Google Pixel 4 – what’s sticking?

This year the Pixel 4 is mostly a safe release but it also adds some weird new features. Google released a new version of their flagship and tries to figure out, what sticks.

Samsung is known for trying new stuff before adding the features to the main flagships. Do you remember the original Galaxy Note with the massive 5,3″ display? They created a new category of devices just by trying if people like big screens. The original Note had an 81.4 cm² display area. The Note 10+ now has a 114 cm² one.

They also created a new trend with curved displays. The Note Edge, released at the same time with the Note 4, was a limited production curved screen variant of the Note 4. Now all of the Samsung flagships have curved displays.

What about Google? Where are their dual front facing cameras this year? Where is the single rear camera that can do all the things a multi camera setup could do? Where is the unlimited cloud storage for original quality photos? Where is the safe and quick fingerprint scanner? Where is the 3,5mm adapter? Where is the USB-C headphones? Where are the dual front facing speakers?

Google has been trying something new every year but this year it seems that they have ditched too much of the good features and added empty gimmicks.

I mean, who is ready to completely give up the fingerprint scanner for the face unlock? Not me at least. When I get my hands on the Pixel 4, I’ll no longer have my phone unlocked when it comes out of my pocket. Why can’t we have both?

The radar is another thing. If I understood correctly, the radar is used with the face unlock feature to make it more accurate. But it is also used for the reaching over the phone feature so the phone will detect when user is going to pick it up and unlock it. It’s used to skip songs and silence alarms. At the same time Google is promoting all the voice control features.

The entire keynote looked to me like Fiat Multipla design team was managing the Google hardware business. The features were not unified. The release looks like a collection of new stuff Google engineers were able to create this year. Some old stuff was left behind while doing this.

The biggest mess is the Google Photos backup. They got rid of the free original quality backups to get more people to buy the Google One subscription. If it only was an affordable option but it’s basically the price of the iCloud. This should not be that big of a deal as the high quality backups are still free but anyway, it has been the flagship feature of Pixel phones until now.

Google is testing, what will stick and I hope that some day, they will make the perfect combination of the features they have tried. While waiting, I’ll tease myself with the idea of switching to an iPhone and with that, getting a proper smart watch that does only exist in a fruit ecosystem.

Why switching to iPhone is more compelling than ever?

Every year, many people switch their smartphone ecosystem from iPhone to Android or the opposite way. However, this year Apple seems to be more compelling option than ever.

The early sales numbers show growth in Apple iPhone sales, and Apple has even ramped up the production by 10% to meet the demand of the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models. This is like back in the old days when Apple surprised themselves every year by selling more iPhones than expected. This year, there are legitimate reasons for that.

Price is the first reason. As every other manufacturer is rising their prices, Apple is keeping theirs the same. When you can get the proper status symbol with a fruit logo on the back for only a few hundred more, why would you buy a Samsung or a Pixel?

Apple Watch is now in the class of its own. And it only works on an iPhone. It looks like Google has given up with the WearOS and there are no interesting new models showing up. Samsung uses their own watch without Google apps like Fit. Who wants to add Samsung apps to their phone if they don’t already have a Samsung? Apple seems to be the only choice right now for those who want to use a smartwatch.

Features. Apple hasn’t passed Android phones yet but they are getting closer. Dark mode, triple cameras, fake emails for apps to add privacy, better water resistance and much improved battery life. Add this to the ones they already had over Android, superior performance, better accessory options, superior build quality and updates for five years. They are even doing most of the features right or more right than their competitors.

Sustainability. Every company has to polish their shields. Apple however has done some actual improvements. The iPhone 11 Pro models are more modular than ever. Single components seem to be replaceable and it doesn’t look like the whole phone must be swapped every time something breaks inside.

These are just a few examples and the users that have used iPhone and Android phones side by side lately, surely can add more to that list. I switched my number 2 phone to Android a year ago and have only Android since. I don’t think I’m going to get an iPhone any time soon but maybe this year will push Google to improve more.