The Pixel 4 is officially hitting its end of life this month after three short years of service. We sometimes see these dead Google phones get one more wrap-up update before Google cuts the cord, but the Android October 2022 update is the end of the line here.
The Pixel 4 was a big batch of Google experiments passed off as a consumer product, and we did not take kindly to it. It was the first (and only) Google phone to attempt to copy Apple’s FaceID by using a grid of IR dots and extra hardware to scan the user’s face. The system was much slower than the fingerprint reader on the Pixel 3, and it oddly worked on sleeping people for several months after launch.
The Pixel 4 was the first and only Google phone to integrate “Project Soli,” a tiny Google radar chip that can detect motion. The laboratory versions of Soli promised that the technology could capture “sub millimeter motions of your fingers,” but the commercial implementation in the Pixel 4 could only (sometimes) capture giant arm movements. Soli lives on in Google smart displays for sleep tracking, but the phone version is dead. Combine that with very high prices for the two device sizes ($800 and $900) and very small batteries (2800 mAh and 3700 mAh), and you have the makings of a very bad device.
We have to give the Pixel 4 the title of “worst Pixel ever” for having a few dubious distinctions. It was on sale for only nine and a half months before being discontinued, making it the shortest-lived Pixel ever and creating two months of dead space between the Pixel 4 discontinuation and the Pixel 5 launch. Before the Pixel 4 launch, Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh reportedly held an all-hands meeting and told his employees that he “did not agree with some of the decisions made about the phone” and that “in particular, he was disappointed in its battery power.” That meeting, described as “rare internal criticism” from Osterloh, led to two top Pixel executives—general manager Mario Queiroz and camera lead Marc Levoy—quitting the team.
The follow-up device, the Pixel 5, represented Google quitting the high-end smartphone market for the next year while the group licked its wounds and regrouped for the (much better) Pixel 6 launch in 2021. The Pixel 4 was the low point for the Pixel division, but Google is managing to turn things around. At I/O 2022, Google mentioned that the Pixel 6, which was only seven months into its life at the time, was “the fastest-selling Pixel ever” and had already sold more than the Pixel 4 and 5 combined.
Three years is nowhere near long enough for phone support. The iPhone gets support for around six years, while Samsung supports its phones for four years of major Android updates and one extra year of security updates. Even Google’s current Pixel 6 plan is worse than Samsung’s; it offers only three years of major OS updates and an additional two years of security updates.
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