Look around YouTube and you will find hundreds of videos comparing the Pixel 4 to other phones. This is not one of those posts. Instead, as a Pixel 3a owner,I am going to tell you about my real-world experience with the Pixel 4 for anyone who is thinking about buying the Pixel 4. You want to know the good and the bad. And yes, there are both.
Before I dive into the good and the bad, I want to be clear. Since Google sent me the phone about two weeks ago, I have been using it as my only phone. Not as a secondary phone.
It is an important distinction so that you know that everything I will be talking about is from daily usage and not an afternoon walk around the city.
Pixel 4: The look and feel
The Pixel 4 feels solid in your hands and is not slippery at all. The Panda White version of the phone does a superb job at not leaving fingerprints but of course, you will slap a cover on it anyways.
The power button is a different color which is kinda neat and the volume rocker is clicky and responsive.
The Pixel 4 is more than capable of handling your daily tasks. You can easily jump from work emails to social media, to Call of Duty and back without any hesitation or frustrations.
Call quality is superb and the audio out of the speakers is nice and crisp. Even at full volume, you get quality audio without distortion. I would say plug your headphone in, but there is no headphone jack…yes. NO HEADPHONE JACK!!
You can connect your Bluetooth headphone and if you have a USB headphone you can use the USB to USB C adaptor to get sound into your ears without affecting your battery.
Pixel 4: The Battery
This one is weird. Some days I get 8 hours on-screen times and other days 5 hours. A single charge sometimes lasts 10 hours and sometimes 17 hours.
I have everything on like Ambient EQ and Smooth Display and I use the usual apps like Google maps, Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, YouTube etc.
As usual, phones take a bit of time to learn your habits and adapt the battery consumption based on your usage. After two weeks, I figured that it would settle down and learn my usage but I still can’t get a consistent feel for the battery capability.
It does have Fast Wired or Wireless charging to get you back up to running in no time.
Pixel 4: 90Hz screen
The Pixel 4 has a 90Hz display. This means that it has a high refresh rate and the phone feels nice and smooth. The phone changes the refresh rate based on what you are doing – if you watch a simple YouTube clip, 60Hz is fine. Launch an intense game or VR, and it changes to 90Hz.
When the screen display brightness drops to below 75% the screen changes to 60 Hz. Google is set to issue a software fix for Smooth Display which will fix that apparently.
If you want to keep the phone at 90Hz, head to the Developers menu and enable that.
I will say that most people could not tell the difference when with the smooth display on or off with 90Hz on or off. Do with that as you will.
Pixel 4: Face Unlock
What I really like about Pixel 3 was the Always-On display where at a glance you could see what’s waiting for you on the phone. The Pixel 4 does have that feature too. However, Pixel 4 has an insanely fast face unlock feature. As you reach out to your phone, it uses motions to sense that you are near and as soon as it sees your face it unlocks the phone.
This is superb if you want to access the phone but not so great if you just want to glance at the Always-On screen to see the time or the weather.
Speaking of Face Unlock biometrics – I miss the fingerprint scanner. I loved it on the Pixel 3a as it was so fast and the best bit was the pull-down notification ability. Simply swipe down with your finger and it showed you the notifications. Can’t do that without a fingerprint scanner on the Pixel 4.
Pixel 4: The Motions
You can set up the phone to silent an alarm or dismiss an incoming call with just waving your hand in front of the phone. You can also skip tracks in apps like Spotify and Pandora. However, this isn’t yet available to other apps like YouTube or third-party music players.
Besides a handful of waves, the Motions does nothing else. Nothing.
I can see more potential for this if developers embrace it and use it in their apps. The good news is that it is baked into the hardware so we just need more developers to adopt it. Imagine being able to read a blog post and wave your hand down to scroll or turn a page in the kindle app for example.
Pixel 4: Camera
Your views on a camera are largely influenced by what you are used to and what you want out of the camera. There are hundreds of videos comparing the Pixel 4 camera to every other phone’s camera especially the iPhone 11. I am not going to try to convince you one way or another.
I can tell you that I personally love this camera. The pics are nice and sharp, the software is easy to use. You can control the shadows and highlights in the photo, the portrait mode is pretty cool and the night sight makes the difference between a useable image and a non-useable image.
As you snap a photo you can instantly share with up to three apps by swiping up on the preview just after you snap the shot. A nice touch.
Video shoots at 1080p or 4K and you can set the frame rate to auto, 30 fps or 60 fps. The stabilization does a great job keeping the image flowing. Video audio is great too
Pixel 4: Live Captions and Live Transcription
Speaking of audio, one of the coolest features is the live caption and live transcription. As soon as someone speaks it will caption it on the screen and works in video and podcasts too. As soon as someone speaks around the recorder app it will record the audio and live transcribe at the same time – all done on the phone so no internet is needed.
I set up the Pixel 4 to fail as I put this transcription up to against accents and you can see that video over here for how it did:
Pixel 4: Android 10
Since Pixel 4 comes with Android 10, the one thing to mention is the Android 10 navigation. Once you master the basic swipes, this is brilliant and feels like you get around your phone much faster.
However, because swiping from the left or from the right of the screen means “go back”, it interferes with various apps. For example, the Facebook Messenger pop-up head sits on the left or the right side of the screen. When you want to move the head around, the phone thinks you are swiping so whatever screen you are on goes back one page.
Same with Instagram. When you want to enlarge or reduce text on your Instagram pic or story, you have to swipe your finger up or down on the left side. This confuses the Android 10 navigation.
So in Summary:
The Pixel 4 is a superb phone for most people but it has two big problems. Its price tag and the fact that Pixel 3 is just so powerful. The Pixel 4 starts at $799 and the Pixel 4XL starts at $899.
If you can wait on a great deal from your service provider, with perhaps a trade-in, or a migration incentive, then this would be an ideal phone.
Check out the 30 Must-Do Tips and Tricks on the Pixel 4: