Google’s Pixel 4 isn’t due to be released until October this year, but after constant leaks the company has revealed most of the features of its next flagship phone
The Pixel 4 drip-feed continues: Google has revealed more details about the upcoming Pixel 4, months before it is actually due to be released.
The reveal is a continuation of a novel tactic from the company – in previous years, tech giants such as Google and Apple have chosen to remain silent regarding details of their latest phones, saving innovations for a big reveal and ignoring or refusing to comment on leaks. This year represents a seachange on this front for Google, who has responded playfully to leaks – the Made by Google account tweeted an image of the back of the phone after convincing renders, showing the square camera bump, appeared in June. Google’s tweet went viral.
Now, we have some more announcements, courtesy of a Google blog post: “As we shared last month, Pixel 4 is in the works,” says the post. “Today we’re giving you an early look at the technology behind two new features coming to Pixel 4 that make your phone more helpful and represent the next step in our vision for ambient computing.”
What’s been revealed then?
In a word, motion sense and face unlock.
The first innovation is “a motion-sensing radar”, which Google terms Soli, a widely expected feature after images of the phone were leaked by third parties. The blog post emphasises that “radar” is an appropriate term here: the tech shares its heritage with the radar “used to detect planes and other large objects”.
It’ll be built into the top of your Pixel 4 phone in order to sense motion, “combining unique software algorithms with the advanced hardware sensor”, so it can recognise gestures and detect when you’re nearby. With just a wave of your hand, you’ll be able to skip songs, snooze alarms and silence phone calls. Soli will be powered by a new software Motion Sense, which the company promises will “evolve” in the future.
The second announcement is face unlock, a feature that, as you might expect, allows you to unlock your phone with your face, rather than a fingerprint sensor. (This feature had also been widely predicted after photos of the back of the phone did not contain a fingerprint sensor).
Face unlock is a familiar function of most modern smartphones, particularly Apple’s iPhone, which was first introduced as a feature in November 2017 with the iPhone X. Google, however, aims to improve it in several ways. “Other phones require you to lift the device all the way up, pose in a certain way, wait for it to unlock, and then swipe to get to the home screen,” says the blog post. The Pixel 4 will be far more streamlined, supposedly due to Soli.
Google promises that when a user reaches for their Pixel 4, Soli will detect this action and proactively switch on the the face unlock sensors. This means that, provided your face is the right one, the phone will open as you pick it up, all in one motion. The company said that this action would work “even if you’re holding the phone upside down”, a jibe at the iPhone, which you currently need to have facing up.
Just like Apple’s Face ID, the feature can be used for secure payments and app authentication. Google told The Verge that it had done “field research” to ensure that it’s depth, infrared and RGB sensors will work in a variety of lighting situations and with a diverse set of faces. Google also confirmed that it has been offering customers $5 gift certificates to scan their faces, in order to improve the accuracy of this feature.
The final section of the announcement deals with Google’s policy on security and privacy, which, of course, is an ongoing concern with some forms of facial recognition software. Google promises that the image and Soli sensor data will never leave your phone, and will never be shared with other Google services.
What else do we know?
The motion sense and face unlock announcement are just the latest reveal of the Pixel 4’s capabilities. From Google’s earlier June announcement we know that phone’s square camera bump indicates a few things.
It seems to feature what looks like dual cameras, a flash and at least one sensor, probably the same ‘spectral’/flicker sensor as the Pixel 3 which improves performance in pulsing light. (Google has yet to reveal the full capabilities of the cameras).
Whether the second lens will be wide-angle or telephoto also remains to be seen. The coming 2019 iPhone camera array is rumoured to include an ultra-wide-angle lens to take images with a much larger field of view, so this could be a theme developing this year on hardware.
Unlike the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, which feature an ultra-wide selfie shooter, an image released by Google shows that there won’t be a second front-front facing camera.These are the best smartphones in 2019
What don’t we know yet?
Despite Google’s own announcements about the phone, there’s still plenty that we don’t know. We don’t know the price, but we can speculate: prices for the current Pixel devices start at £739 so expect the Pixel 4 to be similar or higher.
Internal hardware specs are as of yet unconfirmed, we have only rumours. The phone seems certain to run Android 10.0 Q and, according to Techadvisor, feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, a successor to the Snapdragon 845 seen in the current generation of Pixels.
Techadvisor also reported that a device like the Pixel 4 appeared on processor benchmarking program Geekbench. This featured 6GB of RAM, compared to its predecessors 4GB of memory.
Will the Pixel support 5G?
We don’t know, but the phone’s rumoured Snapdragon processor is capable of supporting 5G connections, so there’s a distinct possibility the Pixel 4 could be Google’s first 5G enabled phone. There’s also a chance the company could offer 4G and 5G models, as Samsung and OnePlus have done with their 2019 phone releases. Given the limited availability of 5G networks in the UK and beyond, we’re still some way from phone manufacturers only producing 5G handsets.
So when might it be released?
The most recent blogpost concludes that “we’re busy building these features for Pixel 4 and look forward to sharing more with you and the entire #teampixel later this year.” Google clearly wants to keep some details a secret so it can attempt to create some hype when the phone is revealed in its final form.
If Google follows its regular schedule this means October – the Pixel 3 was announced on October 9, 2018. If Google’s current beat-the-leakers strategy is anything to go by, expect lots more details before this date.