This is one of those "is it this way for everyone, or just me?" problems that I didn't think was a thing until I asked around. Our own Harish Jonnalagadda noticed that his Pixel 4 XL's oleophobic coating was all but gone in the bottom third of the screen with just a couple weeks of light use. I felt vindicated because I'd been observing my own Pixel 4 XL's screen retaining a ton of fingerprint smudges compared to all of my other phones. No, I wasn't crazy; and I wasn't alone in dealing with wiping off my Pixel's screen more often than any other phone I've used ... since the Pixel 3.
As a quick reminder, an oleophobic coating is a layer added to most touchscreen devices that helps it repel oils (technically the coating is usually lipophobic and hydrophobic). It's the property that helps you use your phone all day, touching it with your naturally oily fingers, without the screen looking and feeling like you've been resting a piece of pizza on it. It's standard practice to not put this sort of coating on the glass back of phones to help you get some grip on the pane, but just about every phone nowadays as a coating on the screen.
Terrible oleophobic screen coatings seem to be a bit of a theme on Pixels. The Pixel 2 was widely known to have a quickly dissipating coating, and after that reports were even more widespread for the Pixel 3. My Pixel 3 and 3 XL both suffered from this issue, and it's been a recurring talking point from many AC staff members. Yes, the oleophobic coating wears off on other phones, too, but seemingly never at the rapid rate it does on Pixels.
The Pixel 4's coating is so thin and easy to remove that I'm questioning how much of a "coating" there really is to begin with. Seeing a fully worn-off area on Harish's screen after just a couple weeks of use is baffling. Mine is slightly better, but the bottom half of the screen is now, 5 weeks into using it, impossible to keep clean. And of course this is a vicious cycle — as soon as the coating starts to fade, you wipe the phone off more, which removes more coating.
One fix for this problem can be a screen protector, which often come with their own oleophobic coating — whether you buy a high-end glass protector or a cheaper plastic version. Or, you can just deal with the extra smudges.
I'm also curious what your experience has been with your Pixel 4. Do you feel like your screen holds more fingerprints than other phones? There are enough Pixel 4s out in the wild with weeks of use on them that we can see just how big of a pattern this is.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.