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Why the Pixel 5 just got interesting

Allow me to take your mind off more pressing, serious matters for a moment to consider something of little global consequence here in the land of mobile tech. Any month now, Google will likely unveil its next self-made Android phone, the midrange Pixel 4a. And then, later this fall, we’re expecting to see the next full-fledged, top-of-the-line Google flagship — the Pixel 5.

I’ve said before that the Pixel 4a has the potential to be Google’s most interesting phone of the year, much like the similarly ho-hum Pixel 3a proved to be the company’s most significant device of 2019. As I observed at the time of the 3a’s arrival, the most important announcements often aren’t the most exciting ones.

Well, now, a new set of observations suggests the Pixel 5 could actually have more in common with Google’s midrange phone line than you’d think. And as a result, the phone is suddenly accomplishing two seemingly conflicting things: It’s looking a lot less exciting to certain people — and looking a lot more interesting and potentially important to those of us focused on the bigger picture.

Let me explain.

Pixel philosophy

From the get-go, Google’s Pixel line has been about providing flagship-caliber, high-end Android experiences. The Pixel 3a forked that mission, of course, but the primary Pixel flagships have always been positioned — and priced — as top-tier, flagship-level phones.

Now, however, some discoveries deep in Google’s under-development code makes it look like the mission and the accompanying positioning of the Pixel brand may be making a subtle but significant shift.

Here’s the context, in case you haven’t yet heard it: The gang from 9to5Google got their hands on a pre-release version of what seems to be Google’s Pixel 4a Camera app. They studied the code closely and found what appears to be a series of references to the upcoming Pixel 5 phone, which is presumably being developed with that same core camera software.

The details from there get a bit technical, but the short version is that the code suggests the Pixel 5 could end up using a lower-end Qualcomm processor rather than the top-of-the-line chip present in most current Android flagships.

So what does that actually mean, in real-world terms? Well, the answer varies depending upon whom you ask, but basically: It means a lot to a very small subset of smartphone super-nerds — the sorts of tech-minded people who obsess over specs, benchmarks, and knowing that whatever device they buy has the best of everything, inside and out. (No disrespect intended to such folks, either; that term is a badge of honor in my book!)

For the vast majority of phone-owners, though, it means — drumroll, please — absolutely nothing. Nada. Zero. Bupkis. With the right sort of software optimizations and attention to experience, you are absolutely not going to notice or in any way be aware of the difference between a Snapdragon 865 processor — the top-tier chip of the moment — and the Snapdragon 765G, the power center now believed to be present in the upcoming Pixel 5.

(If you want the full technical explanation of the differences between those under-the-hood elements, you can find a good overview here. But if anything mentioned on that page actually matters to you, well, let’s just say you definitely fall into the first category described above.)

Where it could matter broadly is in price: By going with a cheaper chip, Google could conceivably lower its Pixel 5 price down from the line’s current $800 starting point to, say, maybe somewhere in the ballpark of $600 or $700. And that seemingly little shift could make a world of difference in how the phone is perceived — and ultimately, if Google plays its cards right, in how well it sells.

As is often the case in these quarters, there’s an almost eerily appropriate historical analogy to think back on for perspective.

Pixel history

We tend to think about the 2016 Pixel phone as being Google’s first self-made Android device, but Google actually released its first phone developed completely in house three years earlier — in 2013.

That’s when the first-gen Moto X came into the world. At the time, as you may recall, Google owned Motorola. And when the Moto X was announced, lots of tech heads were quick to write the device off for its less-than-stellar specs and not-top-of-the-line internals.

The phone’s processor is the perfect example: The Moto X caught tons of flak for having a mere dual-core processor at a time when high-end flagships were moving to the newer, more exciting-sounding quad-core standard. But guess what? The Moto X actually felt faster in real-world use than most of its quad-core contemporaries.

It was an important lesson in the notion that specs were no longer everything. What matters more than the model of the chip inside a phone is the way the company making the device uses that chip along with software and other elements to create an effective real-world usage experience. As I wrote at the time, “instead of worrying about how the spec sheet might look, Moto just created a setup that delivers.”

