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From the Editor's Desk: Wait, did my Pixel 4 XL battery life get better?

Google Pixel 4 XL battery life settings
Google Pixel 4 XL battery life settings (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

We're now a few weeks into using the Pixel 4 (XL, in my case), and among the seemingly endless complaints people have with the phones there's a constant undercurrent of chatter about battery life. Yes there's Motion Sense, face unlock and the 90Hz display ... but it all seems secondary to battery. It was the main focus of both our Pixel 4 review and to a lesser extent 4 XL review, and the debate is still going. Both a debate about whether the battery life is good enough to deal with in order to enjoy so many great parts of the phones, and also about just how bad the battery life actually is.

I think it's fair to say a majority of people feel the battery life isn't good enough. Even those who are okay with the battery for their usage can recognize that it isn't as good as other competitive phones. I'm still fully in the camp that believes Google should've put more emphasis on battery life in the Pixel 4 XL, and should never have released the smaller Pixel 4 as it stood considering its woeful longevity.

The Pixel 4 XL will last through a day — but you never have the confidence to use it hard.

A couple weeks after my review, though, I was given a ray of hope: my Pixel 4 XL's battery life ... started to get better. Whether it's Google's Adaptive Battery finally doing something, my limiting of notifications and background location access using Android 10's new settings, or something else entirely, I was notably less worried about battery life the past week. Look, it was still not great — I was ending each day with about 15% battery — but I was getting to bedtime without charging, and that was a notable improvement. Curiously, when I talked to our own Hayato Huseman, who's using the Pixel 4, he felt like he was experiencing the same thing — the phone was getting through a day; scraping by to do so, but making it.

But in the last couple days, I was really brought back down to reality. Taking multiple flights hopping between coasts, and also spending time in the troubling network environment that is New York City, the 4 XL didn't come anywhere near holding up to tougher days. But I have started to figure out what I was experiencing that made me so optimistic: I feel like my Pixel 4 XL has reached a weird point where its standby battery life (aka when you're not really using it) has much improved, but actually using the phone any amount still tanks it.

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Keeping things light, spending lots of time on Wi-Fi, and never having the screen on for more than a few minutes at a time for messages, some photos, and short app usage, it's totally fine. I recognize for a lot of people, that's the extent of their phone usage — and seeing complaints about battery life would seem odd. But that's not how I use my phone every day. Sure I have times when my phone goes hours at a time face-down on a table or on silent in my pocket; but others I'm streaming music, dealing with messages and emails, running with Bluetooth headphones and GPS, piling up notifications and making phone calls. When I use the phone lightly, I'm oddly impressed by the battery life. But as soon as I intensely hit the phone for even an hour or two in a day, I have to charge in the early evening. To say nothing of a proper travel day, when it's dead in nine hours.

Every group of tech enthusiasts turns into a Pixel 4 battery life support group.

Myself and several friends are in San Diego this weekend meeting with MediaTek (disclosure: MediaTek paid for our flights and accommodations), and as is so often the case when a bunch of technology enthusiasts get together we started talking about our Pixel's battery. The afternoon that we all arrived, we were enjoying drinks on the beach ... and every single person with a Pixel 4 (or XL) had charged earlier in the day or was on a battery pack at the table. It turned into a Pixel 4 battery life support group — exchanging stories about just how bad the battery is, and the frustration over it considering how many parts of the phone we love.

I'm still using my Pixel 4 XL (opens in new tab). On the whole, I'm very happy with it. I'm just extra bothered by the weak battery life because this is otherwise a fantastic phone. Yes the battery life is good enough for many people (at least, on the 4 XL), but it's not at all a strength of this phone, and nobody complaining about the battery life is wrong to do so.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

