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Google Pixel 4 review: a good phone ruined by poor battery life

Guardian Technology 31 Oct 2019 07:00
Easy to hold, great to use, until it runs out of juice, the Google Pixel 4 is a missed opportunity. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Google is one of only a handful of smartphone manufacturers still making flagship phones that aren’t ginormous beasts, with the new Pixel 4 the cheapest in a while that significantly undercuts the competition.

Priced at £669, the Pixel 4 is £70 cheaper than last year’s Pixel 3 and £60 cheaper than Apple’s iPhone 11. It’s also cheaper than its bigger sibling the £829 Pixel 4 XL. The concern is: which corners have been cut and do they matter?

The 5.7in FHD+ OLED display has the same 90Hz refresh rate as the larger 6.3in version on the Pixel 4 XL. It looks very similar too, with good viewing angles, inky blacks and bold colours and smooth experience thanks to that high refresh rate. But it’s not the brightest screen available, which makes it fine for most things but not quite as bright as I would like in direct sunlight.

google pixel 4 review
The large bezel at the top of the screen contains the Soli radar sensors for Motion Sense and the 3D face recognition system for Face unlock. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Awful battery life

The Pixel 4 has the same 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and one of Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 as the Pixel 4 XL and performs identically – fast and fluid, but not quite as speedy as the OnePlus 7T.

The Pixel 4 is one of the first smartphones to ship with the latest version of Android 10, complete with system-wide dark mode, full theming support for changing colours, icon shapes, typefaces and more, and vastly improved gesture navigation. At least three years of software updates from the phone’s release are included and it will get Android version updates before most other devices.

Google has dumped the fingerprint scanner for its new Face Unlock using 3D face recognition technology similar to Apple’s Face ID.

Google has made a name for itself with some of the best smartphone cameras on the market, and the new dual-camera system on the back of the Pixel 4 is no different. It’s the same camera as that fitted to the Pixel 4 XL and performs the same.

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