And if you’ll allow me to quote my favorite writer a teensy bit further:

If you’re looking for specific isolated pieces of technology … the Moto X probably isn’t the phone for you. It’s by no means a perfect device, and there are absolutely individual areas where other smartphones come out ahead.

But if you’re looking for a thoughtfully designed phone with genuinely compelling features — and, most important, a cohesive and outstanding overall user experience that’ll delight you from the moment you pick it up — you’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that matches what the Moto X provides.

Now, let’s give Google the benefit of the doubt and assume it manages to create an exceptional user experience consistent with what we’ve seen from past Pixels in its Pixel 5 phone. Substitute “Pixel 5” for “Moto X” in the paragraphs above, with the assumption that everything we believe about the phone now ends up being true, and those two paragraphs written in 2013 almost feel like they could be talking about this year’s coming Google flagship — don’t they?

There are certainly plenty of “ifs” involved at this point, and here’s one more: If Google manages to pull all this off while also selling the phone for $600 to $700, it’d be going up against companies like OnePlus instead of competing for attention against the latest Galaxy gizmos. The premium phone market, especially in America, is notorious for being tough to compete in unless your brand name rhymes with Phlamsung or Schmapple. But that upper-middle-tier area — where phones are premium in nature but not quite hitting the every-bell-and-whistle-imaginable, no-piece-left-behind top-shelf positioning — is somewhere a company like Google could conceivably have a decent shot at finding its footing.

And there’s something else critical to consider.

Pixel math

Remember, despite recent progress by some Android device-makers, Pixel phones are still in a league of their own when it comes to timely and reliable software updates — a factor that savvy phone owners know means more over the course of a phone’s lifespan than any single spec or external element. Critically, Pixel phones are also the only Android devices to come with a guaranteed three full years of ongoing operating system updates, which significantly increases the value they provide over the time that you own ’em.

We did some smart math on that subject with an $800 Pixel phone last year and found that, even at that price, a Pixel ended up coming out to roughly $22 a month over its three advisable years of ownership. If the Pixel 5 were to provide the same three-year update guarantee at $700, its actual per-month cost would drop to $19. At $600, the phone would effectively cost you a mere 17 bucks for every month that you keep it (assuming, as in all of these cases, that you keep it for the full three years that it’s actively receiving updates and not for any longer).

Now compare that to a device like the Galaxy S20, which starts at $999 and gets only two years of guaranteed operating system updates: With that phone, you’re looking at $42 per month over its period of advisable ownership — the two years that it’s being kept current and receiving support. That’s more than double the per-month cost of the Pixel at that hypothetical $600 to $700 price point.

Heck, even a phone like the current OnePlus 7T would struggle to compete with the Pixel 5’s theoretical value. With two years of guaranteed updates, the $599 OnePlus 7T has a cost of roughly $25 a month over the course of its advisable ownership. Despite matching the low end of our speculative Pixel 5 pricing, even that aggressively priced phone can’t come close to hitting the Pixel’s overall value with that extra year of software support Google provides.

And you know what else? With that type of value in mind, any minor misgivings about the phone become a heck of a lot easier to forgive than they are in the $800-and-up range.

Last year, I pointed out the parallels between Google’s position with the Pixel 3a and what the company had accomplished years earlier with the Moto G — a phone that similarly seemed boring on the surface but managed to provide an unmatched level of quality in its domain and ended up being Motorola’s best-selling smartphone ever.

Now, I’m wondering if the Pixel 5 could effectively be the company’s Moto X moment — the shift away from trying to play the typical flagship game and instead toward a model focused on exceptional experience in a sensibly balanced package. It’s a different way to think about a “flagship” phone in 2020, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s one that could work.

The million-dollar question, of course, is whether Google would emulate the Moto X model only in approach and experience — or whether it’d also emulate the Moto X model in that device’s critical success coupled with commercial failure. But Google’s come a long way since the Moto X days when it comes to areas like manufacturing capability, retail availability, and even marketing.

