I counted 12 Pixel 4 leaks this week. And those are only the ones Android Central reported — there were other, smaller ones, that tech sites lapped up with gusto. This must have been a difficult week for the Pixel marketing team, who had to deal with a situation of a similar scale last year — though with the Pixel 3, it appears the phones were stolen, not sold by local Vietnamese retailers a month before the device is expected to be announced.
Still, the Pixel 4 is a big deal for Google — it introduces a bunch of new features that will push the Android ecosystem forward, and it will (hopefully) further cement the company as offering the best camera experience on a smartphone. Which is important, because Apple just launched a pretty big salvo against Google this week with its iPhone 11 and 11 Pro series. A third camera, ultra-wide (why isn’t Google giving the Pixel 4 an ultra-wide, again?) and a host of new optimizations, including a night mode, that should narrow if not close the gap between it and Google.
Which is why I’m a little disappointed to see evidence that Google is allegedly using the same image sensor it used in the Pixel 3, which was nearly identical to that of the Pixel 2. Sony’s IMX363 sensor is fine, but it’s old now (started sourcing in late 2016), and as good as Google’s image processing is, there’s still the question of, you know, physics. Huawei has gone the opposite direction, outfitting its phones with massive primary sensors that let in much more light than the ones in the Pixel series. Sure, you can achieve incredible results from small sensors, Google’s proven that, but why throw the match before it’s even begun?
Apple also focused on video this year, offering 4k60 to all three of its rear cameras along with 4k30 on the front camera. Google has never offered 4k60 on any of its phones, much to the chagrin of videographers everywhere.
I say all this as an avid Pixel user, still of the opinion that, pound for pound and pixel for pixel the Pixel 3 is the best camera you can have on you, especially when taking photos of people. The P30 Pro comes close but it, like Samsung, doesn’t know what to do about faces.
So we’re a month away from the Pixel 4 launch and the leaks are unlikely to abate anytime soon, especially now that YouTubers from Vietnam to Thailand have what seems like late-stage prototypes or near-retail units in their pockets. We still haven’t seen Motion Sense in action, likely because the software on these units isn’t final and neither country is whitelisted for the feature (Soli uses radar and needs to be approved on a per-country basis) so there’s that to look forward to. But once the phone is announced and released to the world, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will have to stand on their own, compared to other phones in the market — and these leaks will be forgotten and relegated to another set of stories of how Google can’t properly control its production line and how, year after year, it falls prey to the same leaky fate.
And I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon.
In other news: