There’s a reason I titled my last article about the Pixel 4 ‘Why I haven’t bought the Pixel 4 yet.’ I know myself. I know how I am with tech, and I know how quickly my mind can be persuaded and changed. Knowing these things, I knew better than to be 100% definitive in my dismissal of Google’s latest flagship Android phone because deep-down, I knew there was a chance that I’d come running back.
The reasons are somewhat clear, but the main sticking point isn’t as easy to communicate. There are also a few of the issues I mentioned in that earlier video and article that can never be fixed, and I’m OK with that for now. I’ll go through my reasoning below, but you need to know that even though I made the decision to return to Google’s vision of Android, it doesn’t mean I’m trying to persuade anyone else to and it doesn’t mean I think the Pixel 4 is the phone for everyone. I do think, however, that there are many of you out there like myself who didn’t fully think through all the benefits that Google’s latest phone offers, so I hope to help those of you possibly come to some of the same conclusions I did.
There are a few issues I had when considering the upgrade. First was the big forehead on the front panel. After using the phone for a bit, the first thing I noticed is that i don’t really notice it any longer. Much like the hideous bathtub notch on the Pixel 3 XL, it does eventually get forgotten. This time around, however, I love the fact that this odd design choice comes with the benefit of a notch-less screen. I honestly always like Samsung’s approach to screen prior to the punch out hole design. A tad bit of symmetrical bezel on the top and bottom are not only understandable, they are helpful for all those sensors and such without creating the distraction of a notch.
The lacking wide-angle lens is also something that won’t get corrected this year. There’s simply no way to add this feature (obviously), but the photos I took on the OnePlus 7T’s wide angle lens were soft and lacked detail, as are many other Android phone’s wide angle photos, so I don’t feel like I’m missing a killer feature until it is done right.
Additionally, I feel like the screen brightness issues and battery life woes have all been greatly exaggerated. I’ve had no issue using the device outside on a few occasions and the 90hz refresh cutting out at less than 75% brightness not only hasn’t bothered me, it is getting adjusted by Google in a response to complaints.
Lack of a fingerprint reader was a concern as well. With many of the apps I use leveraging this form of biometric authentication, I thought it would be months before Android app developers actually got around to adding face unlock since there’s only one Android phone on the market with it. Google surprised me here, too, and said that as of Nov. 1 all app that utilize biometric authentication must include face unlock in their next update. So that won’t be a concern for long either.
Fear of missing out. It is real and it is something that I experienced in a very real way when I thought about not owning a Pixel 4 XL. Sure, most features Google puts into their own phones eventually end up in other Android phones, but there are a few things I really don’t want to miss out on.
First up is Stadia. While I don’t see myself playing games on Stadia via my phone all that often (I’ll prefer my Pixelbook Go for that), I want to know first hand what that experience is like. For the beginning, you’ll only be able to do that on a Pixel phone, so the OnePlus 7T is simply out of luck for the time being, and I hated the thought of missing that.
The second thing I didn’t want to miss out on was the Pixel Buds experience when they launch in a few months. I’m certain they’ll work fine with Android phones and probably iPhones as well, but I bet Google will hold a few things just for Pixel phones. I don’t know what those features will be, but I could imagine lag-free wireless pairing for gaming on Stadia being one of those features, and they may not guarantee it on phones outside the Pixel lineup.
Third, I thought about all the little Google Assistant features that are sure to be rolling out in the coming months. When they get the New Google Assistant working with G Suite accounts and I start to use it regularly, I hate the thought of not experiencing new features as they roll out. Similarly, I don’t want to miss out on little tweaks, updates, and tricks that Pixel users will get with Motion Sense as time goes on. Again, I don’t know what exactly those things will end up being, but I don’t want to miss them when they happen.
Finally, I don’t want to miss out on anything Google may bring on the Pixel/Pixelbook connection front. Right now, I do love the phone/Chromebook connection, but who knows what else they may add that I’d hate to miss? And, as a side note, I could never get my OnePlus 7T to actually be recognized properly in my Google Account and pair up with my Chromebooks. Once I moved over to the Pixel 4XL, it connected up immediately.
The Big Reason
All those technical reasons were part of my issue with upgrading and the majority have been addressed in one way or another. But the real issue I had in my previous video with staying in the Pixel line of phones was the feeling of lock in. I naturally push back against buying tech that puts me in a situation where I feel I HAVE to buy the latest thing just to use my services and apps. iPhone users, for instance, can get wrapped up quickly into Apples ecosystem of hardware and software and, before they know it, they have no real option other than iPhone to use Apple’s software.
I started feeling this way with Pixel. I felt like I was getting the phone each year because I had to in order to use the services I rely on. When it hit me that this notion is silly for Android users, I think I needed to exercise that ability to go outside the Google bubble again and use all my apps and services the way I want on another phone.
When I did that with the OnePlus 7T, I realized something. I realized that I don’t stick with Google’s phones for the specs. I don’t stick around for the cutting-edge design. I don’t stick around for the price. I stick with the Pixel phones because I value Google’s vision of what Android should be. That’s what you get with the Pixel phones. Sure, a class-leading camera is part of the deal, but the bigger picture is the user experience on offer.
I don’t use Pixel phones because I don’t have another option. I choose to stay in the Pixel line of phones because I love the way Google leverages, sees, and utilizes Android. I like the way my phone works. I like the way the experience feels. I like all the intangible ways that this phone feels better to use than any other Android phone I’ve held. That’s ultimately why I’m sticking with the Pixel 4XL. It isn’t perfect and I don’t even think it is the right phone for everyone. It’s just the right phone for me.