Maybe, just maybe, this time could be different — and maybe this time, Google’s gamble could finally pay off.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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5 hidden Pixel features worth finding

A phone’s most interesting features aren’t always the most obvious ones. Google in particular has a habit of tucking useful options away in easily overlooked places — and its Pixel phones are certainly no exception.

While Google’s phones once represented a “pure” version of what Android was meant to be, these days, they’re more accurately described as representing Google’s vision for the operating system. And increasingly, that means features and elements that aren’t part of Android itself or available on other devices are being added into the Pixel software.

They may not all be life-changing, revolutionary sorts of things, but sometimes, it’s the smaller touches — the ones that make our lives just a teensy bit easier in some subtle but significant way — that have the greatest impact of all.

Whether you’ve got the current Pixel 4 or an older Pixel model, these are five such features worth finding and remembering to use.

Pixel feature #1: Smart Storage

Our first hidden Pixel feature fits perfectly into that “small touch with a significant impact” narrative. It’s something Google calls Smart Storage, and it’s also a perfect example of how Pixel phones make Google services feel like native, consistent pieces of the overall phone experience.

Smart Storage works hand in hand with Google Photos to automatically remove local copies of backed up media after a certain period of time. Photos and videos tend to be some of the biggest consumers of local phone storage, and provided you use Photos’ built-in backup service to sync all your media to the cloud, there’s really no reason to keep the redundant local copies in place.

Typically, though, it’s up to you to manage that process by periodically going into the Photos app, finding the option to remove local copies of photos and videos, and then going through the process of having the app clean it all up. Smart Storage takes that extra legwork away and handles the whole process for you; all you’ve gotta do is activate it and then decide how often you want it to work its magic.

How to find it

To set up and start up Smart Storage, open your Pixel phone’s system settings and head into the Storage section. Tap the line labeled “Smart Storage,” then select whether you want your backed up photos and videos to be removed when they’re 30, 60, or 90 days old.

Google Pixel Features: Smart Storage JR

Since the items are all backed up to Google Photos, anyway, it really doesn’t make any difference which option you select. I’d go with 30 days, personally, but if you’d rather keep your local copies around longer, there’s certainly no harm (other than the increased impact that’ll have on your local storage space — but as long as you aren’t on the brink of running completely out of space, that shouldn’t much matter).

Be sure the toggle at the top of the screen is on, and that’s it: You can now rest easy knowing your phone’s storage will manage itself from here on out, and you’ll never have to lift a finger again.

(This is a huge part of how I get away with always buying phones with the smallest storage options, by the way. Once you take photos and videos out of the equation — and assuming you use a cloud-based service like Google Play Music or YouTube to intelligently manage your music downloads — there’s really not much need for most of us to have anything above the 64GB mark.)

Pixel feature #2: Google Lens on demand

Google Lens is one of Google’s best kept secrets. The service does lots of different things, but what I rely on it for most frequently is its ability to take text from the real world — information printed on a document, a whiteboard, a business card, or a pamphlet — and then turn it into copyable, action-ready text on my phone.

You could use Lens to copy the text from a physical paper in front of you and then paste it into an email or your favorite Android note-taking app. You could use it to grab the info off a business card and save it into your contacts. Or you could use it to pick up an address from a sign or a pamphlet and then start navigating to that location on your phone.

Lens also has the ability to scan QR codes — and since you’re using a Pixel phone, all of those powers are built right into your device and never more than a couple taps away.

How to find it

Anyone can download Google Lens and use it as a standalone app, but on your Pixel phone, you can get to Lens right from your device’s camera. Just press your phone’s power button twice to open the camera, then aim your phone at whatever it is you want Lens to process.

Sometimes, Lens and the Camera app may even get a step ahead of you and preemptively offer a link to a website, email address, or physical address listed on the item before you do a thing.

Google Pixel Features: Lens JR

To get the full Lens experience, though, what you’ll do is touch and hold your finger to the viewfinder area — the big, open space where the image appears. You’ll see a colorful, Googley-looking circle appear, and after a second or so, you’ll be taken to an interactive Lens analysis of the image’s contents.

Google Pixel Features: Lens JR

Depending on what’s present, Lens might offer to help you add the information as a contact, email an address mentioned on the material, or open a website listed on the document. It’ll also give you some other single-tap options for related content.

