Google Pixel 4: The 5 things you really need to know

Google's Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL carry on in traditional form, with a few much-needed additions—like dual camera lenses (finally) and a next-gen Assistant.

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Google finally unveiled the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL at its Made By Google event in New York City today, and frankly, there weren’t many surprises left after months of leaks and teases, many by Google itself.

A lack of surprises doesn’t mean a lack of excitement, though, as the Pixel 4 packs enough punch to catapult it to the top tier of Android devices yet again—propelled by a new generation of impressive software tricks, as well as a camera setup that’s been both upgraded and downgraded simultaneously.

Here are five things you need to know about the new Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.

Dual camera lenses, at last

The Pixel 4 is taking a page from the iPhone 11’s design with a rotund backside hump that’s home to not one, but two camera lenses. Finally. Google leans heavily on software tricks to power the Pixel’s amazing photography, but the lineup lingered on a single camera lens for far too long now.

pixel 4 camera close upGOOGLE

Both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will be outfitted with a 12MP dual-pixel sensor as well as a new 16MP telephoto camera—not a wide-angle lens. They’re “roughly 2x” and support Google’s Super Res Zoom technology.

Google is pairing the multi-lens setup with its computational photography chops to support features like Live HDR+, White Balancing for truer colors, and Dual-Camera Exposure—all in real time. You’ll have separate sliders for shadows and brightness while you compose your shots.

pixel 4 cameraGOOGLE

The more advanced hardware setup also lets the Pixel 4 extend Google’s Portrait Mode further than before, letting you add Bokeh-like effects to much larger objects. The superb Night Sight mode also receives a boost to enhance shots in the dark, using the second lens to shorten the time to take a shot, and computational photography tricks to balance colors, deepen darks as appropriate, and clean up the final shot, removing the graininess that nighttime shots are infamous for.

Those dual rear cameras come at a cost, though: While the Pixel 3 packed a pair of front-facing lenses for wide-angle Group Selfies, the Pixel 4 reverts to a single 8MP selfie cam.

Motion Sense and Project Soli

Want to feel like Harry Potter? The Pixel 4’s “Motion Sense” technology lets you “skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand.” On-stage, a presenter even showed how you can wave to Pikachu in Pokemon Go.

pixel 4 soliGOOGLE
Google will include an array of cameras and sensors in the Pixel 4.

It sounds cool, but we’re skeptical about how useful the technology will be in day-to-day life, especially after LG’s similar Air Motion feature flopped in the G8 ThinQ. That LG required frustratingly precise motions that made it far easier to just press buttons in the traditional manner rather than resorting to the intriguing hand-waving technology.

Google revolves around software, though, and the company showed a video describing how much work went into training the “Project Soli” motion sensor to avoid unintended gestures. Google also says that Motion Sense will evolve over time, so fingers crossed (get it?) that this winds up being more than just a mere gimmick.

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