In eight years of covering the mobile industry, I've never seen a manufacturer just YOLO it and confirm a flurry of leaks by, in essence, leaking its own phone even harder than the leakers. But that's where we are with the Pixel 4, which broke cover on the official Made by Google Twitter account this week, confirming reports from OnLeaks and Unbox Therapy just a day earlier.
Whatever you think of the Pixel 4's unconventional camera bump, or reports of an extra-large display border to accommodate space-age face recognition sensors, the PR angle of this week's developments is fascinating in itself. The traditional view of leaks, among smartphone manufacturers with secrets to keep, is that they're to be avoided at all costs. Leaks lose you control of the message. Leaks risk deflating hype around an upcoming product, or worse, giving would-be buyers potentially misleading info based on incomplete products.
So Google's cheeky tweet confirming the backplate design of the Pixel 4 is ballsy, and fairly unprecedented. If a recently-leaked Verizon roadmap is to be believed, this move doesn't telegraph a possible early Pixel 4 launch — we're still looking at the usual mid-October release window. Which means Google has preempted its official launch window by more than a full quarter of a year.
That's not to say intentional leaks don't happen. Sometimes it's in a company's interest to pass images onto a trusted publication or influencer as part its marketing push — and it happens more often than you'd think. But splashing an image up on your official Twitter account is an unusually direct way to go about things. Needless to say, we'll be watching with interest to see how it affects hype around the Pixel 4 series as October approaches.
But realistically, there's likely much more to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL than just a single image of a relatively dull looking back panel. Are there two cameras or three? What's Google doing with Project Soli in this device? Will we finally get more than 4GB of RAM? Will it take photos and play music at the same time?!
It's interesting to contrast the Pixel 4 with the device I've been using the most over the past couple of weeks, the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. Clumsy name aside, OnePlus's pioneering 5G handset has given me an early taste of EE's fledgling 5G network in London and Manchester recently. Is it perfect? No. But the potential of 5G is clear to see, and unlike the transition from 3G to 4G, 5G actually builds on and works hand-in-hand with the solid 4G infrastructure carriers around the world have already built out.
The biggest unexpected (positive) surprise? Although I was lukewarm on the regular 4G OnePlus 7 Pro's battery life, I haven't found the 5G model's performance in this area to be markedly worse. Speeds are fast — often crazy fast, up to 600Mbps on EE's sub-6GHz network. These speeds aren't exactly common — everyday 5G throughput hovers closer to the 150-200Mbps mark — but superfast coverage is only going to become more common over the next year.
On the flip side, it's clear to me that the 5G version, which currently is an EE-only affair, is going to suffer from belated software updates compared to the unlocked 4G version (since the 5G stuff needs additional testing and approval). Currently it's on OxygenOS version 9.5.3 versus 9.5.7 for the 4G model. Not a huge deal, but it means 5G pioneers don't yet have the major camera update that everyone else received this week.
When it comes to Android Q, though, OnePlus reps tell me the 5G model should be on much the same update cadence. We'll have to wait and see how that pans out.
- Speaking of Android Q, Andrew is absolutely right about the new version's gesture system, which is infuriating to use with certain everyday apps like Slack.
- And I've been getting to grips with a leaked version of Huawei's EMUI 10, based on Android Q, on the P30 Pro over the past day or so. Expect a video next week, but it's interesting to note the serious work underway to bring Android 10 to Huawei's current flagship, even when it's overshadowed by geopolitics.
- Although we don't yet know what the Q stands for you can get your hands on an Android history lesson in t-shirt form with our latest Android History tee, available until June 28.
Hope everyone has an amazing weekend. See you on the channel next week!
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