If you want to manually select and take action on some of the text, meanwhile, just press and hold your finger to the words within your image. That’ll pull up a standard Android text selector, and you can select text from the physical object as if it were regular ol’ text on your phone. From there, you can copy the text, search Google for it, or take any other relevant actions.

Google Pixel Features: Lens JR

Pretty darn handy, I’d say.

Pixel feature #3: Driving mode

I don’t think I have to tell you that looking at your phone while driving is an awful idea. And yet, despite how obvious that seems, we’ve all been guilty of glancing at our screens or tapping out the occasional text message whilst sitting behind the wheel.

The Pixel phone has a simple but effective way to save you from your own naughty instincts. It’s called driving mode, and it detects whenever you’re in a moving vehicle and then automatically puts your phone into Do Not Disturb mode for you — or, if your car has Android Auto built in, it can automatically open that and let you access certain phone functions through that system instead.

It may not be able to give you a swift kick to the groin when you pick up your phone and start researching rutabaga recipes on the road (hey, that’s what friends are for), but it’ll at least keep incoming messages from grabbing your attention and tempting you while you’re actively in motion.

How to find it

On a Pixel 3 or higher, open the Connection Devices section of your system settings, then tap “Connection preferences” followed by “Driving mode.”

The first time you access that area, you’ll be prompted to activate the feature and then to tell your phone which, if any, Bluetooth connections are specific to your car. The device will use any such signals to supplement its motion-oriented driving detection so that either variable or a combination of both of ’em can cause the mode to kick in.

Google Pixel Features: Driving Mode JR

Once the feature’s enabled, you can go back into that same area of your settings to configure how it works. You can even tell your Pixel to automatically turn on Bluetooth, if it isn’t already on, whenever the phone detects that you’re driving.

Google Pixel Features: Driving Mode JR

If you have a Pixel 2, you can set up something similar by going into the Sound section of your system settings and selecting “Do Not Disturb” followed by “Schedules.” If you see an option labeled “Driving,” tap the box next to it to activate it. If you don’t see that option, tap “Add more” and then select “Driving” from the menu that appears.

The first-gen Pixel, unfortunately, doesn’t have this feature.

Pixel feature #4: Fast camera flipping

Let’s tackle a couple convenient camera shortcuts next — because if there’s one time when saving steps is always helpful, it’s when you’re trying to capture a shot of a fleeting moment. And that’s precisely the sort of instance when you don’t want to waste seconds searching for functions or trying to maneuver your phone into a certain awkward position.

Well, the next time you’re trying to take a selfie with someone extremely important — your company’s CEO, an inspiring motivational speaker, 80s film sensation Ally Sheedy, or whoever might catch your fancy — don’t futz around with the on-screen icon for switching between your phone’s front- and rear-facing cameras. Use your Pixel’s built-in fast-flipping gesture instead.

How to find it

This one’s easy as can be: Once your camera is open, just twist your wrist twice to flip between the front and rear cameras. It’s just like the twisting gesture introduced by Motorola years ago — and once you get the motion down, there’s really nothing to it:

Google Pixel Features: Camera Gesture JR

So to open your camera and switch quickly to the front-facing view, then, you’d simply tap your power button twice and then flick your wrist twice — something that’s both speedy and easy to do with a single hand, even when you’re walking while loaded down with a bag of potatoes (or whatever is it you carry at your place of business).

Practice it now, then do it without a single thought the next time the need arises.

Pixel feature #5: Quick video capturing and photo extracting

Last but not least (for now), maybe your next on-the-go moment capturing will call for the use of video — whether it’s snagging a quick clip of a key moment at a conference, immortalizing a colleague’s mortification at the company retreat, or getting the first steps and/or dances of your progeny, pet, or perilously possessed house plant.

Whatever the case may be, your Pixel phone has a super-fast shortcut for capturing videos on the fly without having to poke around on your screen or mess with any time-wasting mode changing. And you can even save still photos from the video after the fact — win-win, baby.

