Google might have pulled the greatest trick with the Pixel 4. On Wednesday afternoon, the Made by Google Twitter account confirmed a leak that was just starting to make the rounds: the Pixel 4 will finally have a second camera on the back, along with a new design that looks an awful lot like the presumed iPhone 11. And in doing so, it made the Pixel 4 a whole lot more interesting.
That’s because there’s a lot more to be excited about than a square camera bump and a new sensor. Google may have squashed a few months of rumors and leaks with the first Pixel 4 image, but it also completely changed my expectations for the upcoming handset. By revealing what should be one of the phone’s biggest features months ahead of the game, Google actually created more hype of the phone.
Here are four things I can’t wait to learn more about:
What does the front look like?
Now that we know what the back of the Pixel 4 looks like, the question remains: How big is the display on the front? Google has steadily increased the size of the Pixel and the Pixel XL over the three iterations, but with phones like the Galaxy S10 5G and OnePlus 7 Pro pushing the display size all the way to 6.7 inches, Google could go really big with the Pixel 4.
And then there’s those bezels. And the chin. And the notch. Let’s face it, the Pixel has never been a phone that people drool over, but recent renders have suggested that Google might be fixing the Pixel’s bland design with the Pixel 4. I mean, is it possible they showed us the back early because the front is so beautiful?
What will the new camera do?
OK, so the Pixel 4 will have a dual-camera array on the back. Big deal right? Basically every Android phone for the past two years has had at least two main cameras for ultra wide, telephoto, and/or depth shots, and the new hotness is triple and even quad cameras. So the mere inclusion of a second lens on the Pixel 4 isn’t a reason to get excited.
What’s more intriguing is what those cameras will be able to do. With just a single lens, Google has delivered some awesome features on its Pixel phones, including Top Shot, Night Sight, and portrait mode, so we can only imagine what it will be able to do with twice as many cameras. Google already delivered Group Selfie Cam with the dual front camera on the Pixel 3, but we’re hoping there’s a whole lot more packed into the Pixel 4.
Where’s the fingerprint sensor?
One thing missing from the Pixel 4 render Google tweeted out Wednesday was the fingerprint sensor. Normally holding court just below the camera, its conspicuous absence means one of two things: It’s moving under the display or into the front camera a la the LG G8’s time-of-flight sensor.
It’s the second option that’s particularly enticing. While the LG G8 was packed with useless gimmicks that let you unlock your phone with your palm and answer calls with a swipe of your hand, Google could be upping the game with the hands-free Soli radar chip, which was first teased at Google I/O way back in 2015. However, rather than use it to control the screen without touching it, Google could use hand gestures to control Assistant or maybe take a photo without struggling to tap the shutter.
What’s the real killer feature?
If Google is showing off the camera now, what does it have up its sleeve? Yes there will be new photography features and possibly a time-of-flight camera, but will the Pixel 4 also bring a new trademark feature like Active Edge or Call Screen? Most of the Pixel’s best features have come from Google’s incredible AI, so we’ll be waiting for the “wow” moment during the press conference that trumps the new camera.
Does hardware even matter?
Most phone makers go to great lengths to quash leaks and rumors so they can surprise fans on launch day, but Google is flipping the script here. By showing us the back of the phone months before it’s revealed, it’s taking the emphasis off aesthetics as the most important part of its new phone and putting the focus on what it can do.
Phone fans and reviewers put a lot of stock in what a handset looks like, but the Pixel has always bucked that trend, scoring high marks despite its pedestrian design. Even though this this leak is showing off a major change to the Pixel aesthetics, Google is giving us plenty of time to soak in the new look so it won’t be an issue—good or bad—when the phone actually arrives. In short, it’s saying that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter, it’s what inside that counts. That’s always been the case with the Pixel, but now Google is really driving it home.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.
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