Google Pixel 4 vs Pixel 3 – What HAPPENED!

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The most leaked Android smartphone in history is finally here, the Google Pixel 4 has arrived. I finally have one in the studio and I can’t wait to put it through its paces, especially since it starts at $800 USD, which is a lot of money. Definitely stay tuned for my full long-term review of this device and of course the Pixel 4 XL as well.

In this article I’m going to be comparing the Pixel 4 to its predecessor the Pixel 3 to see what are the changes, what are some of the features that Google has added to the Pixel 4 and surprisingly what features have been taken away. I would you sit back and enjoy this little comparison. Now I do want to mention that I extensively used the Pixel 3 last year, and I’ve had a lot of concerns about this device, but I’ll definitely talk about those as I’m talking through this comparison.

The Design & Build Quality

All right, so let’s start with the design. It still features rounded corners like the Pixel 3, but I’m not really a fan of the curved edges on the display. It looks more aggressive compared to the Pixel 3. The frame now comes in this matte black finish and I absolutely love it. This phone comes in three different colors, Clearly White, Oh So Orange, and finally there’s Just Black.

Interestingly enough, the white and orange variants have a matte texture at the back, but they didn’t include that particular texture on the black model that I have, which is the Pixel 4 XL. As you can see, it’s completely glossy and it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet. I don’t even know why Google decided to eliminate that texture, I mean I would love an all matte black phone.

I’m really glad that they didn’t implement curved screens or edges, because just like the Pixel 3, the Pixel 4 is easier to hold in the hand. The XL model might be too big for people with smaller hands, and for a comparison it’s most similar to the OnePlus 7T, but it’s certainly smaller than the Galaxy Note 10+. The Pixel 4 is basically the same size as the Pixel 3. They haven’t really changed the dimensions of these phones, which is really nice.

The Display

The display is probably one of the biggest improvements over the Pixel 3. It now features a 90Hz refresh rate. In fact, this might be one of the first phones to hit store shelves, so you can physically get to experience 90Hz in real-time and sort of get to see what the smoothness is when you’re navigating through the UI. I think that’s certainly a welcome change to the Pixel 4. The screen size on the Pixel 4 has increased slightly from 5.5″ to 5.7″, but it still maintains the same form factor as I mentioned earlier. They did this by extending the display all the way to the bottom, but the trade off is that you don’t get the front-facing speakers setup like on the Pixel 3. However, don’t worry, the earpiece and the bottom-facing speakers are configured in stereo mode and they sound amazing. In fact, the sound quality is a lot better than the Pixel 3, because there’s a little bit more bass and honestly when I’m listening to music or just casually watching content I was really impressed with the sound quality.

Now I can’t forget to talk about this forehead bezel. Some of you might downright hate this design, but to be honest it has grown on me. Sure, you lose symmetry, but Google had to take this approach in order to implement their Soli radar motion sensor and the front-facing camera. Speaking of which, they decided to remove the secondary ultra-wide camera that was found on the Pixel 3. I’m actually really pissed about that because they clearly had the room for it, and honestly the difference in that wider field of view is slightly noticeable. I’m not really sure why Google decided to eliminate one of my favorite features of this device. In fact, a lot of people really enjoyed having that wide angle selfie camera on the Pixel 3. This is a step backwards and let me know what you all think. Are you disappointed by this removal?

The Specs & Features

Next let’s talk about the motion radar sensor implemented on the Pixel 4. Essentially it allows users to control certain aspects of the phone without having to touch the device. So for instance you can simply wave your hand to skip tracks, and silence phone calls, snooze alarms. However, you can’t necessarily control volume or answer phone calls. Now having just spent a couple of days with the Pixel 4 the motion gesture is still a hit or miss. In fact, I feel like a lot of developers have to take advantage of the radar sensor to start implementing gestures for their respective apps. Perhaps over time we will start to see updates roll out so that we can start to finally take advantage of this sensor, because it is an interesting feature to add to a phone. In fact, we did see this with LG’s implementation on their device not too long ago, so I hope to see Google improvise on that later on.

