Pixel 4 – Is it Really That Bad?

I have the original Pixel, which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, however at last the time has come. So the question is: Pixel 4 – Is it Really That Bad? Got the new phone the other day and I’ll be moving all my stuff over and checking out this much maligned device. We’ll see if it is really that bad or if the fake news is in full swing.

The Outgoing Pixel

So I had the original Pixel, which has served me well for a number of years. I found the device to be an excellent companion. Easy to use, dependable, and has worked everywhere I have gone, which includes 5 continents. Frankly I’m sad to see it go. I have had AT&T services for years and never had an issue on this phone with connectivity. Battery life was decent until recently when things feel off a cliff. My wife and son also have the same model and coincidentally all three phones started having severe battery life issues around the same time. Hmmm….imagine that.

I also had the custom smart case which is not available on the new Pixel 4. Boo. I liked that case, the Kaim of Mathers was featured on that – yeah I know that’s random given my name. I got a generic black case for this phone and I have yet to get a screen protector.

The Pixel 4 Upgrade Process

The main challenge I had with the upgrade process is that my old phone’s battery is so bad it cannot complete the upgrade without dying. SAD! I gave it a shot 4 or 5 times and then gave up. I knew I had all my photos and contacts backed up on the Google Cloud, but some things, like SMS chat history were not going to make the journey. The setup routine included setting up face recognition and Google Assistant voice recognition.

Pixel 4 Setup

A simple matter of charging up the devices moving the SIM card and then attaching a cable to get what can be moved over to the new device. I was partially successful with this. To Google’s credit the upgrade process successfully dealt with my old phone dying several times during the process and restarting it. Oh well – I have my contacts and photos so I’ll call that a success.

I’ve been using Android for a long time. With the upgrade/migration process complete, I feel pretty good so far. After the data migration process, there were a bunch of of decent tutorials taking you through all the new features and changes. There will definitely be some learning pains to get used to the navigational/gesture changes. There’s a lot more swiping around on this device to replace the on screen buttons and the button on the back of the phone that was also a fingerprint reader.

Pixel 4 Screen
Yeah, that’s a big Frosty 🙂

Pixel 4 First Thoughts

The screen is really quite nice. The phone is light and thin. Performance is definitely snappy compared to my old phone. The phone has a very nice and solid feel to it. The material on the back of the device is odd. It is grippy, but also slippery. When the phone is working hard then it gets hot and even more slippery. Could just be my fingers.

Pixel 4 Slippery BackPixel 4 WidthPixel 4 Cover

I got the Google case and it arrived a couple of days after the Pixel 4. Definitely a must have. The Google case has a nice “fabric” feel to it and adds just enough thickness to protect the camera from getting scratched when you put the unit down. You can also wash it and instructions are supplied for how to do that.

I am fairly utilitarian about apps, so I don’t have too many fancy things installed. All my apps seem to work just fine. I got a Diji Mavic drone for Christmas and that worked fine with Pixel 4. The Google Nest Hub and my Samsung Tab A all work together with no issues.

The facial recognition replacement for fingerprint identification seems to be working just fine for me. There are lots of reports in the media about it being “slow”. I’m quite sure that it is faster than when I was typing in my 8 digit pin code on the original Pixel. Seems to work consistently too. We’ll see when I shave off my winter beard. lol. Getting all the images captured was a bit un-intuitive, but eventually I got it done.

The Pixel 4’s Goodies

There’s been much in the media that this is a “ho hum” phone. Well maybe the issue is the writers are all spoiled. Or maybe its just that I’m ignorant and used to a 4 year old phone??? Could be. I think this phone has some pretty amazing stuff. So far battery life, hugely maligned in the press, seems ok. I’ve been using my device since about 8AM and it is 5:55 PM right now and I am at 73% power. Couple of quick calls today and mostly just WiFi stuff. We’ll see how this holds up over the next days or so and when I go back to work.

Pixel 4 Portrait mode
The Grinch!

The camera and all the associated goodies are amazing. I’ve taken a couple of excellent pics in portrait mode (see the Grinch pic), the night mode is just amazing. There’s also a new zoom mode that you can access by tapping the focus dot and then pinching. I’ve also been playing around with the lens adjustments for shadows and lighting. I think that will take a lot of experimentation to see what the possibilities are.

Pixel 4 inductive charging

The phone includes inductive charging, but here I do agree with the media coverage. The phone is very sensitive to the placement. Might as well just attach a cable, but perhaps it will get better with practice. The charging does work thru the case, which is pretty cool. I’m using the Safedom tracker card charger. You can see that the charging is active with the dots on the screen –> it does work!

Google Assistant – yeah…I did activate this, including the “squeeze” to activate feature. Not sure about this and it will take quite a bit of time for me to see if this will be a useful feature for me.

Navigating the Pixel 4

Gesture controls are dramatically expanded on this device. Gone is the 3-button back, home, and show all apps toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Getting around the new UI is going to take some time to learn, but I’ve already learned some tricks, for example if you are deep in an app and want to get back to the home screen, just swipe up. Cool! The back button is replaced by a left swipe. Its like an exercise routine!

For all the developers out there, to enable developer mode to go Settings –> About Phone and scroll down to Build Number. Tap 7 times quickly and you will get prompted to enter your PIN to enable developer mode. Once enabled you can find the Developer Options {} under Settings –> System –> Advanced –> Developer Options. There’s an absolutely amazing array of developer options and debugging tools in there. WOW. Don’t forget a simple swipe up will return you to the home screen!

The 3-button menu (back, home, and running apps) at the bottom of the screen is gone on the Pixel 4. That’s fine. To get to home from anywhere, just swipe up. Back? Swipe right to left, but how about that screen for the apps? Even googling around a bunch resulted in an elusive answer. Finally I found the trick. Swipe up from the middle of the bottom to about 30% up the screen and hold. The apps will pop out of the left side of the screen. To dismiss an app tap, hold and swipe up.

What’s the Deal with the Pixel 4?

So far I’m feeling pretty good. No doubt this is an expensive phone, but it seems to have everything I will need for a 4-5 year run. I have the unlocked version and got it with a $100 off and a free Google-Nest Hub unit –> $229 off and free shipping. I’m currently on AT&T and may switch over to Verizon.

Bottom line: snappy performance, the face recognition seems to be better than the fingerprint, battery life seems better than reported in the media, storage is good with 128GB, an excellent camera with many great features, and the build quality seems very nice.

Once I get over the gesture learning curve, I think this will be a great device for me. I’m writing this fairly early in my ownership so I will update this post as I learn more.

UPDATE 01/05/2020: Battery life still looking ok to me. Performance is good too. I’ve updated the navigation section above to include more about the gestures including how to display all running apps on Android 10 so that you can kill them.

2 Responses

  1. Since my review another thing I have learned is that the camera on this device is OUTSTANDING! I’ve taken some pictures with it that really are quite amazing. Better than every camera I’ve ever used, including dedicated cameras like my Fuji X35.

  2. Its the end of 2021 now and I have to say that the Pixel 4 has been an excellent phone! Very reliable, no crashes, and even today excellent battery life.

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