Google is purposefully crippling the Pixel 4's brightness to save battery life

Is anyone feeling deja vu? It seems every year, Google makes puzzling choices with its pixel displays. The Pixel 2 XL criticized for awesome color calibration, the Pixel 3 XL for its absurd notch, the Pixel 4 for never sticking to the claimed 90Hz refresh rate. But there's another problem with Google's latest: it's not all that bright. Worse, it seems Google is purposefully limiting the panel's brightness, even in high ambient light.

XDA XDA there is a high brightness hidden in the Pixel 4's code , By default, the phone is limited to about 444 nits. That's okay, but it pales in comparison to something like the Galaxy Note 1[ads1]0+'s 1.308 nit peak brightness. It's fine for you to see it in direct sunlight, especially when trying to watch videos or view photos.

When de-limited, the Pixel 4 can reach about 610 nits. Still not as bright as the competition, but a substantial boost. Given the code, it seems Google thought about implementing a high brightness mode. HDR video.

The decision to limit brightness is presumably one to save battery; the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL's are notably smaller than comparable Android devices. Nonetheless, it's a puzzling choice. For one, it could be left as an optional toggle for users to take advantage of when needed.

For another … well, the phones should just have bigger batteries. It's 2019. Even Apple which has always done well with its highly optimized walled garden, has bigger batteries on both iPhone 11 pros.

If you've got the technical know-how and have rooted your Pixel 4, all you need is a couple of shell commands. Once activated, the brightness will only turn on and off. It would have to have an effect on your battery in high ambient light, but your otherwise perform much the otherwise otherwise.

Unfortunately, the fact you need root access makes this an impractical fix for most users. At least with the 90Hz issue, you could easily stay at the higher refresh rate in the phone's developer settings. But who knows, maybe if we complain loudly enough, Google wants to list.

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Published November 8, 2019 – 21:21 UTC

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