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(Pocket-lint) - Google's annual phone refresh isn't as mature as the likes of Apple and Samsung - or even Huawei - which dominate the smartphone market. But now in its fourth iteration, the Pixel is looking to change the story and explore new ways to enhance that bond between a person and their phone.

Launched alongside a smaller Pixel 4, Google spends its time telling us that it's not about the hardware - but about the ambient computing experience. The problem, when you're trying to sell people phones, is asking people to buy into that ambient experience when you're not offering them the most compelling device to access it on.

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Our quick take

Once again it's the camera that sings in the Pixel 4 XL. It's a pleasure to use and now paired up with a great display, it's a really compelling experience when it comes to capturing photos and video on your phone. While there's no wide-angle lens, the performance across the normal, portrait, zoom and low-light photography makes this a top phone for those who want to take photos. 

While the design is interesting and there's plenty of power, there's a couple of areas where the Pixel 4 XL doesn't quite topple its rivals. The battery life is far from class leading - although some may be perfectly happy to accept that - and Soli and Motion Sense gestures don't really add much to the experience. Those Soli functions may change over time, but we're accustomed to using a phone in the hand - as that's what it's designed for.

Overall, the Google Pixel 4 XL is interesting and a great pure Android handset. But rivals have closed the gap in camera performance, offer more power, more compact design and better battery life. While it's attractive now, we suspect that in four months time this phone will feel old.

Originally published on 24 October 2019.

Alternatives to consider

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Huawei P30 Pro

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The Huawei P30 Pro has an edgy excitement about it. Yes, there may be a bit of a question mark over the future relationship with Google, but it offers great power, great performance and great battery life - and it's still ruling the camera experience on smartphones.

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