74 Comments
  • Sounds like anybody who bought this phone and wants to keep it, should be checking for the availability of battery cases asap. I have to use one with either my Pixel 2 or my 2XL. Without a battery case, I wouldn't leave my house with either phone, and by the sounds of it, they were miles better than the 4.
  • I don't understand how that could be since the 4 XL has a larger battery and more efficient SoC. I guess the screen is a bit bigger and its 90hz would hurt too.
  • "The Pixel 4 XL will last through a day — but you never have the confidence to use it hard." Not my experience at all. The XL ran well beyond my normal usage when I pushed it and had a bit of juice left when I finally put it on the charger. Unless you're deliberately trying to kill it, or are a serious power user daily (in which case this wasn't the phone to choose in the first place) there's no reason to not be confident that using it is going to be risky as far as battery life is concerned.
  • There is nothing wrong with the battery on this phone. Anyone that says so, hasn't used it.
  • I certainly agree. I love my pixel 4 XL and the battery life is insanely good compared to what I'm used to. I was previously using a Galaxy s6 that wouldn't make it through half a day until I replace the battery and I still barely made it a full day with my usage. Pixel 4 xl with the same usage and never using battery saver gets me 48 hours including several hours of screen on time. My typical day only has an hour of screen time so I've been charging this thing once every 3 days. Tom's hardware and several other tech sites did a comparison of this phone against the flagship Apple and Samsung phones and in their tests this phone lasted about 10 hours while the others lasted about 10 hours and 20 minutes. If that's the only difference between these how can the writer of this article whine so much about it? All these haters out there complaining about such a marginal difference are like a spoiled rich princess having a meltdown because a shade of her new dress was one shade off of the exact color pink she wanted. I've read whining complaining reviews about every single flagship phone released in 2019. I think people just like to hate. I am super impressed with the 4XL, no regrets whatsoever and loving it. I did turn off the gesture detection for changing songs. I have a non animated darker background and use dark themes. I'm curious to see how long this darn thing would last if I did one charge cycle in battery saver mode.
  • Well there you have it. If you only have typically 1 hour of screen on time per day, naturally the battery would be fine for you. But you're in a very niche group. Most people need 5 hours at the very minimum.
  • What data do you have to justify that statement? 1 hour of screen time is actually quite a long time, measured intermittently throughout a 24 hour cycle.
  • Dude, 1 hour is nothing. Most people are 4-5 hours in a 24 hour cycle. 2-3 with light usage. 1 hour is barely using your phone.
  • I consistently get 6 hours plus on the 4xl. Its been better than my note 9 and my OnePlus 7pro. The highest I've gotten on the 4xl per charge is almost 9. I don't get how people have an issue with this phone when compared to other phones not considered to have battery issues.
    The smaller pixel 4- different story
  • Ummm in the test you mentioned the Pixel 4 XL lasted 9:42 and the Galaxy S10+ lasted 12:35. The iPhone 11 Pro Max lasted 11:54. Try not to make up test results. I own a Pixel 4 XL and the battery life is fine for my routine but even I recognize that as soon as go on vacation or am away from a charger for most of the day, battery life will be a problem.
  • Same for me. I am at 14 hours of typical use with 64% remaining. Have not ran out of juice yet. Audible + frequent unlocks for business chat and email + the compulsory checking if regular feeds the whole freaking time.
  • It's weird because my Pixel 2XL battery life wasn’t that great but when I switched the Pixel 3A I found the battery life on that pretty good. Whatever optimization Google used with the 3A they need to use in the 4.
  • Optimization has nothing to do with the 3a's battery life. It's good because it has a weaker and more efficient processor.
  • And a bigger battery.
  • The Pixel 3a XL has a 3700mAh battery powering a 1080p screen. The Pixel 2 XL has a 3520mAh battery powering a 1440p screen. It has nothing to do with optimization. The Pixel 4 XL has the same size battery as the Pixel 3a XL but the Pixel 4 XL has a 1440p screen and 90hz refresh rate which is why the battery life is worse than the Pixel 3a XL and the Pixel 3 XL.
  • Yeah. That makes sense
