Over the last few years, smartphone leaks have become quite predictable. In the months leading up to a phone's announcement, we'll see leaked schematics, renders, hands-on photos/videos, and get trickled-out information about its specs, pricing, and availability. Every tech blog gets busy covering the leaks as closely as they can, companies stay quiet, and by the time the official keynote is held, we pretty much know the full story.
This certainly varies from phone-to-phone and more minute details/features are sometimes kept under wraps, but at the end of the day, it's the same thing over and over again.
That's why Google threw us for such a loop this past Wednesday when it not only acknowledged the Pixel 4's existence, but went as far as to share an official render of the phone's design. In fact, it was essentially the same render that was leaked just a few days prior.
This has never happened before.
Typically when a phone leaks, OEMs seal their lips and ignore it. Companies like LG will usually namedrop their upcoming handsets, but never has a company shared a full-on render of what its phone will look like months in advance of its release.
It's an unusual move on Google's part, to say the least, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was the right one to make.
Let's rewind a year and go back to the months leading up to the Pixel 3 — easily one of the most-leaked smartphones in as long as I can remember. Not only did we see the usual renders and leaked specs, but there were well-composed hands-on and review videos of the phone weeks before Google officially announced it. We knew what to expect, people were already forming their own opinions about the new phones, and for the most part, Google remained quiet until its keynote.
That method works fine and is what most companies do anyway, but when a phone leaks to the extent that the Pixel 3 did, it's sort of like a device being announced without any official word from the people that made it.
This year, Google is putting itself in a position to control the narrative of the leaks.
There's already a lot of criticism surrounding the Pixel 4's large camera hump and Google's decision to use two cameras after throwing shade at Apple and bragging about only needing one on its past phones, but now Google has the opportunity to say something. Without giving too much away, it could release small details about what we can expect from the camera and explain why it needs such a prominent housing and two sensors. If it doesn't want to go that far, it at least acknowledges that the render is out there and tells people it'll be worth the wait.
Even doing something as small as that, it's better than the company being dead silent and letting people trash the phone to no end without being able to defend it.
Now, does this mean Google will continue to talk about the Pixel 4 throughout the year and keep giving us little nuggets until October rolls around? That I'm not sure about. The company obviously won't share full details until the expected keynote this fall, but I wouldn't be surprised to get a couple of more teasers here and there to stay somewhat on top of the rumor mill until then.
At the very least, I hope Google continues with this openness and other companies choose to follow suit. We've seen OnePlus be much more transparent with its upcoming phones, too, and the more brands that do this, the better. Some might argue that talking about phones so early before they're released kills the hype for them, but I'd much rather get my information right from the horse's mouth than from some leak site.