Announced and released in October 2019, the Pixel 4 is Google’s most recent attempt at producing a game changing smartphone that marries together the best of their Android operating system with a great camera and a range of other features.
This review will tell you everything you need to know about the Google Pixel 4, compare this phone to the leading handsets from other smartphone manufacturers, and show you the difference between the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL.
Shall we get started?
Google Pixel 4: In a Nutshell
The Google Pixel 4 is simply one of the best camera phones around. However, while users of previous generations of the Google Pixel – even those who own the Pixel 3 with its impressive camera – will notice a significantly improved camera on this device, the rest of this handset is a smaller update on the previous version rather than a grand overhaul or major upgrade.
One of the notable features of the Pixel 4, and indeed the Pixel range in general, is its unique and compact design. While very much a modern smartphone, the Pixel 4 is smaller than flagship phones from other manufacturers like the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Areas that have seen improvement in the Pixel 4 are the screen display, which now offers a smoother user experience whatever you’re doing owing to a 90Hz refresh rate, while an updated chipset is loaded into the phone along with 6GB of RAM giving you plenty of processing power.
The battery life offered by the Pixel 4 is sub-standard, and nowhere near the exceptional performance you would get from the likes of Huawei or Samsung.
An interesting addition to the Pixel 4 is radar technology, known as Soli, which is supposed to identify where you are and predict when you’ll reach for your phone. The idea is that your phone will then be unlocked and ready to use the moment you pick it up. While this is an interesting feature it’s not one that is essential given how easily modern smartphones can be unlocked with a fingerprint or by looking at them while also picking them up, but Google certainly has the capability to develop it into something truly innovative and game changing in the future.
Google Pixel 4 Deals
As of March 2020, the Google Pixel 4 has maintained its cost from launch, which was £669 for the 64GB model, and £769 for the 128GB model.
The larger screened Google Pixel 4 XL is priced at £829 for the 64GB model, and £929 for the 128GB model. If you’re buying the handsets outright, both the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL are £70 cheaper than the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3XL, which is a great deal considering the improvements made for the launch of these smartphones.
Both handsets can be purchased outright directly from Google, and both are also available from most UK mobile networks on a pay monthly contract.
What’s New in the Google Pixel 4?
One of the most exciting things about the launch of a new smartphone is the new features and upgrades that have been added.
What’s new with the Google Pixel 4?
Soli Radar Technology
Radar technology is something that is starting to make regular appearances in smartphones, but other than adding a negligible benefit of unlocking your phone for you before you pick it up, there’s little practical use for such features.
That said, the use of radar technology in smartphones is very much in its early stages, and one of the next great competitions between manufacturers could be to see who makes this a practical and functional feature with tangible benefits from everyday use.
Improved Screen Refresh Rate
While the display on the Pixel 4 is slightly bigger than on the Pixel 3 – 5.7-inches compared to 5.5-inches – and the aspect ratio and pixels per inch have also been slightly improved, the biggest boost is in the form of the new 90Hz refresh rate, which will boost your viewing and gaming experience on your smartphone.
The Pixel 4 is Google’s first handset to feature a dual camera set-up and has added a number of new features in comparison to the Pixel 3, including dual exposure controls and motion sensor technology.
Upgraded Memory and Processing Power
The internal memory in the Pixel 4 has grown to 6GB of RAM, up from the 4GB seen in the Pixel 3, while the processing power is also improved owing to the presence of a Qualcomm Snapdragon Octa-core 855 chipset and Pixel neural core.
