Google’s track record with new releases is dodgy enough that we usually suggest waiting a few weeks before buying new Pixel phones — you know, to let the bugs sort themselves out. But here’s the thing: They don’t always do so. And bugs aside, people unfamiliar with Android’s ins and outs find themselves stuck with confusing features, software quirks, and so on. The Pixel 4 family is no different.
The Google Pixel 4 is an impressive phone with some cutting-edge software features, but it is badly let down by limited battery life. The Google Pixel 4 XL offers a bit more stamina, but it doesn’t last as long as we’d like, either. Battery life isn’t the only issue that owners of both of these phones have encountered. We’ve bumped up against a few other Pixel 4 problems and uncovered some of the most commonly-reported issues from help forums. But we’re not just here to complain — we’re also going to explain how to work around these issues or fix them when possible.
Whatever your problem, the first thing to try is a software update. Make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi and take a quick look in Settings > System > Advanced > System Update, then tap Check for Update and install any update that’s available. Google announced the newest security update on August 4.
Problem: Battery bloat causes wireless charging issues
While it’s still unclear how widespread a problem this is, and there has been no official word from Google on the issue, some Pixel 3 and 4 owners have reported issues with battery bloat. It’s not unusual for batteries on phones to swell — it’s actually a good thing, as it prevents them from catching fire and exploding. However, it’s not what you’d usually expect from a relatively new battery and device. The issue seems to have started with Pixel 3 and 3 XL owners reporting swollen batteries and issues with wireless charging on Google’s forums, followed by Pixel 4 XL owners reporting wireless charging issues on Reddit and battery swelling issues on Google’s forums. This is definitely something to bear in mind if you’re considering picking up a Pixel phone.
- If you notice your phone battery swelling or experience any issues with wireless charging and your Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL seems to be getting hot, it might be worth contacting Google support to see if they’ll offer a free battery replacement or repair. This may depend on whether your device is still under warranty.
Annoyance: Chrome freezing when watching video
A thread on Google’s support forums suggests some Pixel 3, 4, and 4 XL owners have reported issues with Google Chrome freezing when watching video — an issue that seems to correct itself by locking and unlocking the phone, or even restarting the device — not an ideal solution. It looks like this has been an ongoing problem for months, but fortunately, the update to Android 11 seems to have fixed the issue for most people.
- If you’re experiencing this problem, your first move should be updating your software, which will hopefully resolve things.
Bug: Screen attention not working
A thread on the Google user forums mentions the screen attention feature isn’t working properly, and that rebooting and toggling the feature off and on makes no difference. This seems to be an on-again-off-again problem, with many Pixel 4 owners reporting the July update fixed the bug, only for it to reoccur. Hopefully, Google will come up with a permanent fix soon, but in the meantime, if you’re experiencing this, there are a couple of things worth trying.
- It’s been suggested the screen attention feature doesn’t work well under two minutes of screen time-out. While the feature should work well regardless of the time-out, you could try setting your screen time-out to over two minutes to see if this resolves things.
- You could also try booting your phone in safe mode to ascertain whether it’s a third-party app causing the problem — if screen attention works in safe mode, then you’ll need to try and figure out which app is the culprit. If it still doesn’t work in safe mode, then the operating system or last software update is likely to be at fault. You can report the bug to Google on your device via Settings > Tips and Support > Send Feedback or reply to a thread in the forums.
- As always, ensure your software is up to date, as updating may resolve the problem.
Problem: Battery life is poor
Let’s just tackle it straight away: The battery life on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is disappointing. There’s no real fix for this, sadly. Google should have put bigger batteries in both of these phones. But there are plenty of ways to make living with it less of an issue. We don’t suggest you do all of these things, but switching off the things that you don’t value can boost that battery a lot.
But think about accessorizing first: We’re not keen on having to compromise, and we don’t like to nerf functionality, so before you read on, consider buying a good portable charger, a fast charger, and a wireless charging pad for the desk and nightstand to keep your Pixel 4 topped up.
- The Pixel 4 should do a good job restricting apps you don’t use much, thanks to Adaptive Battery — you can check it’s on via Settings > Battery > Adaptive Battery — but don’t stop there. Go one better and review the full list of apps and games on your phone, and then uninstall any that you don’t need.
- It’s a good idea to review app permissions from time to time for security reasons, but there can be battery benefits too. Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > Advanced > Permission Manager and revoke any permissions that you don’t think the apps really need. Pay special attention to Location and reduce the number of apps that are Allowed All the Time.
- While Google’s new air gestures can prove handy, they definitely impact battery life because the Pixel 4 is vigilant for movement nearby. If you’re not enamored of them anyway, head into Settings > System > Motion Sense and toggle it off.
- Turn on Dark mode — it’s both cool and a battery saver. Just tap on Dark Theme via Settings > Display. Since the Pixel 4 has an OLED screen where pixels are lit individually, it won’t drain the battery as fast when most of them are not lit — dark backgrounds require less power.
- The 90Hz refresh rate is one of our favorite things about the Pixel 4, but there’s no doubt it takes a heavy toll on your battery. Go to Settings > Display > Advanced > Smooth Display, and you can toggle it off.
- Tweak more display settings. There are three things that will help that we haven’t covered yet, and all are accessible via Settings > Display. First, reduce Screen Timeout as far as you can stand, then in Lock Screen Display, make sure Always on is toggled off. Finally, in Styles and Wallpapers, choose a wallpaper that is static and mostly dark.
- Turn on Battery Saver. You can do this via the notification shade or by going to Settings > Battery > Battery Saver. It will limit background updates, kill some visual effects, stop location gathering and other background app activities, stop listening for, “Ok, Google,” and turn on Dark Theme. You probably don’t want this on all the time, but tap on Set a Schedule, and you’ll find the option to automatically trigger it at a certain battery percentage or based on your daily routine. The “daily routine” option factors in when you usually charge up your Pixel 4, and it decides when it needs to turn on to ensure that you’ll make it there without running out of power.
- You can find a few more ideas in our general smartphone battery tips.
Problem: The camera app crashes
A lengthy thread on the Google Forum reveals hundreds of users complaining that the camera app crashes. People note that uninstalling and reinstalling doesn’t address the issue, leaving them with a very expensive piece of hardware that can’t seem to accomplish one of the main tasks set out for it.
Resetting the phone is a commonly-suggested solution, and in our experience, this addresses most concerns. That means erasing your data, however, so use it as a last resort. On the forum, several users noted that a January update fixed the issue as mysteriously as it arose. As always, your first move in the case of a problem should be to ensure that your software is up to date.
Concern: Face unlock works with eyes closed
At launch, we raised our eyebrows over how the Pixel studies your eyes. You see, someone could hold your Pixel 4 up to your sleeping face to unlock it, which seems like something of a security hole — not a crazy one, but a potential problem. Fortunately, Google released an update in April that added an option for you to specify that your eyes have to be open for face unlock to work.
If you’re dead set against staying current (in which case, why did you buy a Pixel?), there are a few other things you can do to close the security hole:
- Use a PIN, pattern, or password instead. You can set them up in Settings > Security.
- Lockdown mode allows you to press and hold the Power button and then tap Lockdown to quickly turn off biometrics if you’re worried someone is going to try and force you to unlock your phone against your will. You can activate Lockdown mode via Settings > Display > Advanced > Lock Screen Display, where you need to toggle on Show Lockdown option. If you use it, your Pixel 4 will revert to PIN, password, or pattern unlock.
Issue: White balance and colored lights
Thankfully, this one is unlikely to impact most people. According to a Reddit post, which was picked up by a few sites, the Pixel 4 camera has an issue with colored lights where it seems to be trying to fix a shot with extreme color and ends up turning it into a different, inaccurate color. There’s also a thread at Google’s support forum asking for manual white balance control to be brought back. There’s no fix for this, but Google may make adjustments that roll out in future updates. Heavy emphasis here on “may” since this has been an issue for months.
- The issue isn’t present in the RAW image files, so open up the camera app and go to the Settings, then tap Advanced and toggle on RAW+JPEG Control. This will save the RAW file separately, and you can export it and work on it on your PC or use an app like Snapseed on your Pixel 4.
Bug: Clicking sounds in video recorded in third-party apps
Some Pixel 4 owners have been suffering a strange issue with video recorded in apps like Instagram and Snapchat, where there’s a background clicking noise. There’s a thread at the Google support forum and on Reddit. Some people describe it as a popping sound or like a metronome, but it seems that it only happens when you use a third-party app to record video, not when you record video in the standard camera app. We haven’t been able to reproduce this issue, and it’s not clear how widespread it is.
- Just use the main camera app to record video.
- Make sure you’re up to date via Settings > System > Advanced > System Update, then tap Check for Update. Open up the Play Store app, tap the Three Horizontal Lines at the top left, then tap My Apps & Games > Update All.
Problem: Motion Sense doesn’t work
If you have trouble getting the Motion Sense gestures to work, then you’re not alone. There’s a bit of a knack to it, but some people have also reported other issues, as discussed at the XDA Developers forum. It’s also important to note that Motion Sense doesn’t work everywhere — it’s currently only available in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and most of Europe.
- Start by going to Settings > System > Motion Sense and make sure that it’s toggled on. You can tap on the individual options in here to see an animation that shows precisely what gesture to use. Assuming it’s already on, toggle it off and on again, then retry.
- Restart your Pixel 4 or 4 XL by holding down the Power button then tapping Restart.
- If you have a case or screen protector on your Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL, then remove it and test the gestures again.
Annoyance: Smooth display isn’t on all the time
It’s become more and more of a surprise to Google users that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL is not constantly employing the 90Hz refresh rate. Of course, the reason behind this is to preserve battery life, and it seems it’s only used when the brightness is at 75% or higher. However, Google has released statements detailing an update that will boost the refresh rate with other brightness settings, so we’ll have to wait and see what that looks like.
- While you wait for an update that might open up more options or change the behavior, you can force the Pixel 4 display to run at 90Hz all the time. Go to Settings > About Phone and tap the Build Number at the bottom seven times to unlock Developer options. Now, go to Settings > System > Developer Options, and there’s an option in there labeled Smooth Display. Tap on it and then toggle it on — but be warned, it will drain your battery faster.