Android 10 Code Confirms Pixel 4 90Hz Display


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We don’t even have to assume a new Pixel flagship phone is coming this year — for the first time, Google has announced features of its new phone before the big reveal. Google already showed off the back of the phone and talked about the Soli radar sensor, but we haven’t heard any official details on the screen. The next best thing after an announcement is code features from Google engineers, and XDA found some lines in Android 10 that support the report of a 90Hz screen. 

The standard for mobile device screens has long been 60Hz. It took a long time for Android to even hit 60 frames per second in the UI consistently, but Google has prioritized smoothness in the last few versions of Android, and it optimizes Pixel phones aggressively. Laptops and desktop monitors have long advanced beyond 60Hz with 100, 144, and higher refresh rates readily available for a small premium. However, computers have a lot more power at their disposal, and phones need to remain efficient and pocket-sized. 

It has only been in the last 12-18 months that high refresh mobile displays have become viable. Razer launched the original Razer Phone with a 120Hz display, but that was an LCD with serious efficiency problems. It ran at 90Hz out of the box, and even that drained the battery quickly. Asus improved matters with the ROG Phone, which had a 90Hz OLED panel. OnePlus launched the OnePLus 7 and 7 Pro earlier this year with a high-refresh OLED as well. 

Several weeks back, the first reports of the Pixel 4’s 90Hz “Smooth Display” appeared. Now, XDA has spent some time digging through the just-released Android 10 open source code and found supporting evidence. Android contains a service called SurfaceFlinger, which links apps and system UI with the display controller. Naturally, the SurfaceFlinger service needs to be aware of the display refresh rate. SurfaceFlinger in Android 10 includes a manual 90Hz toggle that wasn’t present in previous versions of the OS. 

In the current build of Android 10, the 90Hz mode exists as a temporary solution for testing purposes — a permanent version is already in AOSP, too. The code notes that the switch should only be used on “P19 devices.” Presumably, that means the 2019 Pixels, and not the Pixel 3a. Those budget phones launched last Spring, and they’re 60Hz. So, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will indeed have 90Hz displays.

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Googler Shares 20x Zoom Photo Probably Taken on Pixel 4


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In the last few years, Google’s phones have gone from mediocre cameras to the absolute, undeniable kings of mobile photography. That is impressive enough, but Google also managed this without adding multiple camera sensors like most other manufacturers. The Pixel 4 will have two rear-facing camera sensors, and that could make for some incredible zoom photos if a new teaser is to be believed. 

The key to Google’s camera success is machine learning — the same techniques that help an AI beat StarCraft II players or drive a car can power advanced image processing algorithms. It’s no longer about how many megapixels your camera sensors has, it’s about how the software manipulates all those megapixels after you snap a picture. 

Claude Zellweger, Google’s director of design, recently posted a photo on Instagram taken on a Pixel phone (see below). In the comments, he notes the photo was taken with 20x zoom. That’s higher than you can get with current Pixel phones, even at the maximum digital zoom setting. Naturally, this suggests Zellweger is using the Pixel 4. 

Google has done amazing things with its lone camera sensor on Pixel phones, but there’s only so much you can do. We know the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will have a secondary camera on the back, and a recent leak claimed (credibly) that will be a 16MP telephoto camera. The leak didn’t include the effective zoom level of the lens — we often see 2x and 3x on phones. However, some recent devices have had “periscope-style” telephoto cameras that can do 10x optical zoom. 

A 20x zoom shot most likely taken on a Pixel 4.

So, how do you get to 20x zoom? It’s very, very unlikely this phone has 20x optical zoom. The photo does look sharp and low-noise, but it’s probably a product of Google’s excellent image processing. On current Pixel phones, you can use digital zoom, and the phone uses multiple exposures and your natural hand-shake to refine and sharpen the final image. What we’re probably seeing in this image is digital zoom to 20x with the aid of a telephoto lens — either something in the 2-3x range or possibly something higher like 10x. 

Whatever camera hardware the Pixel 4 brings to the table, it will probably continue to offer best-in-class results. We expect the Pixel 4 and 4 XL to land in October at Google’s annual hardware event.