Google Pixel 4 vs Google Pixel 3 Comparison
Let’s look at how the Google Pixel 4 compares to its predecessor.
|Pixel 4||Pixel 3|
|Available Colours||Clearly White Just Black||Clearly White Just Black Not Pink|
|Display||OLED Full HD+ Gorilla Glass 5||OLED Full HD+ Gorilla Glass 5|
|Rear Facing Cameras||Dual lens 16MP telephoto lens 12.2MP wide lens||Single lens 12.2MP wide lens|
|Front Facing Cameras||Dual lens 8MP wide lens TOF 3D camera||Dual lens 8MP wide and ultra-wide lens|
|Internal Storage||64GB or 128GB||64GB or 128GB|
|Price||£669 or £769||£739 or £839|
While the battery power is slightly lower in the Pixel 4 – which given the improvements elsewhere is likely what contributes to the poor level of battery life of this handset – the rest of the improvements and reduced price make this a great value handset, especially if the quality of the camera is your first port of call when choosing a smartphone.
How Does the Google Pixel 4 Compare to Other Leading Smartphones?
While Google doesn’t have the same reputation for making smartphones as the likes of Apple and Samsung, does the Pixel 4 stack up against the latest models from the industry’s leading manufacturers?
|Google Pixel 4||Huawei P30||iPhone 11||Galaxy S20|
|Available Colours||Clearly White Just Black||Aurora Breathing Crystal Black||Black Green Yellow Purple Red White||Cosmic Grey Cloud Blue Cloud Pink|
|Display||OLED Full HD+ Gorilla Glass 5||OLED Touchscreen Gorilla Glass||Liquid Retina IPS Gorilla Glass||Samsung Infinity-O Gorilla Glass 6|
|Rear Facing Cameras||Dual lens 16MP telephoto lens 12.2MP wide lens||Triple lens 40MP wide lens 16MP ultra-wide lens 8MP telephoto lens 3x optical zoom||Dual lens 12MP ultrawide lens||Triple lens 64MP high resolution camera 3x hybrid optical zoom 30x super resolution digital zoom|
|Front Facing Cameras||Dual lens 8MP wide lens TOF 3D camera||Single lens 32MP wide lens||Single lens 12MP wide lens||Single lens 10MP wide lens|
|Internal Storage||64GB or 128GB||128GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||128GB|
|Price||£669 or £769||£699||£729||£799 (4G) £899 (5G)|
As we can see from the table, the Google Pixel 4 is at a funny place in the smartphone market.
Google themselves would probably admit that they’re not trying to be Huawei, Apple, or Samsung, but the reality is that the price of their handset puts them into that realm, and while the Pixel 4 does compare favourably to the iPhone 11 on many fronts, it’s way behind what you can enjoy on the Huawei P30 at what will be a cheaper price if we’re looking like for like at the 128GB models.
Google Pixel 4 vs Google Pixel 4 XL Comparison
In addition to the Pixel 4, users can choose to purchase the Google Pixel 4 XL. How do these models compare?
|Pixel 4||Pixel 4 XL|
|Available Colours||Clearly White Just Black||Clearly White Just Black|
|Display||OLED Full HD+ Gorilla Glass 5||OLED QHD+ Gorilla Glass 5|
|Rear Facing Cameras||Dual lens 16MP telephoto lens 12.2MP wide lens||Dual lens 16MP telephoto lens 12.2MP wide lens|
|Front Facing Cameras||Dual lens 8MP wide lens TOF 3D camera||Dual lens 8MP wide lens TOF 3D camera|
|Internal Storage||64GB or 128GB||64GB or 128GB|
|Price||£669 or £769||£829 or £929|
As we can see, the main differences with the Pixel 4 XL are an improved battery life, and bigger and better screen.
However, while the Pixel 4 XL is good value in comparison to the previous generation Pixel 3 XL, it’s debatable whether the better battery life, extra screen size, and slightly better display are worth paying £160 for, especially as you’re getting even further towards Samsung level pricing where you’ll likely be able to acquire a much better smartphone for your money.
Google Pixel 4 Design
One thing that our technical spec tables don’t tell us about is the design of the Google Pixel 4, but it’s another area where there has been a significant update on the Pixel 3.
