

Mike: In case I haven’t made my thoughts clear so far, let me be blunt: the Pixel 4 is perhaps the biggest disappointment in the 2019 smartphone industry, and the Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the worst flagships released this year.

The combination of atrocious battery life, inexplicably mediocre performance, dim screen, and lack of really compelling features — all at a premium price compared with much better competitors — makes this a device I strongly recommend against.  Google’s other 2019 release, the Pixel 3a, might lack a few features of the Pixel 4, but at less than half the price it is a very easy recommendation for an excellent midrange phone. At this point, I have no idea who the Pixel 4 is for, and this phone makes me question the very existence of the Pixel line.

Judie: Based on the positive experience I enjoyed with the Pixel 3 XL, I absolutely intended to purchase a 4 XL on release day. Instead, I was told that as a member of Team Pixel, I’d be receiving one. Kismet, again. The Pixel 4 XL has been my daily driver since I received it, but I have to admit that other flagships with their larger screens and competitive cameras are starting to appeal. Losing Pixel’s Screen Call feature, portrait camera, voice memo transcriptions, and its pure Android experience would be tough if I moved to another Android device, though.

Wayne: I’d buy the Pixel 4XL again, but (a) never at launch and (b) never at full price. History has taught me these Google flagship devices are often deeply discounted — especially when they are released anywhere close to Black Friday. I think it’s time for Google to fess up about any limitations of using a G-Suite account. They did resolve the new Google Assistant issue, but there can be numerous drawbacks (limited family share, no reviewability for Google Play apps) which aren’t clear. I’m not interested in using an Android phone with a heavy skin, which is what keeps me on Google Pixel devices.

The Pixel 4 starts at $799 for the 64GB model, and the Pixel 4 XL starts at $899 for the 64GB model. You can buy them directly from Google as well as from other retailers including Amazon [affiliate link].

Source: Judie’s Pixel 4 XL was Team Pixel program supplied; Wayne, Mike, and Tejas bought their devices


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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct smaller.com; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

5 Comments on "6 Months with the Pixel 4"

  1. TrvlngDrew | April 3, 2020 at 7:58 pm |

    Nice article and hits all the things I heard on the Net’. I tried a 4 when I was stateside in November and really liked it, but returned it before I left as I was getting ready to leave. I never used the squeeze or the gestures and I’m so-so on camera use so the real reason I like the pixel is the software, I really like it over any other skin other vendors use, as for Face_ID or whatever they call it, I don’t like it as I don’t like to have to look at my phone for security, its really one more gesture to get access and much more involved than moving my finger, oh well.
    Outside of the US, UK, Singapore, and Australia there is little support for Google products and having to ship my ‘broken’ phone to SG from Manila for 3 weeks is a bad option. That said, I found a Pixel 3A and its great, why can’t Google get the Pixel flagships to rock like the mid-range, the 3A has been rock solid everywhere, looking forward to the 4A soon.

  2. Travis_Ehrlich | May 30, 2020 at 1:25 pm |

    Peter, I also am a 3a user. I have had some slow down recently and just cleared some memory and some of the snappiness came back. While I know the processor is probably lacking, you might give that a try and see if it improves your experience.

  3. Peter Balga | May 30, 2020 at 12:35 pm |

    Thank you for this detailed article. I am currently using the 3a (bought it at release) and now waiting for my Pixel 4 to arrive. I’ve enjoyed the 3a for a while but in the last few months it’s slowed down considerably. This is probably because of the midrange SD 670, it just can’t cope with the new features that got dropped over time. I am based in the UK and you can currently buy the standard 64GB P4 for £499 which made me go for it. I think that’s a reasonable price for what you’re getting.
    Funny thing is that I bought a Galaxy S20 and then returned it after two weeks as I was very disappointed with it in general, camera was hit and miss, battery life poor, and frankly, I was missing the little things you get with the Pixel series. So now I’m waiting for my Pixel 4 to arrive!

  4. Travis_Ehrlich | May 30, 2020 at 1:25 pm |

    Peter, I also am a 3a user. I have had some slow down recently and just cleared some memory and some of the snappiness came back. While I know the processor is probably lacking, you might give that a try and see if it improves your experience.

  5. Peter Balga | May 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm |

    Thank you. I have done that once and it helped temporarily, but after a while it gets noticeable again. I mostly get it in Chrome and the camera app struggles often. Chrome is the most annoying as sometimes it just hangs on a webpage for a little too long and it makes me want to throw the phone out of the window ?

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