Gears & Gadgets

In renders, the Pixel 4 trades a giant notch for a giant forehead

When we last checked in on the Pixel 4, Google itself was leaking the device by posting renders of the back design to Twitter. Today, we’re getting a better look at the front of the Pixel 4 XL thanks to a new set of renders from OnLeaks and Pricebaba. OnLeaks has nailed the design of several devices in the past, so these are worth paying attention to.

With the Pixel 3 XL design, Google chose to embrace the notched display design trend with what was probably the biggest notch ever fitted to a smartphone. It was twice as tall as other notch designs, and Google used that space for two front-facing cameras (the extra one was wide-angle) and an earpiece/speaker. That notch design was not very popular or good-looking. This year, according to the render, it looks like Google is going back to a traditional top bezel.

Despite the extra space reserved at the top of the phone for components, this render doesn’t show any additional hardware compared to the Pixel 3. There are still two front cameras, an earpiece, and two front sensors, which are typically a proximity sensor and an auto-brightness sensor.

The bottom bezel is being shrunk down to almost nothing. On the Pixel 3 (and Pixel 2), the bottom bezel was there to house a big front speaker grill. This year, again according to the render, the bottom speaker is moving to the bottom edge of the phone next to the USB-C port.

With no headphone jack to worry about, the render shows two “speaker grills” on either side of the USB-C port. If the Pixel 4 is set up like most other smartphones, you’ll get one bottom firing speaker, with the other grill there for symmetry and usually the voice microphone. The typical setup is to have stereo sound by combining the bottom-firing speaker with the front-firing earpiece, which can double as a normal speaker.

These renders are technically of the Pixel 4 XL, which OnLeaks says will have a 6.25-inch display.

We already have official Google-provided renders of the back of the phone, but Google’s image wasn’t very clear about the number of cameras. This OnLeaks render shows three cameras. XDA Developers recently found a reference to a “rear telephoto” lens in the Google Camera app. Since the Google Camera app only works on Pixel phones, and none of the existing Pixels have rear telephoto lenses, it’s a good bet that the camera lens #2 on the Pixel 4 is a telephoto lens.

We don’t know what the third smaller lens is for. A good guess would be a time-of-flight sensor for 3D sensing, since these are usually smaller than a normal camera lens and since Google loves AR camera technology. With all these extra cameras, there’s a chance we’ll finally see a smartphone that can match the 3D sensing of the old Project Tango smartphones from 2016. Google has been implementing a watered-down version of the Project Tango technology on single-camera smartphones called ARCore, but ARCore can only really detect flat surfaces like walls, floors, and tables. Tango was a full 3D sensing smartphone and could even be set up to be a 3D scanner. It was awesome.

Anyway, this top-heavy design sure does look strange. It looks like Google will once again be marching to the beat of its own drum and choosing not to compete with the best all-screen smartphone designs out there. Next to a OnePlus 7 Pro, the Pixel 4 looks positively dated, and it isn’t even out yet! As has been typical with the Pixel line, Google will have to sell people on a feature other than the design. Maybe the headline feature will be the return of Project Tango features? Maybe it’s air gestures powered by Project Soli?

The Pixel 3 saw sales fall year over year, and the Pixel 4 doesn’t seem like a huge departure in terms of Google’s strategy. It’s hard to imagine a huge drop in price, either: the bill of materials will obviously be higher this year with those extra cameras, and the Pixel 3A takes up the mid-range pricing slot. For now, we’ll be keeping an eye out for more leaks between now and the launch, which should be sometime around October.

Listing image by Onleaks

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Tech – Ars Technica

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