Google’s new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL will come with a dual rear camera setup, some nifty hands-free gesture features and a new Google Assistant that promises to respond faster.
The latest iteration of the US tech giant’s flagship smartphones were revealed at Made By Google 2019 on Tuesday (Oct 15). The annual event, which was held at the edgy new cultural centre The Shed at New York City’s Hudson Yards, also featured a handful of new consumer gadgets – but as expected, the new Pixel phones were the main stars.
TIME TO GO HANDS-FREE
Google has always touted its software capabilities over hardware, and it’s evident in the new Pixel 4s.
The largish top bezel – yes, you can say goodbye to the previous version’s controversial notch – houses the selfie camera, a narrow pill-shaped speaker grille, and an assemblage of sensors such as two infra-red cameras, a dot projector and a flood illuminator.
More importantly, this is also where the all-new and much-buzzed-about Soli radar chip is located. It’s basically what powers its new Motion Sense feature for some new hands-free gestures and to assist its Face Unlock function.
“You should be able to get things done, for example, to play music, without having to pull out a phone or press a few buttons,” said Rick Osterloh, Google's head of devices and services, in his keynote address.
“Your devices should know what to do, for example, to silence themselves when you're busy, or when you're about to go to bed. Instead of a bunch of devices all doing their own thing, it's about human interaction with technology.
"For example, Motion Sensing on Pixel 4 allows quick gestures and voice commands, allows for quicker, more natural interactions, extending the phone's capabilities in new ways.”
The phones recognise four main moves. There’s “reach”, which “quietens” the phone when it senses you’re reaching for it (to pick up a phone or switch off alarms or timers).
A “swipe” recognises a dismissive wave of the hand over the phone screen, letting you effortlessly reject and silence unwanted phone calls, snooze your alarm clock or dismiss a timer that goes off.
Depending on the direction you can also “flick” a finger across your phone screen, you can skip a music track, or replay a previous one.
And then, there’s “presence”, which keeps your phone unlocked while you’re looking at it, thanks to the phones’ powerful Face Recognition capability. It’s touted to be so advanced that it has done away with a fingerprint sensor, while offering enough security to verify digital payments and even authenticate web applications.
The Pixel 4 series also boasts several other smart new capabilities, such as a recording app that automatically transcribes recordings. Yes, an instant secretary at your fingertips.
As for the new Google Assistant, it’s also said to be smarter and will consider the actual context of your question for a better response.
YES, PIXEL PHONES WITH 2 REAR CAMERAS
With most smartphones upping their camera game, it seemed Google finally decided it was time to join in by introducing the dual camera setup at the rear – a 12MP lens with face-detect autofocus, and a 16MP 2x telephoto lens.
It’s a first for Pixel phones, which previously took pride in just having one and letting the photography software do its magic.
Which it still has, of course, thanks to an updated Pixel Visual Core co-processor called Pixel Neural Core. This gives the Pixel 4s a low-light Night Sight technology that allows for some “astrophotography” – if you’re into dramatically starry night scenes.
The camera application offers dual exposure controls, allowing users to separately manage the highlights and shadows when taking a picture, so you get shots that are perfectly clear, despite harsh overhead lighting or backlighting.
An improved selfie mode featuring a new algorithm corrects for wide-angle distortion, spelling an end to those dreaded “big nose, fat face” selfies. The all-new Motion Mode allows you to shoot pictures with blurred backgrounds, even when your subject is moving.
Other camera functions such as Super Res Zoom, Timelapse mode, Live HDR, Audio Zoom, have also been upgraded.
“Combining multiple pictures to make a single better picture, we capture a burst of up to nine pictures (and) align them using software that averages them out, giving you details on both the highlights and shadows, with less noise,” said Marc Levoy, head of Google research, explaining how the Pixel 4’s hybrid optical and hybrid digital zoom cameras work.
Also present at the event was legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, who recalled how she was given the Pixel 3 a year ago and later, the new Pixel 4.
“Google totally seduced me by asking me if I wanted to drive across the country taking pictures. I was amazed at how I relaxed with (the Pixel 4). I just let the camera do the work and really enjoyed myself.”
SPECS AND MORE SPECS
Both Pixel 4s have more or less the same features, with the key differences in size and battery – the Pixel 4 has a 5.7-inch Full HD+ OLED display and a 2,800mAh battery, while its larger sibling, the Pixel 4XL, boasts a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ OLED display and a 3,700mAh battery. Both come in 64GB and 128GB models.
These will run on Android’s latest OS, Android 10, which will have a system-wide dark mode that creates less eye strain and consumes less battery power than the usual light mode, as well as new permissions features, and the Titan M security module for enhanced security.
Other key product specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GM of RAM, a USB-C port. Like the Pixel 3 series, the new phones will offer wireless charging.
The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL are available in colours such as Just Black (with a white lock button), “Clearly White” (with black trim and an orange lock button), and the limited edition “Oh So Orange” (which is technically, more melon-hued than orange, and comes with black trim and a salmon pink lock button).
The 64GB variants of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL are priced at S$1,119 and S$1,319, respectively, while the 128GB models cost S$1,269 and S$1,469, respectively. Pre-orders start on Wednesday (Oct 16) from the Google Store, Challenger and Courts, and will be available from Oct 24.
OTHER GOOGLE PRODUCTS
Other products announced at Made By Google included the new Pixel Buds, Pixelbook Go, and Nest Wifi and Nest Mini.
The Pixel Buds, which will be available in 2020, comes with a hands-free Google Assistant. “You just have to have to say ‘Hey, Google” and ask it for information, or send a text, or play music,” said Osterloh.
“It also has a long range Bluetooth connectivity so your phone doesn’t have to be by your side. For example, you can leave your phone in the locker while you work out at the gym wearing your Pixel Buds. Indoors, it works as far as three rooms away. Outdoors, it works as far as a football field away.”
Meanwhile, the Pixelbook Go laptop will be 13mm thin, weighs less than two pounds, lasts up to 12 hours on a single charge and has ultra-hush keyboard.
The Nest Mini is priced at S$79 on Google Store, Challenger and Courts starting Oct 23. The Nest Wifi router (S$229) and Nest Wifi point (S$199) will also be available from the same retailers at a later date.
CNA Lifestyle was in New York at the invitation of Google.