How to find it

The trick to this one is simply to open your camera and then press and hold the big shutter button — the same button you’d press to take a picture. Your phone will immediately start recording a video and then keep recording until you let go.

Once your video’s recorded, you can open it — either by tapping the small circular preview right there in the Camera app or by finding its thumbnail in Google Photos — and then swipe up on the screen to see every available still shot that can extracted from the video and turned into a regular photo.

Google Pixel Features: Video JR

On the Pixel 3 and higher, you’ll also see an option for “recommended shots” — the specific stills that Google’s all-knowing algorithm identifies as being the best of the bunch. You can pick any of those (or pick whatever still you prefer) and then export it from that same area.

Google Pixel Features: Video JR

This one clearly gets a thumbs up from me.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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The Pixel 4’s power-plunging puzzle

Fountains of virtual ink have been spilled over the Pixel 4’s stamina and how the phone’s battery life isn’t all that it could be.

Me? After living with the Pixel 4 for a few weeks now, I’m not quite as down on its staying power as some folks were whilst working up early reviews of the device. I think somewhere between “okay” and “borderline acceptable” sums up my experience with the phone’s endurance thus far: I’m consistently making it through what I’d call full typical days for me, at this point, but I’m sometimes cutting it closer than I’d like by the end of the day — something that certainly doesn’t inspire confidence about how the phone might fare when I’m traveling or having another sort of day with unusually high usage.

I’ve heard from quite a few folks who bought the Pixel 4 and are having similarly adequate experiences in the stamina department — part of the inevitable variance that comes with battery life, given the differences in how we all use our phones, and perhaps also the effect of Android’s Adaptive Battery system kicking in as the software starts to optimize its power consumption — but still, I don’t think anyone would describe the device’s battery life as exemplary. And I’d say there’s little real question that it could, and arguably should, be better.

Well, something came to my attention with the phone’s power-related performance this week, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s at least part of the problem.

It’s all about the Pixel 4’s standby power consumption — the way the phone burns through battery life when it’s idle and you aren’t actively using it. And it’s really quite baffling.

Since 2015’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow release, y’see, Android has had a power management system called Doze in place. Doze is designed to make sure your phone uses the absolute minimum amount of power required whenever it’s unplugged, completely still, and with its screen off. It basically puts your phone into a deep sleep when it’s idle and allows only critical, high-priority tasks to take place.

When Doze first came around, the difference was incredible. Instead of losing a considerable amount of power overnight, phones were suddenly shedding little to none of their charge during those unused hours. You could set your phone down before going to bed and then wake up to find it with almost the same percent of power as when you left it — or maybe with a drop of a point or two at most.

With the Pixel 4, I’ve been seeing the phone drop by as much as 16 percentage points while it’s sitting completely still and unused overnight. That, suffice it to say, is a massive loss of battery life — a drop reminiscent of the pre-Marshmallow, pre-Doze days. And most vexing of all, it seems to be happening for no valid reason.

My observations with this certainly aren’t scientific, but they’ve been remarkably consistent across several days and two different Pixel 4 devices I’ve been using. And my setup on the phones is quite standard, without any unusual apps or anything (even Facebook) that’d logically be keeping the system awake. I keep the Always-On Display option deactivated, which means the screen is completely dark and inactive during the overnight hours. What’s more, when I look at the specific breakdown of what apps and services consumed battery power during that period, the only item that ever shows a meaningful increase in usage from night to morning is “Phone idle,” which usually goes up by a few points during the night. “Android System” and “Wi-Fi” both also typically bump up by a single percentage point each. Nothing else changes.

Just to be thorough, I tried checking this on a few nights with a Pixel 4 that had been freshly factory-reset, had barely been used, and had nothing on it other than the default apps that came preinstalled on the phone. The drop was slightly less extreme on that device but still significantly more than you’d expect to see in a post-Marshmallow, Doze-enabled world, with the phone losing 8 to 13 percentage points while sitting unused overnight.

