A still from a video about Google’s leaked Pixel 4 from YouTube channel AnhEm TV.
You might have seen the recent leaked images of Google’s Pixel 4 revealing an outdated design, especially compared to the competition. But does it matter?
The images show Google’s upcoming phone with a large top bezel – that likely houses the new facial recognition tech – and a smaller, but still noticeable – chin at the bottom of the phone.
If you look at other devices from Huawei, Apple and Samsung – they’ve all moved towards near all-screen displays with minimal bezels. They’re all chasing a futuristic slab-of-smart-glass aesthetic, whilst Google is firmly stuck in 2016.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not entirely sold on the minuscule bezel design, largely because of accidental touches (palm rejection technology varies wildly between devices) and a constant low-level fear of smudging the display.
But, more importantly, Google’s game isn’t chasing the best spec sheet because it’s a battle too easily lost. It’s focused more on providing services that genuinely improve the day-to-day use of a smartphone. Having the best display is a significantly less impressive USP than a service that automatically books restaurant reservations for you.
Google appears to understand what’s fundamentally important about modern smartphones. They’re not works of art to be appreciated, but essential technology that makes certain aspects of our lives easier. Suggesting text to type in an email, automatically putting events in your diary, automatically sorting, organising and tagging your pictures doesn’t require gaming-level specifications.
These types of functions will always be more important to me than pixel density. It’s also why I think the Pixel 3A is probably one the best value smartphones the industry has seen for a number of years. It has all of Google’s services, plus that camera and it’s cheap.
I’d actually be happy for Google to further embrace being a design contrarian. Why not make the phone thicker to support a bigger battery? Cut back on expensive materials to cut costs? I’d be willing to bet that a phone – made by Google – with the best camera, battery life and price would be very popular, especially considering current consumer trends.
Of course the Pixel devices do have one piece of stand-out hardware: the cameras. But they’re supported by AI that makes Pixel images some of the best you’ll get on a smartphone. Pixel phones have their problems, too, but design isn’t one of them. Because, ultimately, you buy a Pixel phone for what it does rather than how it looks – Google does the former better than any other company.