What’s really frustrating is that Google is not selling the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL in India, which honestly doesn’t make any sense to me. In fact, for the 10% of our audience of watching from India, I honestly don’t really know what to say because I feel like this is certainly a missed opportunity. You might also notice that the Pixel 4 doesn’t have any physical biometric authentication on the device, like a fingerprint sensor and that’s because they have completely ditched that for an advanced encrypted face unlock via Titan-M chip. So far my experience with it has been great, it’s very fast and even though that I’m wearing glasses it works all the time, which is cool. It also works when I’m in bed, so under low light situations it seems to work just fine. However, I’m actually curious to see how reliable this particular verification is, when I’m trying to make a payment or under unexpected situations, how is it going to hold up. I’m definitely planning on investigating this a little bit further on, so definitely stay tuned for that, but for now it’s pretty cool.

Taking a look at the specs of the Pixel 4 is not something that’s going to impress you, especially for the price. It is very underwhelming. You get a Snapdragon 855 – not the 855+ – 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, and it’s not expandable. Really the only difference between the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 4 is the updated SOC and an extra 2GB of RAM. The internal storage is not even UFS3.0 like what’s found on OnePlus devices. The battery is smaller on the Pixel 4, so we are looking at 2,800mAh versus 2,900mAh on the Pixel 3. Unsurprisingly, far battery life has not been that great on the Pixel 4 and I have verified that with some of my other friends in the tech community. In fact, screen-on time is very similar to the Pixel 3, so it’s not at all improved. If you are looking for better battery life, the only choice is the Pixel 4 XL because it does come with a 3,700mAh battery, which is definitely a step up from the Pixel 3 XL. This phone still has the IP68 water resistant rating and wireless charging. Unfortunately, the charging solution is not any faster than last year, because it’s still using the 18W charging protocol.

The Cameras

Now onto the cameras. In my opinion, it’s actually a questionable choice from Google, because it left a lot of people scratching our heads just because of the configuration that they decided to go with. Here’s why. The Pixel 3 came with a single 12.2MP F1.8 sensor. The Pixel 4 comes with the exact same sensor with a lower F-stop and a 16MP F2.4 telephoto lens, and that’s it. You don’t get an ultra-wide angle camera on the Pixel 4, which is really disappointing. I was hoping for Google to include one on this device, but unfortunately we don’t get it. I don’t know what to say, I just don’t. You see Google is really banking on software improvements with the Pixel 4, because they’ve added features like Super Res Zoom, improved Portrait Mode, Astrophotography, improved white balancing algorithms, and Live HDR+. All of these things that I really want to test out in a long-term review.

As you can see by these comparisons between the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 4 the pictures look really good, but that is expected given how good their computational photography is. I mean there’s a little bit more detail on the Pixel 4 versus the Pixel 3, and dynamic range is slightly improved, but what’s really interesting is the Pixel 3 produces images that are more contrasty compared to the Pixel 4. Having compared samples side-by-side, I don’t really notice a major difference between the two. Sure, the Pixel 4 is a little bit brighter compared to the Pixel 3, but I’m actually happy with the results coming out of the Pixel 3. With a little bit of editing I’m pretty sure I can get a really good result out of this camera, but I want to know your thoughts about these samples. What do you all think about it?

When it comes to video quality, the dynamic range is actually slightly better on the Pixel 4 compared to the Pixel 3. As you can see in the above screenshots, the Pixel 3 tends to add a bit of contrast to the image whereas the Pixel 4 is trying its very best to retain that HDR goodness, which is great. Now in terms of detail I honestly can’t tell a difference between the two devices. Frankly though, I really wish it shot 4K at 60FPS because we could have done some really cool slow motion stuff with the new phone. Unfortunately that isn’t the case, and for the price the video features are absolutely underwhelming on the Pixel 4.

All right, so this is the front-facing camera test on the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 4. Unfortunately, dynamic range is pretty terrible on both these phones, but that’s a thing with Pixel phones. They just aren’t as good as Samsung’s Galaxy devices. What’s even more surprising is that the front-facing camera can only shoot 1080P video and not 4K, whereas the iPhone 11 which costs $100 less can shoot 4K video using the front-facing camera. That’s just a complete disappointment.

The Software

Now Google has added a few refinements in the software department, but there are a few gimmicks added as well. You can now choose live Pokemon wallpapers that react with your emotion gestures, and I’ll be honest with you Mike really enjoyed playing around with this feature. Then again, just imagine yourself in a public space trying to fiddle around with your phone, making different gestures, I think that’s going to look weird. Another really cool feature is live transcribing that records audio in real-time using the Voice Memo app. This is one of my favorite features of the Pixel 4. In fact, if you’re a student you can certainly take advantage of this particular feature when you’re recording lectures, because you don’t have to be connected to the internet for this to take full effect. It happens locally on the phone and Google has some really smart organization tools as well, so that is pretty cool.

Finally, Google Assistant gets a few refinements here and there as well. If I’m being brutally honest, I actually prefer Oxygen OS on OnePlus devices compared to the Pixel experience, because you get more customizable options on Oxygen OS versus the Google UI. You can change the accent colors on icons and do a lot more things with that. I feel like OnePlus has definitely nailed it by giving you the stock Android experience but with added customization. Whereas Google is just plain, there’s nothing really interesting about this particular UI.

More Opinions

Now I did get the chance to ask my friends to see what they think about the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL. Let’s hear what they have to say.

Matt Moniz: I’m going to preface this video by saying I do like the Pixel 4, I think it’s a good smartphone, but a good smartphone in 2019 for a flagship devices is not hard to do because every flagship device right now is a good smartphone. Camera…come on, where’s the ultra wide? It should be there. I don’t care if you think it’s good or not, the competition is doing it, Apple is doing it, and if Apple is doing it you should be doing it or trying to be doing it better. That should be on your device in 2019. This is an $800 smartphone, but it’s not living up to the flagship features. You’re pricing just above the iPhone 11 and above the OnePlus 7T, which are two devices that I personally feel offer a lot more value than the Pixel 4. I think right now the only people who should buy this device are people who want the absolute best smartphone camera for stills. If you’re doing video or anything else, there’s better options out there. Anyways, that’s all I have to say. Those are the features I like and dislike about the Pixel 4. Thank you Hardware Canucks for having me on.

David Imel: I’ve been using the Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4 XL for a few days now, but I keep finding myself on the Pixel 4 XL. Now normally I do like smaller phones, but the problem is the Google Pixel 4 has one of the smallest batteries on Android right now. It’s 2800mAh and it just keeps dying over and over again. I’m getting like 3 hours 50 minutes or 4 hours of screen-on time, which is very bad. I usually get 6.5 to 7 hours of screen-on time on any given day on a regular Android phone. As far as new features go, you’ve pretty much got an enhanced camera and you’ve got Project Soli. Now in the camera you’ve got the WYSIWYG viewfinder, which is really nice, but that uses a lot of power. Soli which is this radar sensor that senses when you’re picking up your phone, turns on the face unlock cameras and then unlocks your phone is really good and really fast, but it also uses a lot of power. There’s Wi-Fi sensors, there’s sensors that are using cellular data, and these all just kill your phone pretty much instantly. So for me it’s just really hard to recommend a Pixel 4 especially the small one when it’s just going to die after a couple of hours of use.

Conclusion

So there you have it Pixel 4 versus Pixel 3. I hope you were able to understand the differences between these two devices. I’m curious to know your thoughts about the camera comparisons. I was really hoping for a lot more with the Pixel 4, especially since it starts at $800 USD. I don’t feel like Google has added enough to justify that price tag personally, but I think it’s too early to come up with any firm conclusions. I really want to spend a little bit more time with this phone to see what it can do, so certainly stay tuned for a long-term review.

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