  • I concur. I'm not sure what all these people are doing to kill the battery so quick, but I've had no issues. I stream music over LTE at the gym in the morning while tracking my workouts. I read a ton of news throughout the day, with screen on for 20-30 minutes at time. I even use the recorder app with live transcription for 2 hour meetings. Even after all that, I put it on the charger with 30-40% left at the end of the day. Not once since I got the phone on launch day have I ever had to worry about it dying on me. To each his own, I guess, but for me, this has been a fantastic phone. XL with defaults, except I do have system wide dark mode on.
  • Traveling/flying always kills phones doesn't matter what you got. Your just sitting around waiting and playing games or watching vids, etc. All you see at the airport is people charging up..... That's standard protocol.. P4xl charge lasts me 24hrs easy. I'm not a power user. I use messages for web at work and home. If I'm texting alot I'd rather do it from a mechanical cherry mx keyboard. If I have a PC around my phone is the last resort unless I need to make an actual call. Lol
  • Oh I know travel always kills phones. But it destroys the Pixel 4 XL in a way it doesn't my other phones I've used in 2019.
  • No amount of software tweaks is going to make a paltry battery perform significantly better. You want more battery life, you need a big battery. Even Apple conceded that with the iPhone 11, to universal praise.
  • But the battery is bigger than on the 3XL
  • The Pixel 4 XL's battery isn't that much bigger than the Pixel 3 XL. It's not even 8% bigger. Also, the Pixel 4 XL has a 90hz screen. The Pixel 3 XL doesn't. And don't forget, the battery life of the Pixel 3 XL sucked too.
  • I have had zero issues with mine. With heavy use, of course I don't expect all day use. I average two days with moderate use. I don't play lots of games, so maybe that's why my mileage is good. Most articles such as these I take with small ounce of salt. Doesn't matter if its Apple, Samsung or insert brand name, buy what you enjoy. These sorts of articles always have a feeling of bias in their words. No matter the brand.
  • I'm with several commenters here. I am not seeing the battery depletion at all. I see a lot of angst over the fact Google "could" have taken the opportunity to increase the battery size but didn't. I was on the 3XL and jumped because of desire vs need. I skipped the 2XL because my 1XL was excellent. (I do miss the design aspects of the 1XL) I work a 10 hour day and I am a moderate to heavy user. I surf, stream music, and download data pretty consistently throughout my day and I always have enough to stream another 2 hours in the gym after work. I have anywhere from 10 - 30% battery left when I'm done at night. The battery life isn't much better than my 3XL but it certainly isn't any worse, even with the faster chip and 90mhz refresh rate, I'm still getting a solid day of service out of the phone. Could it be better? Absolutely. Do I think they could have added more battery for the cost? Yes, again. But, I'm able to do all the things I need and then some and still have enough battery left over. With quick charge, it's a non issue for me.
  • I know screen on time isn't the best measure of battery life but by most accounts the screen does a solid chunk of draining. After about a week with the 4xl I managed 5h30m+ of screen on time with 25% battery left. Adaptive battery works best with consistent use. Throwing hours of use from random apps daily isn't consistent.
  • Hi. My name is Peter and I have emotional issues with Google's piss poor battery life
  • (in unison): "Hello Peter!"
  • Great phone. I push my phone's hard. I can't rely on this phone to get me to the end of the work day.
  • You have the 4XL?
  • Quality of cell service seems to make a big difference in my phone's battery usage. Out and about with no wifi, one city has little battery drain, another city I visit regularly will use two or three times as much battery, just sitting in my purse. Overnight on the nightstand will cost me 3 percent, or 10 percent, depending on where I am. Part of that may be wifi in one and not the other, but that is still a big difference.
  • That's normal. Areas of low coverage will cause the phone's transmitter to put out more power to try to ensure *** is reaching a tower. If you are somewhere with no service, it will boost to max to try to connect. That will drain a battery post haste. If you know you are somewhere with lousy service, and you can be without connectivity, throw it into airplane mode. You can still turn on BT if you want to listen to local tunes.
  • As a person coming from the Galaxy S7 and having to charge my phone multiple times a day, the XL battery seems mor
    e then enough for me. I get through every day without having to charge it.
