Google blocks four apps from refreshing at 90Hz on the Pixel 4

Google blocks four apps from refreshing at 90Hz on the Pixel 4
You might have heard by now that the displays for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL aren't set to stay on the 90Hz refresh rate by default. While Google doesn't want to begrudge its customers the feeling of silky smooth scrolling and exceptionally smooth video game animation, it does have some concerns. One is the battery life. Keeping the screen refreshing at 90Hz is sure to quickly drain the 2800mAh battery on the Pixel 4 and even the 3700mAh capacity battery on the Pixel 4 XL.

The second issue is the user experience. The refresh rate automatically drops back to 60Hz when the screen's brightness is set under 75%. That is because the Pixel 4 screens refresh at 60Hz when the screen is not being used, or showing animation running at 60fps or less. A tap of an idle display or faster running animation could quickly force the phone back into the 90Hz refresh rate setting, and this switch from 60Hz to 90Hz happens so often that an annoying flicker on the screen appears at lower brightness settings.

An Android commit that was discovered by XDA explained that human eyes are more sensitive to "flicker" at darker environments. By demanding that a Pixel 4 user have his screen brightness set at 75% or higher to enable the 90Hz refresh rate, Google is trying to keep him or her from seeing the flickering of the screen as the rate bounces back and forth between 60Hz and 90Hz.

At least four apps have been blacklisted by Google and will only run at 60Hz


Additionally, source code discovered by 9to5Google lists four apps that will not allow the screen to refresh at 90Hz. The four apps are Google Maps, Pokémon Go, Waze, and WeChat. Even if the user is running an app that normally can refresh at 90Hz, if Google Maps is running inside that app using picture-in-picture, the entire screen will refresh at the lower speed. With Pokemon Go, the animation in the game is capped at 30fps which means that enabling the higher refresh rate would be a waste of battery power. Google blames "poor performance" for not enabling 90Hz on WeChat


As we pointed out the other day, users can force the screen to stick on 90Hz by using the Developer options setting. To enable this, go to Settings > About phone and tap on the build number seven times. A toggle setting in Developer option will keep the screen at 90Hz, eliminating the flicker, but causing the battery to drain faster. Also, it isn't clear whether forcing the 90Hz refresh rate on any of the four blacklisted apps would enable the faster speed. And even if it did, you probably wouldn't notice any difference except in the case of WeChat which, according to Google, looks worse at the faster refresh rate.

Google did say last week that it will push out a software update that will allow the 90Hz refresh rate to be enabled when the screen is set at a brightness level under 75%. It also plans on pushing out an update that will add a setting to Face unlock allowing the user to demand that his eyes be open to unlock the phone with the feature. Without that option, a bad actor could knock a Pixel 4 user into unconsciousness and unlock his phone by putting the screen up to his face. In the same vein, someone with a Pixel 4 who is sleeping could have his or her handset unlocked by someone who puts the phone up to their face. Apple, by default, demands that an iPhone user be active with his or her eyes open in order to unlock the phone. 

Related phones

Pixel 4
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 2280 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 2800 mAh
Pixel 4 XL
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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16 Comments

1. Subie

Posts: 2414; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Why would Google put a feature in their phones like - 90hz screen refresh, then be concerned about battery life, and still decide to install low mAh rated batteries?...

2. Alan01

Posts: 638; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

Question for the ages. Regards, Alan

3. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 432; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

Because google is trying to bake in features for other OEM's in Android. Most things evolve when google bakes features into Android that can now further developed by the other OEM's. Guarantee Samsung next flagship will have 90hz or higher display.

5. Subie

Posts: 2414; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

That might be true of low budget or stock Android using OEM's, but definitely not Samsung. You may be right about Samsung using 90hz on their next Galaxy flagships but it won't be because they needed Google to implement it first.

17. BL4NKF4CE

Posts: 147; Member since: Aug 06, 2017

I don't think he means Samsung, or any other OEM, needs Google to implement anything first. I think he means it'll just be easier for OEMs with features already in Android. There would be no need for OEMs to put them in their android skins, which COULD in turn bring quicker updates.

6. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Google and the rest of the market was going to adopt the 90hz refresh screens whether Google implemented it or not. And as far as they setting trends, Google has been lagging behind software and hardware wise for a while now, they have only been taking features from the likes of Samsung, Oneplus, Huawei, heck even Apple, and implementing them in their latest OS versions and their Pixel lineup. The answer to the OP's question, is that Google is trying to imitate Apple's business, less hardware features for more money, but what they fail to understand is that iPhones aren't power hungry devices because of iOS, they can perform exceptionally well with a 3000-4000mah batteries, 4GB of ram.

20. nyc_menace

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 30, 2019

That doesn’t even address, let alone answer his question. What, putting new features in a phone stops Google from using a battery that can handle those features? When Apple beats you to the punch on battery life it’s time to re-evaluate the team you have running things.

15. Cat97

Posts: 1969; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

To tick a marketing box. But probably also to make the feature more popular and encourage manufacturers to adopt it faster.

4. Locked-n-Loaded

Posts: 38; Member since: Sep 13, 2019

More Google + Pixel fail. How are these phones in development for so long & within a few days average users consistently find issues. Who is doing the actual testing in house? And who signs off on 90hz & 2800 battery?

7. splus

Posts: 166; Member since: Nov 26, 2011

The only thing Google takes seriously is their Search, and everything else for them is just a hobby, which, obviously, they don't take very seriously.

8. meanestgenius

Posts: 22388; Member since: May 28, 2014

Google is so far behind the competition that it is laughable. They are too focused on trying to emulate Apple and beat them at their own game as opposed to focusing on making the best Android phone that they can make, and they are badly losing at both. There is absolutely no logical reason for Google to be put a feature like 90hz refresh rate and then stifle the phone which such a small battery, so much so that they have to block apps from using the feature.

14. JC557

Posts: 1925; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Okay but why is this site ignoring all the issues with iOS 13 with the latest problems being found on the just released 13.1.3. From outright hardware failures to dropped calls. I'll take Android any day over iOS at this point and will be going back to my Pixel 2 XL or buy a Galaxy S10+ and either sell my XR or relegate it to the junk drawer.

18. ChicagoBorn

Posts: 102; Member since: Jan 24, 2018

Because they’ll push out a update with in a week that’s why.

19. JC557

Posts: 1925; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Like they have with the rushed 13.0, 13.1, 13.2 etc? Each one had pretty bad problems and the subsequent releases introduced new ones.

12. surethom

Posts: 1729; Member since: Mar 04, 2009

It's amazing how Google can get away with such small batteries expecialy on the pixel 4.

13. JC557

Posts: 1925; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Okay but why is this site ignoring all the issues with iOS 13 with the latest problems being found on the just released 13.1.3. From outright hardware failures to dropped calls. I'll take Android any day over iOS at this point and will be going back to my Pixel 2 XL or buy a Galaxy S10+ and either sell my XR or relegate it to the junk drawer.

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