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I hate big phones, but I really wish I went XL with the Pixel 4

Google Pixel 4
Google Pixel 4 (Image credit: Android Central)

It seems like everyone (well, almost everyone) hates the Pixel 4. That's OK and hating things you never planned to buy is the secret fuel that powers the tech side of the internet. I'm not one of those people and think the Pixel 4 was a great upgrade from the 3 in almost every way. It's just that one place where it wasn't that's killing me.

I'm talking, of course, about the battery life. I know, I know. You've heard it a million times and you want to click away or tell me to shut up we already know the small Pixel 4 has horrible battery life and that I'm just whining because I'm something or another. but I know when I bought it that it had "bad" battery life. I just didn't know it would be this bad.

I'm not on my phone all day long, which is good because with the Pixel 4, I couldn't be.

I'm not one who has their nose glued to their phone all day long. Normally, I primarily use a phone for messaging and email, maybe play a game or two and every great once in a while will watch a bit of YouTube. My small Pixel 4 will last all day almost every day. but it's those other days where I'm out taking photos or playing music that are a problem. It's making me wish I had opted for the XL, and I hate long skinny stupid XL things.

While you're reading this, I will be at the Northern Virginia Reptile Expo. I have been told I am not allowed to bring anything home with me, but I can and will be taking photos of all manner of scaly slithery things that I love. I'll also be carrying around a battery pack because I know my small Pixel 4 won't be able to do that and still have enough juice to play some music for the trip home.

My Pixel 3 could last a day of taking photos and playing music. I just know my Pixel 4 can't. I should throw it into the ocean.

Last year, my small Pixel 3 — which also was supposed to have poor battery life — had no problem doing this same feat. Yet, after a few weeks of using my orange power-hungry little box, I know it just won't be able to do it. And that makes me sad. I love a lot about this phone and think it's probably the best Android phone you can buy today if it could only last all day.

The worst thing is outside of caving, sending it back and getting the bigger, sillier version (sorry, I just have these Long Tall Sally monstrosities) I have no interest in another Android phone. I guess I could go back to my Pixel 3, but like everyone else, I want new things; especially new things that my employer paid for.

I'm hoping that Google can keep tweaking how apps run and stretch just another hour or two out of the little Pixel 4's battery. I'm not completely confident because the software is only a part of the problem and the battery is just too small. I guess I'll just have to buy a big battery pack like the Pokemon Go players use.


Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • On your long extensive days. Did you turn off motion sense? Im sure your battery can last.
  • Most hyped phone ever due to Google
  • I was going to buy but that battery life stopped me dead in my tracks.
  • Was considering as well w/battery being one of the main reasons it didn't take long to scrub from my list of wants.
  • Go back to your BlackBerry Key2 Jerry and enjoy battery life and blissful PKB typing. 😎
  • If I could get Android 10 on my KEY2 I'd throw this thing into the ocean and be a happy fellow. But stopping developers from snatching up even more of my personal information then selling it off in bulk means Android 10 > the best phone I've ever used, which is the KEY2.
  • There are mini adjustments that can be made about apps running in the background.
  • Is this something you should be doing on such an expensive device and something most consumers won't know how to do. In the very least your phone should last a day
  • Small tweaks like that won't make any difference. The problem is the battery is to small for the hardware.
  • Going by Googles trends with the Pixel Series they're all over the map in the battery department making it pretty obvious "battery" still isn't one of their priorities. I'd have expected a battery in the range of 3300 mAh by now for std pixel (4000 mAh for XL) but nope fell way short of that.
  • I don't see how they can be in the business of phone design and somehow not know that battery capacity is important to the customer. My guess is that the battery was great with a design they had, and then they panicked at the eleventh hour thinking that they needed, for example, 90Hz displays. Given how shaky the adaptive settings were on launch, I think this is the explanation that makes the most sense: that some of these features were so new that they hadn't had to time to settle or refine them.
  • Well to be fair, Google is relatively inexperienced in making their own phones. Well, designing them anyway, since Foxconn actually builds them. 90Hz was probably a late addition like you say, and combined with Soli being on all the time by default, makes it thirstier than other phones on a battery that's smaller than other phones.
  • I looked at both pixal4's. After a ton of videos & reviews I chose the 3a XL. There is NO battery anxiety with this phone. The camera is outstanding and I really don't miss the 800series processer. Plus the money I saved make me & my pocketbook very happy, yikes!
  • The 3a XL is great. Couldn't get pass the middling hardware like the limited storage and CPU but otherwise seems solid.
  • I'm keeping my BlackBerry KEY2 longer than planned and hoping for redemption on the Pixel 5.
  • This phone is just begging for a battery case!
  • I'm having that problem with my Pixel 2. My next smartphone has to have a 4000mah battery at least.
  • All the advice about turning things off is fine and I'm sure it helps with the battery life but surely the point is that these are features that help sell the phone! What's the point of having stuff on a phone if you can't use it because it will kill the battery? Most manufacturers now are starting to put 4000+mah batteries in many phones as standard because they get that actually battery life IS a feature many people look at when buying a new phone. Battery anxiety shouldn't even be a thing going into 2020 and I'm not talking about multiple days but to be able to get at least one full 24 hour day out of a phone without having to charge it before bed should absolutely be standard these days. Is Google secretly making a pixel power bank or battery case they need to sell???
    By the way they boast of all day battery life on their adverts.
  • One solution: take all the pictures you want at the Expo, then plug the Pixel 4 in to the car charger for the ride home with music.
  • That works, unless he's flying home.
  • I took the train most of the way.
  • $799 for the pixel 4.....I still cant believe it
  • Got the S10e for this reason but man is it boring
  • What parts of it are boring to you?
  • I don't care how great a phone is, if the battery is poor then it's not the right one for me. Battery life is practically the most important aspect of a phone for me.
  • Totally agree which is why I find it amazing when I see reviews that say this phone is great except for the battery life. It is simply not possible for a phone to be great if it doesn't have great battery life. I don't care how much it does well.
  • But I thought the tests showed barely any improvement in battery life with the XL, despite the larger battery?
  • This is the exact reason I was brought a huawei the battery life is mega. I got the P20 pro and still after 2 years I can listen to music all day watch YouTube for a good hour and still has enough battery to listen to podcast or watch sky before I go to sleep at night Don't understand why Google hasn't got this yet... I could never justify a pixel till they literally double the battery capacity
  • This. I sold my S9 early and got a Mate 20. The battery life is stellar. No longer having battery anxiety makes all the difference in the world. You don't realise what a difference it makes when you've been used to rubbish battery life.
  • Just turn your screen off and watch your battery life soar! I don't know why no one ever mentions that tip. 😁
  • Lying, first to yourself and then the world, seems to work wonders too. Just come up with the most extraordinary and improbable screen-on time you can think of, and hey presto! It's just like you bought a new Xiaomi.
  • I ended up about halfway between the Pixel 4 and 4 XL in size, and it worked out well.
    Yesterday was a big day for us with our son's wedding and all. I woke up and decided not to top off since the phone had around 85% left over from yesterday. Used GPS there, took lots of photos because it was a historic building, played games and surfed the web since we were there early. Then the photographer didn't show and they asked me to fill in, which worked until the Canon they gave me ran out of battery. So, I switched to the phone and ended up with over a hundred wedding photos. Shot some video too, which was so smooth that a professional producer at the wedding thought I'd used a gimbal. I took the shots of the cake cutting, then with the Canon still charging, they asked me to do the family shots. We were the last to leave and used Google Maps on the way home, and I went to bed exhausted with the phone still at 42%. This is the kind of battery life you should get, but I suspect the Pixel 4 would have died during the wedding reception.
  • If I had to have my wedding photos shot on a phone I'd never get over it. That photographer really let them down.
  • Yeah, he sure did, and the guy wouldn't even answer calls or texts. He has some explaining to do if we ever hear back from him. Fortunately we had a real camera for most of the event. My son is also a professional photographer who is good at editing. His main concern was clarity and detail, and he's one of the rare people who know the U12 Plus is better at that than the iPhone 11 and the Note 10 +.
  • No amount of software tweaking will turn a 2800 mAh battery into an endurance champion. Whoever decided to put a *smaller* battery in a phone crammed with *more* battery-draining tech should be fired.
  • I absolutely agree. How are these phones being allowed to be released with a battery that won't last 1 day? No one's getting fired for this?
  • Fire that Google ******* !
  • I got P4 for 2nd line. Turned everything off. Motion sense is useless besides helping with face unlock, 90hz is also pretty useless. I cant even see the difference when it's working or not.
    Will trade it for S11 or N11
  • Don't feel too bad about your purchase. The Pixel 4 isn't as bad as all that, and if the only concern you have is the battery life, I have just the solution for you. This case has a 5000 mAh battery in it, protects your Pixel 4 and only has a few drawbacks:
    1) It adds a small bit of weight, not brick heavy, but there is a 5000 mAh battery in it
    2) You cannot use USB-C Headphones, Bluetooth headphones are required while using this case
    3) You cannot use the Pixel Stand for wireless charging, but this is offset by still being able to use any other QI wireless charger, and the case does support fast charging of the phone. Link to get case: Hope this helps you.
  • I want to hug you right now.
  • I'd be happy if either Pixel 4 had good battery life but it would be even better if the small one did. I have a Pixel 2 XL and the only reason I got it over the smaller Pixel 2 was the battery. Even the Pixel 2 XL has a mediocre at best battery life.
  • Battery life is everything in a phone. If it's dead, it's useless. The fact that people are still buying phones with bad battery life while I get 5-6 hrs SOT with my S8+ and S10+ is laughable to me. It's time to get over the Pixel bias. Updates rarely bring anything earth-shattering to the table, anyway, so that's a moot point to me.