Every year, Google launches a new version of its home-baked brand of Pixel smartphones. These Android-powered devices are famous for their fluid user interface, next-day software updates, and unlimited original quality Google Photos storage.
We have seen many Pixel 4 leaks and rumors regarding the 2019 Pixel upgrade, which is expected to launch in the month of October. The biggest of them all is the inclusion of a dual-camera setup at the back — adding a telephoto lens.
In fact, it isn’t even a rumor as Google itself has given a glimpse of what the company has been secretly baking inside its R&D center. Still, the number is less than what we have already seen on flagships from Samsung Galaxy S10+, OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro.
Pixel 4 could also feature an in-display fingerprint sensor (more optimistically a Face Unlock setup) as the image revealed by Google doesn’t include any fingerprint sensor at the back. It’s also expected to come fitted with a 6GB RAM, upgrading from 4GB in past models.
Fixing the Pixel’s biggest problem
As you might already know, the reason to buy a Pixel phone is not the hardware but the AI superpowers and new software perks Google adds every year. In 2018, Pixel 3 received features like Night Sight and Call Screen.
Anyway, speaking of the hardware, Google doesn’t forget to pack a top-of-the-line Snapdragon SoC for every Pixel upgrade. But the sad part is that the same SoC is already available on other flagship devices.
Samsung takes the first piece of cake by introducing its Galaxy S flagship at the beginning of every year. Then you have other flagships and flagship killers featuring more or less the same processor and amount of RAM to compete with each other.
So, when you buy a brand new Pixel phone in October, then for the next one year you’ll have to live with old hardware. Samsung will again come up with another Galaxy S upgrade in February with a new Snapdragon. Seriously, that’s just disappointing.
What’s different this time?
What piqued my interest was the recent announcement of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC. Qualcomm is pitching it as its “best mobile processor for gaming.”
The chip-maker has refreshed its flagship Snapdragon 855 SoC, and the 855 Plus delivers up to 15% better graphics performance as its Adreno 640 GPU has got a slight frequency bump. Furthermore, with the same 1+3+4 CPU configuration, a slight frequency boost has been given to the Prime core (2.96GHz from 2.84GHz) on SD855 Plus as well.
So, theoretically speaking, Pixel 4 will have a performance edge over Samsung S10+, OnePlus 7 Pro, Redmi K20 Pro, etc. This is assuming that Google would go for the Plus version, not the SD855. However, the actual benchmark numbers are yet to be seen.
If Qualcomm starts this trend of mid-cycle chip upgrades, then it would be a big plus point for smartphones launching in the second half of the year.
We need to take other factors into account such as the storage speed. For example, the OnePlus 7 Pro has UFS 3.0 storage which is around 3 times faster than UFS 2.1. So, Google will have to upgrade in this area as well.
Another thing that needs to be considered is the RAM. The JEDEC Association announced the faster LPDDR5 RAM earlier in 2019 and Samsung has already started mass producing its LPDDR5 modules.
In the case of Pixel, the DRAM module is supplied by Micron which has announced that its LPDDR5 RAM module will arrive in 2020. Also, as per reports, LPDDR5 RAM is not supported on SD855 and SD855+ and will be supported on SD865 which will be released in the future. This means Google will have to use a 6GB LPDDR4X RAM chip for the upcoming Pixel 4 moving in line with other 2019 flagships, even the upcoming Galaxy Note 10.