  • Wow that's scary. My 3a XL's battery page says a full charge runs 2 days 14 hours, and it regularly proves such. May be worth everyone who wants the best of Google but with battery power to match either get a 3a, or wait for the 4a.
  • Look if there's anything that I've learned over the last 2 years is that tech reviewers are feeling increasingly isolated and neglected by Google's design choices....and it pisses them off. They feel this way because (sometimes arrogantly so, and sometimes ignorantly so) they want to think theiir opinion mirrors the purchasing public. Because let's face it, if that wasn't the case, then it theatens their very existence. The problem, however, is these tech reviewers simply do not represent the purchasing public and the drive-by readers/critiques simply pile on and were never true purchasing power consumers to begin with, so their opinions are meaningless. Quoting specs, hardware design, etc mean very little to the average consumer that knows a great experience when they see/feel it. I think Google knows this. Software makes the experience, not hardware folks. Bottomline is that I no longer look to tech reviewers for advise or recommendations in my yearly smartphone upgrades. My personal experience with the Pixel 4 XL's battery is better than the Pixel 3 XL. I get through the day easily and am always near a charger whether in the car, home, or office. It's simply a non-issue.
  • Must be why the pixels sell so well then.
  • Exactly what I was thinking as I read his comment... Tech reviewers need to represent the average consumer AND the hardcore user. There is a reason why Pixels have never sold well, even when they had the best camera by far.
  • Well said. While I agree with the main point of your post, and while I will be buying a 4XL on black Friday, I do feel that Google made an inexcusable error with the regular (non-XL). Putting a 2800MAh battery in that phone means I won't recommend it to friends and family. I did recommend the regular 3 to friends and family. If I'm going to recommend a 4 to friends and family now, it will only be the XL variant. Self inflicted wound on this one.
  • Completely agree, making the battery smaller on the 4 is inexcusable.
  • Laughs in OnePlus 7 Pro. Excellent battery life over here and I don't have to worry about the refresh rate constantly going down to 60hz either.
  • I probably would gotten the OnePlus 7 Pro of not for the lack of wireless charging...
  • I do not understand this problem with battery life. I have a 4XL and I have made it 20 hours not plugging in. I use it playing games, watching YouTube, and TV from Hulu and the occasional book or comic. I have about 4-6 hours of screen time on my device and make it through a day. It isn't as good as the 3xl but it still makes it through a day easy. The only way I think it could drain is if you are running benchmark tests every half hour.
  • What's not to understand? People who use every phone on the market say the battery isn't competitive.
  • He explained that in his post.
  • I'm surprised it doesn't last as long as the 3XL, have you tested it with 90hz off?
  • I just got the ROG2 phone this week and must say that the 6,000 mAh battery is absolutely positively phenomenal. I go a full two days before charging and have gotten 12hrs of screen on time (about 7-8 minutes of screen on time for every 1% battery drain). And this is with a 6.6" 120 hz display, No motion control stuff, but it doesn't sound like I'm missing out on anything there. I really like the battery charging optimization too where you tell the phone how long you'll charger it for over night and it will regulate the charge so that it hits 100% charge right at the end of your charging time, hopefully extending the battery longevity over time.
  • I'm sure anyone with a real job and life will comfortably make it through the day on a single charge
  • People don't work every day.
  • What do you classify as, "a real job" these days? YouTubers, Instagrammers, stock traders,... may use their phone all day long.
    Never good to make assumptions. The work world has changed & continues too.
    People can work from almost any where on the planet now while doing their job(s) and being in motion, moving around a city, country,.... Of the last 4 Google phones I have owned I have never had one (1) last a full day. Often charging it once or twice in a day.
  • Balls. People with real jobs often have poor signal. The battery on this phone tanks with poor signal (see Jerry on Twitter). The battery is mediocre a few weeks in. Imagine with 18 months of 2-3 charges a day on it.
  • It's not just you I have the pixel 4XL and that update really helped my battery life
