Annoying Google Pixel 4 problems and how to fix them

Google’s track record with new releases is dodgy enough that we suggested waiting a few weeks before buying the new Pixel phones. The Google Pixel 4 is an impressive phone with some cutting-edge software features, but it is badly let down by limited battery life. While the Pixel 4 XL offers a bit more stamina, it still 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 we’ve 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 how to fix them where 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.

Problem: Battery life is poor

Let’s just tackle it straight away; the battery life of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is disappointing. There’s no real fix for this — 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.

Workarounds:

  • 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 you can go one better and just review the full list of apps and games on your phone and 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 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, and 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, which factors in when you usually charge up your Pixel 4 and 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.

Annoyance: Apps that could be accessed with fingerprints don’t work with face unlock

One irritating downside to the new face unlock in the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is that many apps don’t yet accept it as biometric authentication. You may find that the banking app you used to open with a fingerprint scan on your Pixel 3, now insists you type in your full password on the Pixel 4. This applies to a host of banking apps and other apps like PayPal and Starbucks.

Sadly, there’s nothing you can do but wait. Developers have to update their apps to support Google’s new API. We reached out to banking apps to ask when they would update and most of the responses weren’t very encouraging. It may be worth telling your bank that this is something you want in hopes of speeding them along, but realistically it could be months before support is added.

Concern: Face unlock works with eyes closed

A few people have concerns that someone can hold your Pixel 4 up to your sleeping face to unlock it. As it stands face unlock works even if your eyes are closed. Google will release an update that adds an option for you to specify that your eyes have to be open for face unlock to work. Until then, there are a couple of workarounds you can try.

Workarounds:

  • 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 has been 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.

Workarounds:

  • 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.

Workaround:

  • Just use the main camera app to record video.

Potential fix:

  • 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 My apps & games and 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, 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.

Potential fixes:

  • 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

The revelation that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL’s screen is not constantly employing the 90Hz refresh rate in order to reduce the impact on battery caused a stir. It has emerged that the 90Hz refresh rate may only be turning on when the brightness of the screen goes above 75%. Google has said it will be releasing an update to enable the higher refresh rate to work with different screen brightness levels, but it’s not yet clear what that will look like.

Possible Fix:

  • 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 Force 90 Hz refresh rate. Tap on it and then toggle it on, but be warned, it will drain your battery faster.

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