The build of the phone itself doesn’t feel premium or high end. While the Pixel 4 uses Corning Gorilla Glass on the front and is in an aluminium frame, the sides of the handset has a rubber-like coating. However, what the phone lacks in aesthetic beauty on the back of it, it makes up for in practicality. Whatever Google has used to coat the frame makes the Pixel 4 easy to grip, and thus the chances of you dropping it are far lower than if you didn’t have it. The back of the phone is also glass.
While the Pixel 4 is smaller than other flagship smartphones, it isn’t what we’d necessarily class as being compact, although it is small enough for most people to comfortably use with one hand.
Although most of the front of the Pixel 4 is taken up by screen display, the use of a bezel design for the camera placement means when you’re watching video in landscape mode that you’ll have a thicker black line at one side of the screen than at the other. This doesn’t affect the quality of the screen itself but it’s a small detail worth knowing before parting with your cash.
The Pixel 4’s cameras are built onto the back of the phone, in a similar manner to the iPhone 11, although they don’t warp the shape of the handset too much, and you don’t really notice when laying the phone on a flat surface. It doesn’t look particularly appealing, but this is Google’s first effort at packing two cameras onto the back of a smartphone so we can assume they’ll get better at incorporating this in the future.
Unusually for a modern smartphone, the Pixel 4 does not use a fingerprint scanner, with Google deciding to offer facial recognition unlocking or the use of a password. While this might not mean much in terms of unlocking your phone, if you’re currently looking at swapping from another manufacturer it means you’ll lose the ability to sign into apps such as online banking or make one-touch purchases with your fingerprint. Google is actively working with developers to bring facial sign-in to more apps, but it’s likely to be years before this is widespread practice.
Google Pixel 4 Display
While the Pixel 4 has a smaller display than the latest flagship phones from Huawei and Samsung, it’s still a very high performer offering Full HD+ and very clear delivery of images whether you’re gaming, watching movies and boxsets, or scrolling through social media.
If you’re used to a bigger handset and screen then you may find the Pixel 4 a little cramped, especially when it comes to picking out detail, and may prefer the Pixel 4 XL instead.
An improved screen refresh rate of 90Hz also makes the user experience smoother and more enjoyable and will be particularly noticeable if you’re an avid mobile gamer.
Google Pixel 4 Camera
The addition of an extra lens is always a big upgrade, and while the Pixel 4 is “just” a dual lens camera – with many smartphones now having triple or quad lens cameras – it’s still a big deal for Google to take this step and will likely be the first part of a concerted effort to become known for the quality of the cameras on their handsets.
If you want a great camera with the capability of taking amazing shots without needing to do anything too complicated, then the Pixel 4 might be the best smartphone around. The 12MP main camera and 16MP telephoto lens combine to provide exceptional zooming, brilliant low-light and night shots, and fantastic portrait shots.
It isn’t at the level you’d find on a flagship Huawei P series phone, but it’s more than acceptable as a quality smartphone camera.
The selfie camera weights in at 8MP, and while it isn’t a wide lens like it was on the Pixel 3, the software improvements more than make up for this and keep the quality of your shots high.
Live HDR+ is a new addition for this model, which shows you what your photo will look like before you take it, as opposed to taking the photo and then adding enhancements for the HDR+ look.
The Pixel 4’s portrait mode has also been improved, with the phone able to clarify and bring into focus the main subject of a photo and blur the background. This is great for photographing awkward shaped items or for capturing moments outdoors.
If you want to add a professional touch to your photos, then the dual exposure feature is worth using, and with the right settings will help you to take photos that look like they were taken on a much stronger camera.
In its marketing for the Pixel 4, Google has put a lot of focus on the ability of the phone to take photos of the night sky. There’s actually even an astrophotography mode on the phone, and if you’re able to get out into a low light area with a tripod or something similar you’ll find yourself with the capability of taking truly astonishing pictures of the stars above.