  • Given that my Pixel 3 never makes it a full day with me without charging. I have no hopes the 4 will be better. This is with hours of music streaming, a hr of YouTube or Netflix at lunch from work, maybe a hr max of games and on/off text, emails, etc etc. (All on 4g, no WiFi here). Also connected to my Zenwatch 2 to which causes drain since Android Wear rarely let's the watch sleep. Which may seem like a lot but I've used tons of phones that easily make it. Will the 4 work, yes. Will I be better off than what I am now, yes. Is that the sort of improvement I'm wanting for another $800 phone. Absolutely not. I could go back to my Pixel 1xl and literally not lose much at all compared to this generation of Pixels (plus I'd still have Unlimited photo backups, FOR LIFE). Well, I'd miss the speakers, but I'd get my headphone jack back so that's a win in my book.
  • So why not get the 4XL?
  • Optimization can make a difference, but the thing is, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL do worse than their peers. Check the PhoneBuff battery test: The Pixel 4 with the biggest battery against the iPhone 11 with the smallest battery. The Pixel 4 XL with 3700 mAh was embarrassed by the regular (and cheaper) iPhone 11 which only had 3110 mAh. A lot depends on how you use your phone, but a person should not have to micromanage battery life.
    I took a two day vacation, and spent today photographing the countryside, water towers, old bridges, tourist spots, and one room school houses. On top of that I watched YouTube, half a movie, used Google Maps several times, and spend an hour at the Cracker Barrel eating lunch and surfing the web. I'm home now and "gamer-girl" swiped my phone and has been playing Monument Valley. A hard day of use, then gaming, and at almost 6pm, the phone battery is at 46%. This is all-day confidence... and I have a smaller battery than the 4 XL. Something is off about the Pixel.
  • The Phone Buff video compares a 720p iPhone against a phone with a much higher pixel density and a 90 hz screen.
  • That's the point. The phone needed a larger battery to support that screen.
  • Right, and the Pixel has almost 700 more mAh battery power to compensate for that and still failed in the test.
  • Yeah that test was brutally embarrassing for Google.. it wouldn't fair any better against the iPhone 11 Pro Max either. This is what most people when choosing a phone. iPhone users wouldn't even consider an Android phone anyway but the Galaxy S10+ has apple-like battery life as well.
  • I wish it had better battery life if only so that I didn't have to read any more over dramatic articles discussing the phone's battery life.
  • 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 Ha ha ha LOL!
  • "Every group of tech enthusiasts turns into a Pixel 4 battery life support group" if the battery issue is that bad, either dont buy the phone, or.....theres always swappa.
  • I have this habit of always charging my phone lol.... I don't see battery has a issue.
  • I have been very pleased with the battery life on the 4XL. Much better than the 2XL
  • As I said before, battery life is very subjective. I'm enjoying my 4 XL 👍
  • Bigger battery and drop the hand gesture crap & the face unlock.
    I do not want anything to unlock until I put my finger print on it or enter a passcode. I will pass on the new Pixels. No real & new features of value for me.
  • First week i think the battery was worse and after I've been getting about 6-7 hours screen on time with my Pixel 4 XL, with 90Hz forced and with auto brightness set to about 1/4 brightness in a completely dark room or 3/4 in a normally lit room. I knew it wasn't going to be the best battery life, but my previous phone got around 5 hours (LG G7, give or take 30 min) and i was never left without battery at the end of the night with the way i use it most the time. Lots of reading and texting, some snapchat and youtube, and somewhere under an hour of CoC (still lol). I also have great reception where i typically travel, so the radios don't have to work hard. I also noticed that it jumps into a very bright mode when the battery is well charged, but i'm guessing somewhere around half way it stops going super bright Edit; I turned off pickup to wake and hand approach wake, it was cool the first few days then got annoying and felt unnecessary after as its very fast either way. Which could be why the battery life has gotten better. But almost every time that i went to put my phone away it wake up and i would end up randomly pressing stuff and called people twice because the activation for face unlock was so sensitive. Also my dads face and brother face (he's about 150 lbs heavier) easily unlock my phone, no wonder it can unlock with eyes closed.. because the software is half baked and was not ready. Seems like Google applies there same theology to everything which doesn't translate to hardware where there can't be multiple layers of hardware to fix root issues. I'm sure they also thought it would be a better idea/investment to develop there hardware in the real world. Also, the onboard speech recognition has been noticeably getting worse. Could very much be that because it got better, i've relaxed on pronunciation. I have noticed that i talk to the assistant very casually/lazily lol
