Pixel fans have a lot way to go until the Pixel 4 launches, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the next-gen Google flagship, considering all the recent leaks out there. The phone is expected to feature a hole-punch display like the Galaxy S10, as well as a multi-lens camera that will look just like the camera module on the iPhone 11, at least considering what current iPhone 11 have to say. This wouldn’t be the first time Google copies the moves Apple makes, although in this case it’s more challenging to draw a clear conclusion, as both companies may have been working on the same rear-camera design simultaneously — others already pulled off a similar camera design last year, although the module was placed in the middle. But the Pixel 4 proves that Google was wrong about the Pixel again.
Remember the first-gen Pixel phones, which, by the way, looked a lot like iPhones? Back then, Google made a big deal about the phone featuring a headphone jack. Well, guess what, a year later, Google had to pretend that it never mocked Apple as it “killed” the audio port on its own. At the time, Google confirmed what we all suspected, that removing the 3.5mm connector will help with all-screen phone designs.
When the Pixel 3 arrived last year, Google aligned itself to the long list of Android device maker that copied the iPhone X’s notch, at least when it comes to the Pixel 3 XL. That notch is hideous compared to other notches, and the Pixel 3’s classic design is absolutely horrendous by 2018 standards.
Wireless charging was also something Google was wrong about when it comes to Pixel hardware, bringing the feature to the Pixel 3 a year after Apple added it to iPhone X and iPhone 8 series phones. Yes, Android handsets had wireless charging long before the iPhone, and previous Google phones from the Nexus family also supported the feature. But the first two Pixel phones didn’t have it.
More interestingly, Google last year insisted that a single rear camera would be enough to deliver photos just as good as (or better than) images taken with dual- and triple-lens shooters from the competition. Reviews that followed proved that Google’s single-lens setup is excellent, featuring great low-light photography powers on top of everything. But the single-lens camera did not win Google any DxOMark recognition, something Google made sure to mention with previous-gen Pixel phones. The most puzzling thing with the Pixel 3 was that Google practically told the world a single-cam does impressive pictures, but you need two cameras on the front of the same phone for better selfies. That second lens is a super-wide-angle lens, by the way, which means more people and things will appear in your selfies.
This brings us to the Pixel 4 (rendered above), which might make the jump to three cameras on the back, if the render we just saw is correct, which is a massive jump. It sure looks like Google was wrong again. A single-lens camera is no match for all the phones that have two, three, four, or five cameras not because it might not deliver great photos, but because it’s incredibly difficult to market it. Keeping just a camera on the back of a flagship device in a world where even mid-range handsets have at least two cameras on the back won’t be an easy thing to defend, no matter how great that camera would perform.
When you add all the problems Pixel phones faced in their short history, whether we’re talking about performance issues, manufacturing defects, screen quality issues, and the inability to produce a device that people want to buy, you end up with the same picture. Google, which has been involved in smartphone manufacturing ever since it partnered with HTC on that Google Nexus One, has not learned how to make phones that people want to buy. And sales haven’t been anywhere near as stellar as you’d expect for this particular series.
Maybe the Pixel 4 will be different. Perhaps the phone, which might look like a combination between the Galaxy S10 and iPhone 11, will truly be the best Pixel phone ever made, a device that could help Google finally take some initiative and more risks of its own in the smartphone business, and move away from the iPhone’s shadow.