First, Google itself revealed pictures of the phones showing a new square-shape camera design for the Pixel 4 family, and lately, people in the know have spilled the beans to news outlets so much so that we now know almost all of the specs for the phones.
The Pixel 4 series hardware will be faster, but there will be completely new features too like the leaked Soli radar-based system that might introduce us to a completely new way to navigate your phone using gestures and possibly without ever touching the display.
We take a look at this and all other specs and features of the Pixel 4 and compare them against the Pixel 3 family right below. Read on.
*Specs are based on leaks and rumors. Final specs might differ.
The new Pixel 4 series might not have a notch, but instead you will get a gigantic bezel at the top of the phone. The reason for it is a complex radar system that continually scans its surroundings for gestures and registers them with great accuracy. We have seen other implementations of a gesture navigation, most recently from LG, but this new system is different in how fast it "sees" the gestures and the extreme accuracy that it has and its ability to even react to a tiny gesture.
And yes, this is a real radar. It works on the same principle as the big flight radars that detect airplane movements in the sky. Unfortunately, this was precisely why the FCC didn't let the Soli chip fly until December 31 2018, when it granted Google a waiver from some of its requirements for radars in the commercial 57-64 GHz frequency band with the following:
Looking at the actual sizes of the upcoming Pixel 4 devices, it's obvious that Google will stick with two devices, a smaller and a larger one. The Pixel 4 will be just a tiny big larger than the current Pixel 3, but will still remain an incredibly compact phone that is convenient to use with a single hand. Interestingly, the Pixel 4 XL version will be a hair smaller than the current Pixel 3 XL, but again, it will be a big phone with a big screen.
The exact screen size on the Pixel 4 is 5.7 inches, just slightly bigger than the 5.5-inch display on last year's Pixel 3, while the Pixel 4 XL has a screen diagonal of 6.3 inches, the same size as on last year's XL model. The smaller phone will stick with a Full HD+ resolution, while the larger one will also offer a higher, Quad HD+ resolution. Those resolutions are the same that we had last year.
What's new, however, is that the Pixel 4 series will be the first Google phones to arrive with a 90 Hertz refresh rate for the screen. This is the same refresh rate that we've seen on phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro and this is certainly one of the most welcome additions to the actual user experience. It makes everything appear extra fast and smooth. As earlier Pixel phones, the Pixel 4 series will have AMOLED displays with vibrant colors and excellent viewing angles.
Under the hood, the Pixel 4 will come with the newer Snapdragon 855 chip, an upgrade over the Snapdragon 845 chip in last year's model.
This is an expected update, and there is one more thing that is upgraded too: the RAM. Last year's Pixels only had 4 gigs on board, while this year we're moving to a more reasonable 6GB of RAM.
Expandable storage is not coming. Pixel phones have never supported microSD cards, so we can't say we are surprised to see this feature omitted once again this year.
What does bring us down is the rumored amount of on-board storage: you have 64 gigs of internal storage on the base model and 128 gigs for the pricier model. Compare this with the whopping 256GB RAM that you get in the base Note 10+ model and you can see that Google seems to have lost touch with modern realities. The limited amount of storage that is not upgradable will definitely be one of the weak points of the Pixel 4 experience.
On the back of the Pixel 4, you find a brand new camera array: a square shaped unit that bulges out and houses the regular Pixel camera plus one more, a 2X zoom telephoto lens that will help you get a clearer view when zoomed in and a more suitable perspective for portraits. Rumors also point to the existence of a third sensor, a time-of-flight (ToF) depth camera that will come in handy with augmented reality measurements and to get great background separation in portrait shots.
We are glad to see that Google is moving away from the single-camera setup it used in the last three years: more cameras do equal more versatility. In fact, we are missing a third camera on the Pixel, an ultra-wide angle shooter that many flagship phones these days have.
Last, but definitely not least, the battery sizes on the new Pixel 4 series have changed.
The smaller Pixel 4 has a 2,800mAh battery, slightly smaller than the 2,915mAh battery cell on the Pixel 3. The reason for this smaller battery probably lies in the extra space that the Soli radar module occupies at the top of the phone.
The Pixel 4 XL, on the other hand, sports a 3,700mAh battery, significantly larger than the 3,430mAh battery on the Pixel 3 XL.
Pixel phones have never had great battery life, and we are a bit disappointed to see Google fail behind the Huawei and Samsung phones of this world that these days offer 4,100mAh+ batteries on their flagship phones and are able to provide impressive battery life.
All in all, the Pixel 4 series is a gradual upgrade in the series: it's faster, it has a secondary camera for better-looking portraits, but most importantly, it puts a lot of focus on those radars that will be used for novel gesture navigation and for face recognition.
How will that work out and will it really hold any practical advantages? The Pixel 4 release date is expected to be in late October, so we'd have to wait and see.