Google announced the Pixel 4 last week at an event in New York City, and now that I’ve had it in-hand for a few days, I want to share some initial thoughts on the new features—the radar, Face Unlock, and the cameras.
Before we get into it, though, I want to clarify: this isn’t a full review. I’ve only had the phone for a few days and don’t think that’s quite enough time to write as thorough a review as I’d like. So instead, I’m opting for this compromise—some initial thoughts focusing on the phone’s new and interesting features.
This will be a bit deeper than my hands-on impressions with the phone, but still not deep enough to call it a “review.” These are simply the thoughts I’ve collected over the last few days and want to share before sitting down to pen the full review.
So yeah, let’s talk about it.
Google Gets Innovative Again
Back in the day, I owned nearly every Nexus phone that existed, and every Pixel device since the series launched, save for one: I skipped the Pixel 3. I’m generally a fan of the XL models, and the massive notch that had absolutely no reason to exist other than “well, the iPhone has one” was enough to make me give that one a hard pass. It was disheartening to see Google make a “me too!” phone just like everyone else.
But with the Pixel 4, ol’ Googly-poo went back to the drawing board and actually thought about what it wanted to do with the phone. So what we have now isn’t a “me too” phone, but an innovative and forward-thinking piece of hardware. It still has everything that Pixel-lovers, well, love about Pixel phones—namely, clean Android and a killer camera—but it’s also new, fresh, and different. Not just compared to Pixels of old, either—compared to the entire Android ecosystem.
The Bezel Makes it Better
Yeah, so the 3XL had that awful notch (and for the record, I’m not a “notch hater;” that one was just bad), and at first look, it would be easy to think that the Pixel 4 is a step backward because it has a full-length upper bezel. There’s this weird notion amongst tech enthusiasts that we’re supposed to absolutely hate bezels for some reason, but I don’t think anyone will disagree that the one on the Pixel 4 is actually useful.
That’s because under that bezel is all sorts of impressive tech. The first is a radar chip that is used for gesture control of the phone without having to touch it. This is the first time a radar has been incorporated into a phone, and Google had to do a lot of work to make it small enough to fit. While its use is still pretty limited, it honestly has the potential to be something rad—something truly useful.
Admittedly, the radar chip is mostly a novelty right now. You can use it to change music tracks or silence alarms just by waving your hand over your phone. When the phone is ringing, the radar will also detect when your hand is coming close and automatically lower the ring volume. But the radar isn’t just a neat way to do things without touching the phone—it also ties into another feature that’s new to Android: Face Unlock.