Google Pixel owners: The (very) few, the proud, and perhaps the smartest smart phone owners among us. When the Pixel 3 was released last year, it came with big brains and the best phone camera on the market. And in the run-up to Tuesday’s Made By Google event, where the mega-company unveiled its latest products, Google seemed to be feeling a good bit cocky about what it had in store for fall 2019, if its teasing tweets were any indication. Now, we know why.
The Pixel 4 (starting at $799) and Pixel 4 XL (starting at $899) were introduced to the world with even bigger brains and even better cameras than last year’s model. Not only that, but they’ll be released across all four major U.S. carriers—Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, plus some smaller ones—making them more accessible to more phone users. Google also put an emphasis on privacy and sustainability; it’ll invest $150 million in renewable energy for manufacturing its products. That’s nice.
Google is really throwing itself into the ring as a smartphone brand to give a shit about. Of course, only time will tell if these new phones will have the hardware and software issues that really dented Google’s rep with previous Pixel models. It’s not going to unseat Apple or Samsung or anything crazy like that—although it did fire plenty of shots. But it might make you reconsider, even for a second, that upgrade to the iPhone 11 Pro. Here’s what we learned from Google’s fall 2019 Made By Google event in New York about the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
What’s New with the Google Pixel 4
Let’s start with the camera. The new Pixel 4 cameras have a big old square on the back of the phone to hold the rear, wide, and telephoto camera lenses plus flash, much like the iPhone 11s. So that’s a design flaw these companies’ll have to tackle next year. But that being said, the Pixel 4 camera packs a lot of new tech.
Google showed off its take on camera machine learning that’ll automatically improve how your images look via live HDR+ technology—and dual-exposure controls let you really tinker with the lighting and details of a shot before you take it. Machine learning also extends the range of the Pixel 4’s Portrait mode. Google put more TLC into its telephoto lens with “super-res zoom” to take really sharp images at a great distance. And better Night Sight (Google’s precursor to Apple’s Night Mode) will let you take a seriously cool photo of a starry night. You’re an astrophotographer, now.
There was a lot of talk about radar at Made By Google. Google incorporated radar sensors into the Pixel 4, making it the first smartphone with radar sensors. What does that mean? The Pixel 4 has Motion Sense capability. You can wave your hand above the radar sensor (which is located on the front of the phone in a small bezel near the front-facing cameras) to skip songs, control calls, and more. In a direct attack on Apple iPhone, Google also introduced the “fastest face unlock,” which starts prepping itself to unlock when you reach for it (not when you pick it up).
And Google says it trained the radar sensors to not react to gestures you do near it that aren’t intended to be commands: picking up items nearby, for instance. For privacy, the motion sense date won’t be shared with Google.
Additionally, Google sped up its Google Assistant and improved the interface; it showed off that feature earlier this year.
The Pixel 4 comes in three colors, black, white, and a limited-edition orange, with pre-orders starting today, at $799. It’ll ship on October 24.
Everything Else Google Announced
Google Stadia, Google’s cloud streaming device that’ll let you game across TVs, phones, computers, and more, is coming on November 18. We can’t say if it’ll be good or not—no one’s tested it out yet—but we’re intrigued by what it promises: to replace console gaming.
The new Google Pixel Buds ($179, out next year) are now fully and truly wireless, no longer connected with a wire behind the head, which means hands-free access to Google Assistant. The wireless charging case holds 24 hours of charge, while the Buds themselves will run for five hours on one charge.
Google’s new laptop, Pixelbook Go (starting at $649), has up to 12 hours of battery life, longer than the Pixelbook. It’s also lighter, with a ridged bottom, which supposedly makes it easier to carry around.
For Google Home users, there’s an all-new $49 Nest Mini (out October 22) with faster computer learning, and it’ll function as a home phone (remember those?). And Google Wifi, a great home router system that we recommend, has updated hardware with Nest Wifi for better coverage and speed. The Nest Wifi network ($269 for two, on sale November 4) will do basically anything a Nest Mini will do because it has a Google Assistant speaker, so you can ask questions and give commands.
There you have it. Lots of new tech for your phones and homes. If Google can disrupt the market with it is another question entirely.