And while this isn’t the type of thing most people would pick up on, signs suggest I’m not the only one. I’ve heard from a few Pixel-4-owning readers who have experienced similar levels of overnight power loss with the device. A search of the XDA Developers forum — a website popular with Android enthusiasts — also turns up multiple reports of similar behavior, as does a perusal of Pixel-related sections of Reddit. All considered (and particularly with the factory-reset, no-apps-added phone in the mix), it’s enough to make it seem like more than just a fluke thing or a setup-specific anomaly.

Oh, and one more thing: For further comparison, I took the same night-to-morning battery measurements with my wife’s Pixel 3a phone (which, in case you were wondering, earned me an exasperated sigh along with the now-standard “What are you doing to my phone now?” response). Her phone saw a drop of only 3 percentage points during the same time period — a number that’s more in line with what you should see from a Doze-enabled Android device.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: This is surely all because of Motion Sense — the Pixel 4’s radar-based hand gesture system — right? That certainly seems like a logical conclusion; after all, the radar chip is always watching for movement around the phone, so it’s only sensible that it could eat away at power even when the phone isn’t in use.

I thought that might be the case, too, but I tested the Pixel 4’s overnight power drop with Motion Sense completely disabled — and guess what? Absolutely no difference. The phone experienced the exact same drop for me, with or without the radar system running (a 16-point decrease on two consecutive nights with the same number of hours and the presence of Motion Sense acting as the only distinguishing variable). That makes it seem pretty clear to me that Motion Sense isn’t a meaningful factor in the Pixel 4’s idle-time power consumption.

But it also seems pretty clear to me that something funky is going on — and that the Pixel 4 is losing more power than it oughta be when it’s resting and inactive. And it’s hard not to wonder if that same pattern might, on some level, also be responsible for the accelerated depletion the phone seems to experience during the day. I’ve often noticed that the battery life falls a surprising amount even when I’m not actively using it — like just now, when I set it down on my desk and didn’t touch it for 90 minutes, and yet the battery level had dropped by 3 percentage points by the end. Not a single app or service had been active, and the only items in the battery stats that had any form of elevated usage were “Android System” and “Phone idle.” I saw similar results when repeating that experiment with the just-reset, almost-nothing-on-it Pixel 4 as well. What’s going on?

I reached out to Google early this week to see if anyone could offer an explanation or even an assurance that, yes, something seems to be amiss and that a software update could resolve this. The company has been looking at bug reports that I captured and submitted and thinks the problem may be at least in part related to something peculiar happening with the phone and the Google Cast system, as one of the devices was evidently kept awake by a curiously high amount of inexplicable Cast-related activity during the night. I’ll update this page if I receive any additional info.

For now, it seems safe to say that something is up with the Pixel 4’s standby power consumption — something that’s absolutely affecting the phone’s overnight stamina and quite possibly affecting its overall staying power to some degree as well. The issue may or may not be limited to the Pixel 4 — and it may or may not be affecting all Pixel 4 units — but given my observations and the observations from others noticing similar patterns, it sure seems likely that there’s some connection. (And we know, at the very least, that the Pixel 3a doesn’t appear to be affected.)

If it’s something that Google can pinpoint and resolve, the Pixel 4 might just go from being “okay” to being “pretty decent” with stamina, at least for people like me whose usage isn’t exceptionally demanding.

Pixel phones have a bit of a reputation for being rough around the edges in their first couple months of existence and then getting smoothed out and more commendable after a round or two of fixes. Let’s see if the Pixel 4 and its stamina saga follow that same pattern — or if the device’s current level of staying power is simply as good as it gets.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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How to Disable Face Unlock on the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

Google Pixel 4 Face Unlock Menu
Justin Duino

Face Unlock is one of the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL’s flagship features. But if the facial recognition is a form of biometric security you’re uncomfortable with, you can delete your face data right off the phone. Here’s how.

Start by jumping into the Settings menu. The easiest way to do this is by swiping down twice on the home screen until the quick tiles are exposed. From there, tap on the gear icon.

Alternatively, you can swipe up on the home screen to open the app drawer. Scroll down and select the “Settings” app.

Google Pixel 4 Tap Gear Icon

Next, tap on the “Security” option.

Google Pixel 4 Tap Security

Finally, locate and tap on the “Face Unlock” button. To proceed, you’ll need to enter your screen lock, whether that be a password, PIN, or pattern.

