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Google Pixel 4 Review: A Phone Made The Google Way

Google Pixel 4

From search engine to smartphone, Google has released its 4th instalment of the Google Pixel lineup; a smartphone in every way. It works faster and is smoother, looks aesthetically pleasing, and even takes better pictures. So let’s take a closer look and see what works best and what doesn’t.

First thing’s first, the Pixel 4 maintains its simplistic design with a matte border and back that’s smooth to the touch. The available colours, Oh So Orange, Just Black and Clearly White are generally what you’d expect a Google phone to look like, and honestly, they look great.

What’s New?

Smooth Display

What I noticed upon scrolling through photos or webpages is the smoothness of the graphics and transitions. Thanks to the Pixel 4’s dynamic 90Hz display even the simplest of actions seem very sharp.

Ambient EQ

What this feature does is adjust the warmth and brightness of the display depending on the environment that you’re in order to make it feel and look more natural. This is a good idea, but it does have its issues. Sometimes just accidentally putting your hand over your phone’s display dims it without you wanting it to, and there are times when it doesn’t correctly consider an environment’s lighting and it struggles to adjust.

Front and Bottom Stereo

Not only does the Pixel 4 provide a very immersive sound experience when in landscape, but the sound quality is also crisp and quite loud. If you’re watching a video without earphones, the sound won’t just come out of one side, it balances out nicely. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the speakers were extremely loud given that it’s a smartphone.

Face Unlock

One of the handier and more exciting additions to the Pixel 4, the Face Unlock feature makes unlocking your phone faster and easier than ever before. All you have to do is scan your face and it will automatically recognise you and unlock your phone.

BUT this is a feature that is still in the works it seems, because you still encounter issues such as failure to recognise your face. This can be annoying because it leaves you looking silly if you are witnessed staring frustratingly at a blank phone screen in public.

And I did suffer from a fair share of awkward sideways looks.

But when it does work, it is very quick and helpful, and gets you to your home screen instantaneously.

New Features – Camera

The Google Pixel 4 has made the camera one of the focal points this year with a variety of significant improvements.

Night Sight

When the lighting in a given environment is too low and capturing specific details becomes too difficult, Night Sight significantly brightens the surroundings.

Above, in the pictures captured by Australian photographer, Aquabumps, the colours ranging from the whites in the water, the emerald greens of the pool and the golds of the lights in the distance are extremely present in the image and equally balanced.

Astrophotography is another addition to the Night Sight which for the first time allows users to capture all the twinkles and shines of the night sky.

And evidently it is not only in the lower-lit settings that the image quality is richer and clearer, but also during the day. With the addition of Live HDR+, you can see exactly how your picture is going to look like before you actually take it.

sunset photography
Room with a view: Sunset over Sydney’s Middle Harbour

Above, you can see photos snapped during different times of the day. The first to the left really captures the haziness and greyness of the clouds and gives off a sort of heaviness. The sun hiding behind the white mass remains prominent in the shot without dominating the the storm-like environment. The photo on the right, is much brighter in contrast with a clear blue sky and sun beaming down on the ocean in the background. The very discrete yellow creeping over the ocean’s horizon is also made noticeable. The bottom photo, my favourite one, is simply stunning. The blood orange sunrise smoothly contrasts the subtle lightness of the calm morning sea. All the colours and shades in these photos are given the same amount of attention, no colour seems out of place and every photo achieves balance.

I’m a pro photographer…well actually I’m not, but you wouldn’t argue if I told you I was.

To make things even better, the Pixel 4 supports an even more powerful zoom feature. Don’t believe me? Check out this shot of Women Love Tech’s office.

camera zoom

There’s a note attached to that cabinet in the above photo. From here, there’s no way I’m reading that, but if I zoom in…

camera zoom

…ah right. I should have known that that’s what that note was.

I tried this zoom feature on my hand and came back with some scarily good results.

zoom

This is my hand without zoom.

pixel 4 camera

And this is it when fully zoomed in. Impressively, it manages to show all the distinct details in my fingers, even at such a close range. Usually, the photo would blur out long before reaching this close.

Motion Sense

A very smart feature that makes everyday tasks that little bit easier. Apart from automatically turning on the display, motion sense also lets you skip songs by swooshing over the display with your palm.

When you’re cooking and your fingers are sticky and icky, just swoosh over the display to dismiss a timer, in the morning swoosh over the display to snooze your alarm (that’s one that has definitely been used), or you can even silence incoming calls.

Google Assistant

The Google Pixel 4’s Google Assistant is now more helpful and reactive to your all your commands. Activate your assistant by either gently squeezing the sides of your phone, swiping up from either of the screen’s corners, or saying “Hi, Google” or “Ok, Google”.

The commands are extremely fast, from asking Google to turn your flashlight on when it’s too dark, checking the weather, changing the song, searching the web…or looking at photos from last night to remember what happened like Stu did.

What I personally found to be really handy was if I were to read an interesting article or find a nice photo, for example, then I could simply say “Hey, Google, send this to -” and it would show up in your messages, ready for you to send.

AI

Obviously, part of AI is the Google Assistant, but one feature that stood out for me was the Recorder app.

With the Recorder App, audio is now also automatically transcribed. How many times have I found myself in a lecture or a meeting and forgotten a few key points. No need to worry, the whole conversation is transcribed. And if you’re looking for keywords, just type them in the search bar.

This feature is particularly good for interviewing, because transcribing even a 15-minute conversation can take hours. If you know, you know.

Messages

Smart Reply for messages are now far more context-aware, meaning that you can instantly reply without having to type or even go into the app; you can do so from the notifications.

Charging + Battery

Adaptive Battery recognises which apps are infrequently used and so limits their background battery usage, that, along with the Battery Saver and you’re very easily going to get through a whole day. The Battery Saver switches to a ‘dark mode’ and reduces pings to your network.

The fast charger is also super effective. When I tried it, I went from 40% to 100% in 30 minutes, which is great for when you’re in a rush and need a quick charge.

Final Word

Google has released a phone that is made for people who are looking for efficiency and simpleness. It’s a very quick smartphone with lots of great features, from the New Google Assistant who will help you with everyday tasks to all the wonderful additions to the camera.

If I were to describe this phone in one word, I would say “Fun”. Using the assistant is fun, being able to send photos to contacts from a website is fun, editing photos and zooming into things from far is fun. But, obviously what we’re looking for in a smartphone is not solely its ability to create fun, but to be useable and reactive when we need it to be, which it is…for the most part.

As I said, it’s a work in progress, but one to take a chance on because what we’ve been given with the Pixel 4 is a great to start to a new generation of smartphones.

Visit https://store.google.com/au/config/pixel_4 to preorder the Google Pixel 4.

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Written by Emeric Brard

Comments

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  1. I can imagine a lot of people having the same question on their phone, just like I have to remember when my son had a GPS receiver. In my case, I just didn’t feel that I had that question — it seemed like I’d have something to answer myself. I have been thinking about the iPad lately and I’ve got a lot of questions about the phone like does bluestacks simulator run in this phone and I’ve been looking forward to checking out the reviews.

  2. This is a really useful piece of hardware for Google, but as a company, I just wish Google hardware would have better hardware support. Surely it’s not too difficult to fix these problems, but you could also fix the problem the Android OS solves for each device.

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