Innovative features and a beautiful Android experience trump a few shortcomings
- Solid exterior body and design
- Beautiful, clean Android experience
- Innovative features
- Crisp display
- Battery life
When the Pixel 4 XL was released in October, it was immediately met with a mix of excitement and criticism. As with any new tech product that enters the market, the mantra for many is to get a review out as quickly as possible, without using the product for an extended period of time. My focus and goal for reviewing products or services are to dig in deep, use it in my daily life, and be patient in my discovery. This review is based on multiple months of continuous daily use.
The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL are innovative and well-designed new entries to the flagship Google smartphone line. The exterior includes a sleek, aluminum frame with a matte finish, available in three colors: black, white, and orange. The screen is constructed from Gorilla Glass 5 on the face, with a similar glass on the back. The phones are rated IP68, which provides the same dust and water-resistant protection covered by the majority of today’s smartphones.
The Pixel 4 has a 5.7” screen, while the Pixel 4 XL offers a much larger 6.3” screen. Although those numbers sound close, from videos to gaming to reading ebooks, the extra real estate on the XL is something I’ve realized I would greatly miss if I didn’t have it. My last three phones have had a 6” screen size or greater. Using a phone with a smaller screen is much less enjoyable for me. Yes, it does take up more space in a pocket, but the narrow frame makes for a minimal intrusion.
Critically important to any smartphone purchase is the decision on a case. All the fancy Gorilla Glass and drop-protection in the world doesn’t keep cell phones from cracking and breaking, and it is common sense to put your thousand-dollar investment in the best possible cushion from the outside world. I moved to Tech21 for my smartphone case needs 3 years ago, and haven’t looked back. The cases have an innovative blend of thinnest plus shock protection, and their unique design helps protect against any unforeseen ‘accidents’. I recommend having a look at their products here.
The “purest” Android experience has been and is the primary software advantage of a Google-brand smartphone compared to any other company that manufacturers smartphones with Android installed on them. The Pixel 4 series is no different.
I remember the Samsung Android-bloatware experience all too well. A brand new phone, bogged down and cluttered with useless and unimportant apps. Apps I didn’t choose to download. Apps I wasn’t allowed to even remove from my device. LG provides a cleaner experience than Samsung, but nothing can compare to Pixel’s Android. It is beautiful.
I thought I would miss the fingerprint reader, but the biometric facial recognition is accurate and even faster. Android Messages is my favorite SMS/messaging app. Google’s photo software and AI are the best available. They even have augmented reality stickers. You can place interactive Marvel Avengers characters in your pictures! Talk about fun. My Google and Nest based smart home welcomes my Pixel 4, and they interact wonderfully and without pause.
I have no issues with the screen resolution, or the rendering of high quality video. The sound is clear. As for the battery life, I can get through a day of normal use, and through the night, and charge sometime that next morning. There have been days I have reached the single digits within a day, with heavy video, podcast and gaming use. While having more battery capacity always sounds great, this hasn’t been a problem for me.
I wouldn’t trade my Google Pixel 4 XL for any other phone on the market. I like the feel, the size, and the screen clarity. I love the clean Android experience and Google’s native apps. I love how the Pixel has become a seamless part of my smart home. I love the experience of purchasing a product from Google (I have an unlocked phone, connected to T-Mobile’s network) and working with their customer support. Although I haven’t had any issues or need to contact support for my Pixel 4 XL, I have needed Google for other devices, and their customer service is top-notch.
Yes, it is $1000 (Pixel 4 XL with 128GB storage). But almost any decent smartphone is within $200 of that. Now, is an $800 LG a better value? Well, for the pure Android experience, Google apps and tools, and phenomenal camera, biometric, and AI software, it is well worth the extra money for me. Yes, the battery holds less charge than some competitors, but I can’t think of the last time I didn’t have an outlet or power bank available within 1.5 days of my last charge. If I ever was in a situation where this occurred, then any phone would eventually run out of juice. I highly recommend the Google Pixel 4 XL and cannot imagine going back to any of the other brands I’ve used in the past.