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The Pixel 4 has three camera lenses on the back, but what are they for?

Published Sep 12th, 2019 10:12AM EDT

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We’ve known for quite a while now that Google’s Pixel 4 phones will feature a rear-facing camera module similar to the one on the iPhone 11, and that’s because Google confirmed the phone’s design a few months ago. A recent series of leaks gave us an even better look at Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL prototypes, revealing that the main cameras will have as many as three sensors on the back, just like the Pixel 4’s top rivals this year including the Galaxy S10, P30 Pro, Note 10, OnePlus 7T Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro/Max.

A couple of videos posted on YouTube earlier this week showed Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL prototypes up close and in great detail, revealing several key things about the devices. Uploaded on Vietnamese and Thai YouTube channels, the clips might not be easy to understand, although the former does come with subtitles. But the images are enough to prove that the Pixel 4 phones will have three lenses on the back.

It’s unclear what that third sensor might be, the one right at the top in the image above, but the simplest explanation is that we’re looking at a Time-of-Flight (ToF) camera, the likes of which we’ve seen on other devices. Whatever it is, it’s perfectly clear that the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both have three lenses on the back.

Recent leaks have confirmed the Pixel 4’s main specs, including some camera details. As PhoneArena reports, we’re looking at 12-megapixel primary and 16-megapixel wide-angle lenses on the back, along with an 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front. That third sensor remains a mystery for the time being. Comparatively, the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max feature three 12-megapixel rear cameras (wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto), and a 12-megapixel FaceTime camera around front.

Google will unveil the Pixel 4 line in mid-October, with a recent leak saying the date of Google’s press event is October 15th.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.