Google Pixel 4 Tap Face Unlock

In the Face Unlock menu, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap on the “Delete Face Data” button.

Google Pixel 4 Tap Delete Face Data

The Google Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL will verify you want to disable Face Unlock. Confirm that you want to remove your face data by tapping the “Delete” button.

Google Pixel 4 Tap Delete to Confirm

With the data deleted, Face Unlock will be disabled on your phone. The screen lock will remain in place, ensuring your device stays secure.

RELATED: Google Pixel 4 Early Impressions: Radar, Face Unlock, and the Camera

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6 Awesome Cases to Protect Your Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL – Review Geek

A photo of the Pixel 4 in one of dbrand's cases.

It’s really tempting to use the Pixel 4 and 4 XL without a case, but the universe has a way of targeting unprotected phones. Maybe we should meet the universe halfway and use a cool-looking Pixel 4 case.

A ton of super cool Pixel 4 and 4 XL cases are already on the market in just about every style and form factor. Just know that the cases listed in this article are all from reputable brands, they’re all gentle on your phone, they all have raised bezels to protect your display, and they work with wireless charging. Any other details are mostly aesthetic.

So let’s get into it. Here are six killer cases for your new Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL.

Soft and Stylish: The Official Google Pixel 4 Case

The official Pixel 4 fabric case.

Google’s official Pixel 4 or 4 XL fabric cases are badass (especially the coral-colored one). They’re made of a durable nylon fabric that you can clean by hand, they have a microfiber interior to protect your Pixel’s backside (that resale value), and they have raised edges to reduce impact on the screen when you inevitably drop your phone. Plus, they look super cool, and they work with wireless chargers.

Affordable and Customizable: dbrand Skins and Cases

A Pixel 4 in a dbrand case.

Always check dbrand before buying a phone case. dbrand sells cool skins for just about every device imaginable, and the company’s Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL offerings are exceptionally cool (you can even customize the “G” logo’s color). These skins are super affordable, they look awesome, and they work with wireless chargers. What’s not to love?

If you really want the protection of a case, you could always customize one of dbrand’s Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL cases—you can even put the company’s skins on the back of the case for a bit of extra customization.

It Holds Money: Maxboost mWallet Case

A Pixel 4 in a Maxboost wallet case.

If you’re more of a wallet case kind of person, then you should check out Maxboost’s wallet case for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. It’s a magnetic-latched case that has room for three credit cards (or some cash). It can also act as a kickstand and works with wireless charging if you’re into that kinda thing.

Wait, if you usually use a wallet case, then how have you been carrying your money around since buying a Pixel 4?

It Holds Money

It’s Basically Invisible: Spigen Ultra Hybrid Clear Case

A Pixel 4 in a clear Spigen case.

What if there was a phone case that didn’t look like a phone case? The Spigen Ultra Hybrid clear case for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is basically an invisible case. It’s clear, it’s slim (0.11 inches thick), and it only costs $10. It also works with wireless charging, which makes sense because a wireless charger can’t see the clear Spigen case (that’s not actually how this works).

By the way, Spigen also sells a clear Liquid Crystal case for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. It’s slightly thinner than the Ultra Hybrid case, so it’s a good option for anyone who wants to get as caseless as possible.

It’s Basically Invisible

Strong and Beefy: UAG Monarch Series Case

A Pixel 4 in a rugged UAG case.

All right, we’ve had fun looking at pretty (and invisible) phone cases. Now it’s time to look at a big, beefy phone case. The UAG Monarch Series case for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is made from super grippy rubber, has screen-protecting edges, and meets the “Military Standard for drop and shock protection.” It also works with wireless charging, which is good to hear.

Plain Jane: Speck Presidio Pro Basic Case

A Google Pixel 4 in a Speck case.

We’ve covered all kinds of styles and form factors, but sometimes it’s nice to just go back to the rudiments. Speck’s Presidio Pro case for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is super basic. It’s a dual-layer rubber case with a raised bezel for your display, it’s black, it’s soft, and it works with wireless charging. And that’s really all there is to it. Does this case even have a logo on it?

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