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Latest Pixel 4 Leak Points to 90Hz Display, 6GB of RAM


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Samsung just announced its newest flagship phone, but if that’s not your speed, the Pixel 4 leaks are still flowing. A new report includes information about the basic specs like RAM and battery capacity, but we’re also learning some tantalizing details about the displays. 

Google’s Pixel 4 and 4 XL will be almost identical devices, more like the first-generation Pixels than the second and third iterations. The Pixel 4 will have a 5.7-inch 1080p OLED, and the Pixel 4 XL will have a 6.3-inch 1440p OLED. That’s all similar to the third-gen Pixel phones, but the report also claims Google is bumping the refresh rate. 9to5Google claims the phones will have a feature called “Smooth Display” that shows more frames per second than most devices. 

Smooth Display may offer a 90Hz refresh rate, the same as the OnePlus 7 Pro. That would make the Pixel 4 and 4 XL feel much more fluid than past devices. Google has always prioritized animation smoothness on Pixel phones, so the 90Hz display could really wow people. 

The leak also clarifies the camera situation. The main sensor will still be 12MP, and the secondary shooter will be 16MP with a telephoto lens. Google may also be working on a “DSLR-like” attachment that may launch as an accessory. It’s unclear what that may entail. 

Google caught flak last year for sticking with 4GB of RAM on both Pixel phones. Higher memory usage in apps like the camera could kill background processes and slow the phones down. This year, it’s reportedly increasing RAM to 6GB in both phones. However, the smaller Pixel 4 will have a slight drop in battery capacity. It’ll be 2,800mAh, down from 2,915mAh. The larger phone gets an increase from 3,430mAh last year to 3,700mAh this year. As expected, the phones will have the Snapdragon 855 and either 64 or 128GB of storage. 

Lastly, 9to5Google says it has confirmed the Pixels will have stereo speakers in spite of the obvious design changes. The last few Pixels have had dual front-facing speakers, but the small bottom bezel on the Pixel 4 doesn’t leave room for one. Instead, we’ll have one speaker at the top that doubles for the earpiece, and a second speaker on the bottom edge. That’s the same configuration Samsung currently uses. 

We expect Google to unveil the Pixel 4 and 4 XL at its annual hardware event in October. So, there’s still plenty of time for more leaks.

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Google Reveals Pixel 4 Face Unlock, Soli-Based Hand Gestures


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The last few Pixel phones have leaked in great detail before launch, and the upcoming Pixel 4 looks like no exception. Google already tried to get ahead of the leaks with a recent tweet, but now it’s providing numerous details on the phone, including the inclusion of face unlock and a Project Soli radar sensor. A few features from the last Pixel appear to be missing, though. 

Google’s blog post first off confirms the recent design leaks. The Pixel 4 will indeed have a large top bezel, but now we know why. The phone has a raft of sensors up there. You thought the iPhone was packed with sensors in that notch? That’s nothing compared with the Pixel 4. 

On the left side, there’s a front-facing camera. The secondary wide-angle selfie camera appears to be gone this year. Next to that is the standard light and proximity sensor. The left side of the bezel also has an IR camera for face unlock. There’s a matching IR camera on the right side of the bezel. There’s also an IR dot projector and a face unlock flood illuminator on that side. 

According to Google, this collection of sensors allows for a much more natural face unlock experience. It can see you from almost any angle and unlock securely. This feature plugs into Google’s platform authentication, so it works with Google Pay and other high-security apps. There’s no mention of a fingerprint sensor in the display, and we know from previous images there isn’t one on the back. With all the work that went into face unlock, it seems unlikely that the Pixel 4 also has a fingerprint sensor. 

Google also goes out of its way to mention that face unlock data from your phone never leaves the device. The data remains encrypted with the Pixel’s Titan M security chip, the same piece of hardware Google used to keep biometric data safe in the Pixel 3. 

That big bezel has one more surprise: a Project Soli radar module. Google first demoed Soli at Google I/O in 2015. It has barely talked about it since then, but it’s the basis of Motion Sense on the Pixel 4. With Motion Sense, you can use hand gestures to control music, silence alarms, and more. Google says Motion Sense will improve over time, but not everyone will be able to enjoy it. Because of regulatory approvals, Motion Sense will only work in select countries. 

At this rate, there won’t be anything to announce at the Pixel 4 unveiling. If Google keeps up with tradition, that will happen this coming October.

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