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Don’t let the Pixel 4 fool you, Google says it’s still serious about flagship phones

The Pixel 4 may have made you think otherwise, but Google boss Sundar Pichai has said that the company is still serious about high-end smartphones.

Google’s 2019 smartphone releases gave off the impression that the company was more committed to its mid-range Pixel a series than its flagships. The Pixel 3a was one of the best phones of 2019, while the Pixel 4 was arguably the single most disappointing release of the year.

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However, in an interview with The Verge, Google’s top dog not only said that the company is “putting a lot of our effort into” high-end devices, but also suggested that this might even be more of a priority than entry-level hardware.

“The area where we have demonstrated the strongest value proposition, that’s why I gave the [Pixel] 3A example, it’s where we clearly have demonstrated it. But having said that, if you want to drive computing forward, that high end is where you’re going to also keep moving the needle. And it’s where we are putting a lot of our effort into,” Sundar Pichai said.

“So you will continue to see us invest in both ends of the spectrum. We care all the way — [we’re] obviously working with our ecosystem [on] entry-level devices. I’m deeply passionate about that. But definitely, the high end is something where we’re putting in a lot of effort. That’s where some of the underlying investments pay.”

While Pichai didn’t go as far as admitting that the Pixel 4 had been a disaster, he did say: “We are definitely going to have hiccups. We are a nascent player in a really complex space, so not everything’s going to be smooth.”

Both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL suffered from terrible battery life, which is something that the head of Google’s hardware division, Rick Osterloh, flagged up ahead of launch.

However, Google either chose not to, or didn’t have enough time to, do something about it, and the phones were subsequently slated in many reviews.

It also recently emerged that Marc Levoy, one of the key figures behind Portrait Mode, Night Sight, HDR+ and other camera features for the Pixel line, left Google in March. A worrying development ahead of the launch of the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5.

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“Hardware is hard. And it definitely has components, which take real time to get it right, thinking about underlying silicon or display or camera or any of those tacks,” said Pichai.

He added: “We take a long-term view. We are not in it just for phones alone. We have a vision of where computing needs to go. And I think it’s really hard to drive that vision without doing hardware, software, and services together. You have to think of the intersection of it. I see a lot of value in thinking about it and doing it that way.”

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