With the Android Q beta program well under way, and the mid-range Pixel 3a and 3a XL announced, we're starting to get a little information trickling in on the forthcoming Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL that are expected to launch later this year.

All of the Pixel 4 hype starts with following device codenames as they're put through their development. As is so often the case with these sorts of things, the codenames were revealed through the process of communicating about addressing development issues with the software on Google's phones. Developers working on Android's SELinux policy refer to two never-before-seen Google devices codenamed "Coral" and "Needlefish" right alongside the Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series of phones.

The names themselves aren't particularly important, but they unlock the ability to track their progress.

The codenames fit the history of Google devices using nautical names, and when then cross-referenced to the latest version of the Google app, well they're clearly linked to two new phone models: Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. The only wrench thrown in this whole thing is that in the Google app, the Pixel 4 is linked to the Coral codename while the Pixel 4 XL is linked to "Flame" instead.

Perhaps a change was made one way or the other between the two, but it seems odd that Google would drop its nautical naming scheme between two devices to be released at the same time. It also leaves the door open to speculate about what a potential third Pixel 4 model could be, including the chances it could be a lower-cost mid-range version in the lineup to alleviate some of the pressure Google is feeling from people who were not fans of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL's price increases.

Codenames are fun and all, but they don't really tell us much at the moment. What they do offer, though, is the ability to track their names through development from this point forward to get more clues as to what they'll have to offer when they're released. The hype is already starting, and we have several months to go before the Pixel 4 lineup's expected release in October.

What will the Pixel 4 look like?

Google has kept its design refreshes conservative from year to year, but with the Pixel 4, we'll see something different.

On June 12, Google flat-out confirmed that the Pixel 4 is a thing and shared an official render of the back of the phone. Gone is the two-tone design of past Pixels as we appear to now have a sleek glass back like so many other handsets.

Also new is the large rear camera housing that has two cameras instead of the usual one. Also in the squircle is an LED flash and an additional sensor of some kind — likely a time-of-flight one.

It's unclear if Google will release additional renders of the phone as time goes on, but at the very least, it is certainly unique for a company to give us a legit look at an upcoming phone so many months before we expect it to be released.

Expected Pixel 4 specs

Guessing internal specs of phones this far in advance is always tough because details can be changed and information can be easily obscured, but we do have a few early guesses.

Based on leaked benchmarks (which, again, are easy to spoof), the Pixel 4 line will have a Snapdragon 855, which is the latest top-of-the-line SoC from Qualcomm found in just about every high-end phone in 2019. It will be supported by 6GB of RAM, which is an important bump from the PIxel 3's middling 4GB — but some will argue Google really needs to go with 8GB to keep up with the times.

What about a cheaper Pixel 4a?

Now that the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are out and well-received by those looking for a Pixel experience for less money, it's reasonable to wonder what's going to happen with a hypothetical Pixel 4a. In reference to the codename information we're tracking now, there's a third codename that seems to be associated with the Pixel 4 and 4 XL that leaves the door open to speculation regarding a Pixel 4a launching at about the same time.

Considering the Pixel 3a was just released in May, it wouldn't make much sense for Google to follow it up so closely with a Pixel 4a alongside the standard Pixel 4. Google is far more likely to release a less expensive Pixel 4a early in 2020 — but presumably not as late in the year as the Pixel 3a. Until we have more information to differentiate these three codenamed devices, it's hard to tell what the third phone would be.

Will the Pixel 4 have 5G?

5G is the feature that carriers and phone makers are hyping up as the first consumer-ready networks go online, but we don't expect the Pixel 4 to support the next-generation network. Google has historically lagged behind a bit on incorporating cutting-edge new technology in its Nexus and Pixel phones, and that extends to new networking capabilities. There's a tiny chance that the referenced third Pixel 4 codename could be some sort of a 5G model, but it just doesn't seem like the kind of move Google would make considering its current spotty standing with carriers in various markets around the world.

And considering just how small current 5G networks are, and the compromises that need to be made in the phone hardware itself, it really isn't worth it to strive to have a 5G phone at this point. There are many more aspects of the Pixel 4 and 4 XL that will be more important than whether it has 5G.

When will the Pixel 4 be released?

Google has stuck to a regular cadence of releasing its Pixel phones in early October. At this point, there's still plenty of room for that to adjust or shift, but we have no indication that the launch will be any other time. An announcement in early October with retail availability in the two weeks following is what we expect right now.

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