This article may contain personal views and opinions of the author.
It is 7:30 in the morning. A soft melody tingles my ears and marks the start of a new day. The tune is silent when I reach for my phone. I pick it up and a moment later – after no complaints from Face Unlock about my messy hair – my Pixel 4 XL is ready to serve me. I spend the next few minutes watching the weather, reading the news and enjoying the automatically generated collage of photos from my weekend trip outside the city. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL were not among the favorite phones of the internet of 2021. The bashing started as soon as Google announced them: small batteries, stingy storage options, lack of a super wide-angle camera and high prices were among the top complaints that you would read on the internet.
But here is the thing: although I agree with the Pixel 4 criticism, I have already spent several months using the Google phone and for the most part I have enjoyed it a lot.
Is the Google Pixel 4 a bad phone?
The short answer: it depends. If you only stack specifications at the price when choosing a phone, you would easily be convinced that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the worst phones of 2021. However, specifications never give a complete picture.
My colleague Victor wrote a great piece about the Pixel 4 hated and pointed out that many negative comments from people were related to specifications. But the strengths of the Google Pixel phones lie in things that cannot easily be expressed in numbers – things that cannot be appreciated until you can actually use the phone yourself.
An example: the Google Pixel 4 XL that I have used is one of the most responsive phones that I have recently tested. Not long ago I had to use a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 for a few hours and it felt slow to compare. I’m sure that is not only due to the 90Hz refresh rate of the Pixel 4 display, but also to software that is optimized for speed and fluidity.
Now that I have mentioned it, the display on the Pixel 4 XL that I used looks great. Colors are brilliant but not over-saturated, and you get extra benefits such as automatic white balance adjustment (called Ambient EQ), a system-wide dark theme, automatic blue light filter and a handy, always visible display. The edges of the glass are flat, so you won’t get accidental touches like other, nicer phones with curved screens. Moreover, the Pixel 4 is one of the few phones where the automatic brightness function actually works well.
The display on the Google Pixel 4 XL looks beautiful
And the list goes on. Face recognition on the Pixel 4 is great and I find it difficult to switch to a phone that uses a fingerprint scanner instead. The Pixel 4 XL was also chosen as the phone with The Best speakers in our recent blind test. The vibration motor is powerful and offers excellent haptic feedback. The new Recorder app and Live Captions work well and can be super useful for many.
Face recognition on the Pixel 4 is fast and super handy
Are two cameras sufficient of 2021?
Pixel phones are always striking with their cameras, and the Pixel 4 series is no different. I am more than satisfied with the quality of the photos that my Pixel 4 XL takes. Portraits and Night Sight photos also look fantastic. All the while the camera app itself is fast, clean and simple.
However, I feel that Google has cut too many corners here by not placing a super wide-angle camera on the Pixel 4. This is not something that you can compensate using smart software algorithms. A super-wide lens is invaluable in certain situations, whether it’s photos in tight spots or fast videos.
The Google Pixel 4 camera takes great photos, but a super wide-angle lens is missing
Project Soli is a big disappointment
Google has been working on Project Soli for several years: a radar-based sensor system that allows a device to detect gestures with extreme precision. Fancy videos of the system in action show how virtual dials and buttons can be operated effortlessly with a simple click or a finger movement. You do not have to touch the telephone.
The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the first two phones that come with Google’s radar-based system – and it’s bad on so many levels. First of all, its use is extremely limited. With a wave across the screen you can skip songs, mute alarms or play with your Pokemon live wallpaper. That’s it, really.
The Best use for Space-age technology is not waving at Pikachu
Now I would have liked to skip songs with a wave of my hand – for example, while driving to work – but my Pixel 4 XL only detects the gesture about 20% of the time. A month ago, after spilling my cup of tea while trying to skip a song with a wave, I turned off all gestures controls.
Strangely enough, my colleague Eugene, who has also been a Pixel 4 user for several months, reports that gestures work almost perfectly on his device. Is my Pixel 4 XL a dud? I don’t think it matters. The Google Pixel 4 would have been a better phone without Project Soli. Google’s radar arch makes the phone more expensive and complicated without having to solve problems. I’d like to trade it in for another camera or extra storage – both functions that would have been much more useful.
Is the life of the Pixel 4 battery really that bad?
Not really, or at least not on the Pixel 4 XL that I used. With typical usage where music is streamed, web surfing, social media and watching YouTube video in the evening, the phone still has about 40% of the remaining costs when I go to bed.
But it’s not great either. For some reason, my Pixel 4 XL loses about 10-15% of the nightly charge if I forget to charge it. In other words, it seems that the standby efficiency is terrible for a modern phone. The drain remains even when gesture recognition is turned off.
Speaking of battery life and charging, I now have a simple wireless charger on my desk at work. If I don’t use the phone, I’ll just leave it the re. In this way, I never leave the office for fear that the Pixel 4 XL will die before going to sleep, even if I plan to go out.
Is a Pixel 4 worth getting of 2021?
I think Google made a mistake when it launched the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL for $ 800 and $ 900 respectively. There was not much to justify such high costs, so Google’s phones didn’t make a positive first impression on the public .
But a Pixel 4 XL now costs less than $ 700 and I would call that a fair price. Too bad that few people at this point, with the Samsung Galaxy S20 series on preorder and all models of the Samsung Galaxy S10 on sale.
So yes, a Pixel 4 XL is definitely worth getting – but I’d say it’s not a phone for hardcore enthusiasts.
However, Google focuses Pixels much more on average consumers. I would recommend a Pixel phone to anyone who wants a simple Android phone that works, has a good camera and does not overwhelm them with unnecessary clutter. Oh, and who doesn’t mind charging it every night. Specs nerds, power users and mobile gamers may want to look elsewhere.