  • I question whether any of these battery complainers know how to condition a battery on a new phone, out of the box. Aside from that, personally I used my 4XL consistently throughout a workday on the second day I had it, and was only down to 50% by 9pm. It's been pretty consistent in that kind of performance. Any true "tech enthusiast" would know that background accesses should be shut down on most apps. I shouldn't have to tell you why. And please god tell me that you don't leave bluetooth on all the time. Hanging at the beach? Really? WTF are you using your phone at the beach all the time? It should be stored in a bag somewhere while you actually *use* the beach. It isn't much different from any other phone, so-called "flagship" or not.
  • I doubt reviewers condition their battery, but for people that go through dozens of phones per year, it's likely that they are all treated the about the same. As for the beach, I use my phone there between rounds of volleyball or other activities. When your friend is an actual Victoria's Secret girl, and she's wearing a bikini and sharing your beach blanket, you NEED a distraction!
  • It's a consumer product, not a purity test for tech nerds. You put a thousand on the price tag and it had damn well better be fun and gratifying to use after that.
  • This post is pure cringe. It's basically one big "you're using it wrong"
  • Reason to get a Pixel: camera. But the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has a better one for both photos and video. Reasons to get a Xiaomi Mi Note 10: camera AND 5200maH battery AND price (less than half of the cost of the same capacity Pixel). I'm not saying I'll get the Mi Note 10, but the fact it exists means that much better phones are around the corner. Even if I could just about swallow buying a Pixel if certain efficiency gains had been made, why would I? Google is asking us for a favour when they sell us this phone, and we shouldn't bail out companies unless we're getting a seriously good deal too.
  • I think the battery issue is more associated with the Pixel 4. It's common knowledge that the Pixel 4's battery is smaller than the Pixel 3's that lasted me pretty much a day, from 8:30am to 9pm with moderate use (email, social media and music). If I used it for live Tweets, it was dead at 5pm. I ended up buying a bulky but useful battery case.
    With the Pixel 4's smaller battery, I'm just not ready to take the risk of purchasing it to discover either I need to turn off all the new, questionably useful (face recognition, project soli) technology to get through the day or recharge midday, always with the fear of its going dead. This topped up with the fact that the Pixel 4 drops some of the great advantages of the Pixel 3: free photo storage for 3 years, dual front cameras, frontal speakers makes both the Pixel 4 & 4 XL a no-go in my eyes. I've upgraded from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 3 XL for the larger screen and longer batter life.
  • I use the s10+ and on average 7to8hrs SOT which for me is great. But guess what I'm buying the 128XL anyway. I like the boring design, the orange corral. Just in case I've got two 26,800 battery packs in use always around the house. These two pixals are getting terrible reviews, I really don't care, I'd rather try it out for myself. And I know the camera experience is gonna be great. As a retired disabled vet I'm a very heavy user & use my phone 8to10hrs aday. My s10+ and the black Friday XL will be a perfect fit for my uses. I know just how good the pixal camera will be! I never judge a phone by what the reviews say?
  • I haven't had any real problems with battery life on the 4xl unless I'm doing some extensive gaming on it, which is totally understandable. No battery is gonna hold up after hours of gaming 😂😂😂 [playing world of warships or start trek fleet command for hours] 😂😂😂 But under any 'normal' use case? Photos/phone calls/ browsing/texting/checking fb? The battery holds up just fine. Sure it could be better but it's nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be. Also noticed the battery is lasting longer now than when I got the phone booth due to me finding out apps that use location services in the background that have no need to [and either turning it off or limiting it to only when I use them] as well as the adaptive nature of the os optimizing things behind the scenes.
  • I really dont get all the negative comment towards the battery on the 4XL ... Im super impressed by the battery life of my 4XL! I cant remember having a phone that last that long!