On Wednesday, Google seemed to have had enough with the leaks of the Pixel 4. It opted to just straight up "leak" the phone itself, essentially confirming the design of its upcoming flagship smartphone. It's a move that surprised everyone, and it was an unprecedented move, here's why.
The Google Pixel always leaks a ton, ahead of its release, and the Pixel 4 seems to be no exception. Last year, the Pixel 3 was seen numerous times over the summer, with full reviews coming out months ahead of the phone even being released. While there was some speculation going around that a shipment of Pixel 3 smartphones had gotten stolen from Foxconn and ended up in some Russian hands, the Pixel 4 seems to be going down the same path.
It's June, and we are already seeing some pretty substantial leaks of the Pixel 4 that is going to launch in October. That's a full four months away. That's not a huge surprise, but it does mean that we are going to see a ton of leaks and rumors before the Pixel 4 becomes official.
Companies don't talk about leaks and rumors
Anyone who has been covering smartphones for a few years, knows that when you ask a company if a rumor is true, that you'll get a cookie cutter response. That response is "we don't comment on rumors or leaks", or something to the sort. That's for a number of reasons. One, if the company were to deny the rumor, than you'd know it wasn't true. But then if a company were to be quiet on a rumor, then it adds some weight to that rumor and it might be true. So just saying that they don't comment on rumors or leaks, it keeps things a secret, sort of.
That's why it shocked everyone that Google would just post a picture showing the Pixel 4 design. And it came within a week of about four other leaks for the Pixel 4 had surfaced. So it was clear that the lid had opened on the can of leaks for the Pixel 4. Instead of just dealing with the onslaught of emails from the press, Google decided "f*** it, we'll just leak it ourselves" and showed off the teaser image that we're seeing now.
It got people talking, months ahead of Pixel 4's release
What Google did was unprecedented, but it had its reasons for doing this, and to be honest, it was genius. We've all seen leaks before, and we will see plenty moving forward. But we've never seen a company just come out and leak the phone it's going to announce, months ahead of release. So why was this a good thing? It got people talking.
It's no secret that the Pixel line is not super popular. It has gotten more popular in the past year or two, thanks to the incredible camera on the backside of the phone, but it's not popular like a Galaxy S10 or an iPhone. So getting people talking about the phone, even four months before its set to release, is a big deal. And it should keep people interested for the next few months, until Google does actually release it.
Why? It's simple. Google did more than just teased the design of the Pixel 4. It also stated, "Wait 'til you see what it can do." in its tweet. Getting people excited for the kind of tricks that the Pixel 4 may have up its sleeves. It also shows the dual-camera setup that was rumored to be coming to the Pixel 4.
Showing the dual cameras was another teaser onto itself. Google has gone with just one camera on its Pixel smartphones for the past three years. While competitors have been using two, three and even five cameras on its smartphones. But Google has been besting those cameras, with just one. So seeing a dual-camera setup from Google is going to get a lot of people excited and also curious about how the Pixel Visual Core will work with it.
Could Google be using a Time of Flight sensor to add even better Bokeh or other effects to the camera? Could it be a wide-angle sensor? Or possibly a telephoto sensor? These are things that everyone is going to be wondering now. Though, I would put my money on a wide-angle sensor, since Google added one to the front of the Pixel 3 last year. But Google could surprise us and add a Time of Flight or another sensor to its camera setup here, But this is what Google wanted, everyone to start talking about this.
There's one more thing to this teaser too. And it's something that's missing. The fingerprint sensor. The Pixel 4 actually looks pretty naked on the back, without a fingerprint sensor, but as you can see in this leak, there isn't one. So does that mean that Google is going all in on facial recognition, like a couple of leaks have pointed too? Or could Google be opting for an in-display fingerprint sensor, like the rest of the industry? Either one of those theories could be true.
The real reason why Google posted this teaser is pretty simple. It wanted to break the internet, and it succeeded in doing just that. And it wasn't a mistake. The tweet is still live, nearly 24 hours after it was posted.
Don't expect an early Pixel 4 release
Typically, Google will announce the Pixel in the first week of October, with it going on sale about a week later. That's about four months from now, and Google is already teasing the Pixel 4, like it's coming out next week. But don't be fooled. Don't expect Google to release the Pixel 4 earlier than normal this year, even though it should.
Google releases the Pixel in October for a couple of reasons. It's done after its partners/competitors have released their fall smartphones. This is so that they aren't competing with the likes of Samsung and possibly upsetting the juggernaut that is Samsung. Not to mention, it's after Apple, LG, Motorola, and the rest of the manufacturers that use Android on their smartphones.
While it's not public if Google does launch their phone later in the year to keep its partners happy, it does make sense. Especially if you look back at the Motorola purchase and sale. Google purchased Motorola and started making phones under the Moto brand, and these were some pretty popular phones. That was around the time that Samsung also started pursuing Tizen a bit more. Likely because it wanted to have its own operating system, so it wouldn't need to rely on Google. This probably rubbed Google the wrong way and wanted to make sure that it didn't lose Samsung – the biggest Android manufacturer – in the process. And thus sold Motorola to Lenovo, but kept the patents for all Android makers to use.
The Pixel release should be earlier in the year. Around Google I/O or shortly after. Why? It's in the middle of the year, when a lot of other phones aren't be announced, so there's little competition for attention. And it also means that the Pixel isn't coming out a month before Qualcomm announces its new chipset, thus rendering the Pixel obsolete just a few weeks after it has hit store shelves.
The Pixel 3a release was pretty good timing for Google. It was in May, just ahead of the new OnePlus 7 Pro release, and the other smartphones aren't coming out until August. So Google was able to get all of the spotlight, and carriers were able to add another phone to its lineup during the "dead" time of year. If Google released the Pixel at Google I/O every year, it would have a much better chance at selling well.
This Pixel 4 "leak" by Google was not an accident. It was not a "f*** it, we'll just leak it ourselves" moment for Google either. It was all calculated, and well planned. If you really break down that image from Google, you'll be able to see that there was a lot in that single picture. It's true, a picture does say a thousand words. Google shocked the internet, it got the internet talking and it's getting people excited for its announcement later this year. That's all wins for Google.
Will this force other smartphone makers to do the same thing, after numerous leaks of its smartphones ahead of release? Probably not, but some are already doing this anyways. Like LG, who will put out press releases confirming different specs and features of its new smartphone a few weeks before it is announced. That's a few weeks before, not months before the release though. Xiaomi has also been doing this as of late, and even showing off the entire phone on Instagram and Twitter in the days leading up to the launch. So it's not new, but definitely fun.
The Pixel 4 should still be on track to launch in October, and will likely come to all four carriers. But does Google have any tricks left up its sleeves? You better believe it.