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I'm a [Google] Pixel fan. Let's get that out of the way. I've enjoyed the phone's design. I've had an excellent user experience. I enjoy the pure Android environment and, maybe more importantly, I enjoy the timely security updates. I completely understand why other manufacturers can't do it -- I'm looking at you Samsung -- with their own interpretation of a propriety Android Skin over the top of existing Android. I get it, but I still think it's poor practice to ship their latest flagship a version behind with Android 9. Version 10 isn't new folks.
That is why I've always gravitated to the Pixels, and the best camera in any phone in my opinion was just the cherry on top.
I'm not one that buys a new phone every year though. Money aside I think the notion is ridiculous. While it is true technology is an ever moving target I think a three-year cycle out plan is good enough. Any less would be extenuating circumstance.
Which is what I found myself in December 2019. After a grand run with my Pixel 2 I dropped it in the grocery store. It hit the cart, spun, and landed screen first into the cartwheel. The front of the Pixel had been smashed. I had no intention of purchasing a Pixel 4; not because there was anything wrong with it, but on my personal cycle plan the Pixel 5 was a more legitimate target. However, that changed in December.
So that is what I run now as my daily driver. A Pixel 4 XL, and I've had no change in my experience or opinion of the Pixels. I've read countless tech blogs and magazine reviews saying the Pixel 4 is underwhelming, uninspired, and disappointing. Quite frankly I do not understand why all the hate. Reviews such as these only siphoned the sales fuel for Pixel much to Google's dismay. Google has plenty of money; so I'm sure they'll recover from it, but I think the criticism for the most part is unfounded. Professional reviewers constantly complain about the oversize bezels. This just in, believe me, no one cares about bezels. Trust me on this reviewers, no one cares. If they do it is firmly planted at the bottom of a list of other important items. The iPhone had the same basic design for close to a decade with the large forehead and chin, and avid Apple fans couldn't have cared less. It's true that even Apple has moved away from that design. It was probably time for a new look, but I wonder how much that was spurred on by technology reviewers and far less from consumers? People don't care about bezels. They care about functionality. So I am perfectly happy with the Pixel 4's design. However, there is one area of functionality, a design decision, that has come out which wasn't apparent when I first purchased the phone, but in the COVID-19 crisis has proved to be too much too early. Can the reader guess what it is?
The Pixel 4 XL lacks a fingerprint sensor. It is a decision I can only assume by the design team to be forward thinking in the same way that the decades old earphone jack had also been eliminated to save on space. That's all well and good, but to only strictly offer FaceID only may seem like it is forward thinking but instead it also puts all the eggs into one basket. One can say that Google, "Came out of hyper-space too early" on this one. One of the most important fundamentals technology has taught us is to always have a back up plan. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has hit, the various state, local, and federal governments are recommending a form of face masks in public, and when I go grocery shopping I find myself having to key-in an old fashion PIN in order to unlock my phone to view the shopping list. The majority of apps on my phone that require authentication require a fingerprint ID; not FaceID. Oh, yes, in the future those apps will also be updated, but that's still a year to 18 months away...probably. What about the now? If it was Google's intention to push developers well, developers aren't easily pushed. Nor are mountains.
It is for that reason, a functionality reason, that buyers should beware. It's not that the Pixel 4 XL is a bad phone. I still very much happy with it, but a consumer must be willing to accept this trade off. A lack of a fingerprint sensor turns out to be a huge deal surprisingly. It is a nagging aspect of Pixel 4. Oh, when I'm home, sequestered inside during the pandemic it is no issue at all, but when I do make those limited trips to the drug store, to the grocery store, I find myself wishing I could just unlock my phone with my finger. In fact, in the future, it could be the lack of the fingerprint ID feature that bumps me off Pixel, and I'll be completely honest it saddens me to say. Its not hypocritical. I started off this post by saying that I'm an avid Pixel fan, and that is true. The bulk of my time, as is true with many of us, is spent inside the home; so why complain? Technology is an important tool when one needs it the most, and that isn't at home at the moment. The convenience of Face ID is not needed so much at home, but when checking out at the store.
I'm not mad at Google, but I am disappointed. If you agree please add your comments to either this post or on Reddit.