Google Pixel 4 Software
Performance in the Google Pixel 4 is driven by 6GB of RAM – an upgrade on the 4GB seen in previous Pixel models – and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. These features will keep your smartphone running smoothly even if you have multiple apps open at once.
The Pixel 4 runs on the Android 10 operating system, which features an improved voice-controlled Google Assistant.
Also added to the Pixel 4 is motion sense technology. In some respects this is good, in that it will unlock your phone automatically when you’re near, but at the same time it feels like a function that is of limited value right now, as beyond the phone’s interface and a selected handful of apps the motion control functions aren’t compatible with much. Is motion control really needed on a small smartphone? In years to come if you’re using your phone to give a presentation on a larger screen we can see this being useful, but for now it’s a cool additional feature the potential of which we’ll only truly see unlocked in a number of years’ time.
Google Pixel 4 Battery Life
The battery life on the Pixel 4 is poor, and it’s something that really drags down this handset’s standing alongside other flagship models. You’ll find it difficult to get a full day of use out of this smartphone with regular use, although on the plus side this handset does have fast charging and wireless charging capability.
For a phone that boasts such a brilliant camera, the battery is a huge let down and could compromise your plans to spend a full day outdoors taking amazing shots. The answer to that particular problem is to upgrade to the Pixel 4 XL, but you shouldn’t really be needing to spend an extra £160 just to ensure your battery will last all day, especially when at that price you’ll find higher spec and better performing smartphones from other manufacturers.
Google Pixel 4 Pros and Cons
Now that we’ve looked at everything you need to know about the Google Pixel 4, let’s consider whether it’s worth buying.
The Google Pixel 4 is Worth Buying, If…..
You want a smartphone that has an exceptional camera. By combining hardware with market leading software and features, Google has created a smartphone camera that rivals anything else available in the market. As an all-round camera that you can rely on in any situation, with very few weaknesses, the Pixel 4 might just be the best one out there.
The Pixel 4 is also a great buy if you want a top-end phone that isn’t pushing up towards being phablet sized. If you loved an iPhone before they started getting bigger, this phone will remind you of the older iPhone models.
Finally, the display on this phone is outstanding. While the 90Hz refresh rate isn’t as high as on the Galaxy S20, which offers 120Hz, it’s still way above most other smartphones, with Apple and Huawei among the brands still offering screen refresh rates of 60Hz as standard.
The Google Pixel 4 Isn’t Worth Buying, If…..
You need your battery to last all day. It seems like a ridiculous thing to be saying about a smartphone in 2020, but the battery life really does leave a lot to be desired. If you’re not going to be at work or in a location where you can charge your phone, even wirelessly, but you need to have your phone switched on all day, then you should either choose the Pixel 4 XL or look at another brand altogether.
If you’re already a Google Pixel user and own the Pixel 3 or 3 XL, despite being cheaper to buy outright you probably don’t need to upgrade. Things like the motion sense controls are of limited use for now, so you’re effectively paying over £650 for a new camera.
Finally, if you haven’t used a Pixel phone before, or you’re reliant on your fingerprint to sign in and use a number of apps, owning this smartphone could actually be disruptive to your life! If you use your fingerprint for accessing banking apps or for shopping online, you’re best sticking to a phone that has a fingerprint scanner.
Summing Up the Google Pixel 4
The Google Pixel 4 is best summed up as being a phone that has some incredible features and functions, balanced out by a sub-standard battery performance and functions that aren’t ready to have their full potential unleashed yet.
If you put a great camera at the top of your preferences list when choosing a new smartphone, then the Pixel 4 is well worth a look. At the same time, the most impressive smartphone functions are usually the ones that take up the most battery, so if you’re a keen but not prolific smartphone photographer then it might be a worthwhile buy.
Overall, the Pixel 4 is an impressive smartphone, but for the price you pay you may well be able to find a better option, depending on what you prioritise when shopping for a new device.