In the last 3 years, Google’s Pixel smartphone has one-upped the iPhone in one key area — photography. Google’s lead in imaging was unexpected as its Nexus smartphones always flattered to deceive with the cameras. And as smartphone sales have started to stagnate, Apple’s dwindling lead in the camera department had the vultures rolling creating a narrative that star of the Cupertino faithful was starting to fade. And despite all the scepticism behind the underwhelming iPhone 11 launch — reviews have come out resoundingly in its favour. It has got its camera mojo back and how. It has zoomed back at the zenith of the smartphone imaging with the best still camera and further extending its prodigious lead in video and augmented reality. And all this makes Google’s job super tough at least on the basis of what we’ve seen in the leaks. The Pixel 4 will have its work cut out. Here’s why.
- In terms of hardware, it looks like Google has finally upped the ante with a snazzy redesign and a more attractive dual-camera array on the back. But then to incorporate its sophisticated front camera array and the soli radar chip, this phone has a top bezel while the iPhone only has a notch. It’s 2019, and the notch alone is obsolete, a top bezel is ancient.
- Apple’s iPhones are known to be some of the most well-made smartphones around. This year both iPhone models also get IP68 certification which makes them more durable in tandem with a new generation of coverglass. The Pixel’s have been anything but durable and till Google proves this otherwise, there is no getting around its quality problems.
- One of the big features of the Pixel 4 this year will be the new Face ID like biometrics system and the soli radar which will allow it to do some interesting gestures. Apple pioneered Face ID with the iPhone X and while it has polarised opinion, Cupertino has refined this nicely with the iPhone 11 Pro. The biometrics on Pixel 4 will have to be significantly better for consumers to care.
- In terms of pure hardware — the Pixel 4 is said to not have anything extraordinary. It will be based on a Snapdragon 855 chip with 6GB RAM. Newer Android phones like the OnePlus 7T eclipse that with a newer Snapdragon chip and double the amount of RAM. Looks like Google hasn’t learnt from its faux pas of adding just 4GB RAM in the Pixel 3 last year. The iPhone 11 Pro is in a different league with its monstrous A13 bionic chip which offers MacBook levels of performance.
- There is a mysterious Pixel Neural core chip which is listed in many leaked specs. Chances are this chip does a lot of GPU and CPU offloading and does on-device machine learning for image processing and the Google assistant. But then again, Apple has also added twin machine learning accelerators in addition to having a faster neural engine. It remains to be seen the magic this can weave for the Pixel 4.
- The Pixel 4 is said to just have a 2,800mAh battery. That topped with a 90Hz screen, the potential battery life doesn’t seem to be promising. On even phones like the OnePlus 7T which has a 1080p 90Hz screen the battery is 3,800mAh. The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, has made a huge leap in battery life and doesn’t have a high refresh rate panel which should ensure that it will hold the aces in the battery life department.
- Even in the display department, the Pixel has never shined. The Pixel 2 was known for its burn-in issues and colour shift and the Pixel 3 certainly was just about above average as a flagship panel. Some scepticism is valid for the Pixel 4’s panel considering the addition of a 90Hz refresh rate. On the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, we’re basically talking about the best smartphone screens ever made according to Display Mate. They have incredible colour accuracy with extreme dynamic range and insane levels of brightness peaking in-excess of 1000nits and a maximum contrast ratio of 2 million to 1.
- Video has never been the strength of the Pixel and generally, the Android stack also isn’t very tuned towards video. With that in mind and the massive leap the iPhone 11 has made with video, with the processing to handle multiple cameras at the same time and extreme dynamic range, cinematic stabilisation and 60fps 4k video across all cameras and incredible audio capture — Pixel 4 will likely be behind the iPhone 11 Pro.
One can expect from the Pixel is that it will likely be the best Android phones for Android enthusiasts and generally from a software point of view too, there will be nothing better. In additions, there is chatter for a dual exposure mode on the dual-camera system on the Pixel 4 camera and features enabling astrophotography and enhanced zoom. The still camera of the Pixel 4 will likely leapfrog the iPhone 11.
But that may not be enough because through the history of the iPhone — it never actually had the best still camera. Till 2014, when Microsoft was making the Nokia Lumia smartphones — it was the Lumias which had the best cameras. And since 2015, Android competition like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, then the Pixel and more recently Huawei’s P30 line of phones took the lead. The iPhone had actually fallen behind the lot. But this year, the iPhone has for sure usurped the Huawei’s and Samsung’s of this world.
The iPhone has always been a package that’s been rounded. As a camera too — it will be the better all-round camera phone as the Pixel has been too focussed on low light imaging. And as a phone too, the iPhone 11 makes a huge leap, and that will be a tough act to match leave alone beat. That’s why Google has its work cut out with the Pixel 4.
However, one shouldn’t write off the Pixel as often despite lacklustre specs and leaks, these phones have surprised reviewers. Our review will reveal a lot.