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So, Let’s Talk About the Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4
Google

Yesterday, Google boldly responded to recent Pixel 4 leaks by showing off the phone. Soon after, speculation and theories started to crop up all over—but we need to take a step back and relax. It’s going to be okay.

The First Takes Are Always Negative

It’s an all too common theme in the world of smartphones leaks: a render, press leak, or similar image drops, giving the world its first look at an upcoming device. Then the speculation starts, and hot takes pour out as if they were fact. And more often than not, they end up being hyperbolic takes over an arguably questionable design decision. Then, once the device is released, the new, proper takes emerge: you know, this isn’t so bad!

I’ve seen it more times than I can count, and I’m not sure it’s ever truer than with Pixel phones. For some reason, these are the phones that everyone loves to hate during “leak season” but also loves to love once they’re released. There will always be polarizing takes when it comes to smartphone leaks, but even then the Pixel line is somewhat of an enigma in its ability to end up on the extreme ends of the spectrum—hated for the smallest details when the leaks show up and loved for nearly everything else after release.

Of course, there’s one major difference with this new image: it’s official. A Pixel 4 leak landed a few days ago, but instead of ignoring it, Google did something awesome and owned it by sharing its own image of the back of the Pixel 4. This was an especially bold move by the company because the back of the phone is arguably the most interesting—and polarizing—when compared to older generations of the phone. It’s a smart move because it got people talking.

And unlike past Pixel leaks, which were just that—leaks—this official image is concrete. There’s no uncertainty, where opinions hinge on “well, it is just a leak so it may not be real.” This is the real deal. That’s a double-edged sword, though, because now the takes are hotter than ever. But just like in the past, most of the hate is probably unjustified.

Dual Cameras On A Pixel Could Be Amazing

The Pixel 4's camera array
Junk in the trunk Google

Now that we’ve seen the back of the phone, the obvious thing to talk about is that wild camera array. It’s a square! And unlike other phones (or phone leaks), where a square arrangement has three cameras, the Pixel 4 only has two. Google always does its own thing—sometimes for the wrong reasons, but that’s a different story—and this interesting design choice is no different.

But here’s the thing: this is cool. It’s fine that it’s a square—sure, I don’t love it, but whatever—but the fact that it has a pair of cameras and what appears to be a third sensor of some kind has me hyped. Here’s why.

First of all, have you seen what Google can do with camera software? It’s incredible. The things that the Pixel cameras can do with just a single lens is unreal—so many phones with multiple cameras can’t even compete. So with Google adding another camera and sensor setup to the Pixel 4, I can only imagine how great the shots will be. I’ve often thought about how amazing camera arrays like what’s on the OnePlus 7 Pro would be with Google’s software, and the Pixel 4 looks like it will be my first taste of that. I can’t wait.

Of course, we have no idea what this camera array is all about yet—maybe the second shooter is a wide-angle lens? Maybe it’s a telephoto lens? Maybe it’s neither and is used for AR? It’s anyone’s guess at this point (which I’ll admit is part of the fun), but let’s keep in mind anything you read about this setup is just that: a guess. Some more educated than others, sure, but nothing is true until it is.

This Image Hints at Other Killer Features

If you look past the camera square, you’ll notice one clear omission: there’s no fingerprint sensor. All the Pixel phones up to this point have a fingerprint sensor on the back, but the Pixel 4 looks to change that. This could indicate a couple of different things: Google could shift to an in-display fingerprint sensor, a la the OnePlus 6T/7 Pro; or it could bring Android’s version of Face ID. Or both! Either solution would require new hardware.

That said, if I were a betting man, I’d lean towards the latter. According to some pretty convincing leaks, the front of the Pixel 4 will skip the notch and return to a bezel, which is where it will house five “imaging units,” that could be used for several things. A Face ID-like feature seems likely, but the word on the street is that the Pixel 4 could also have a radar chip for motion control of the phone through gestures. This is something Google has been working on for some time now, dubbed Project Soli. Of course, it’s inclusion still just a rumor at this point, and it should be treated as such.

Either way, Android is in desperate needs of a reliable face authentication feature, so it makes a lot of sense that Google would include this on the Pixel 4 (and Android Q). So here’s to hoping that’s what the missing fingerprint sensor suggests.

But Really, It’s Too Early to Know

All this is to say one thing: we still don’t really know anything about the Pixel 4 outside of the fact it has a pair of rear cameras and no fingerprint sensor on the back, both of which are firsts for the Pixel line. Outside of that, it’s all rumors, speculation, and hearsay.

And as such, we should all take a few steps back and a deep breath. The internet is full of guesswork—some well thought-out and educated, some not so much—and at the end of the day, it’s all about what you want to believe. But given the Pixel’s twisted history of being the leakiest phones on the planet and the absolute outrage that comes from those leaks, I’m willing to wait and see what’s going on—I have a feeling we’ll all be pleasantly surprised with what happens next.