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It’s only June but already the fall smartphone wars are heating up. Apple last week unveiled iOS 13 and with it many of the new features that will grace the next iPhone, and now Google has one-upped the hype machine with an unprecedented reveal of the Pixel 4 months ahead of its presumed launch.
And why not? We all know the Pixel 4 is coming in October, and after YouTube creator Unbox Therapy got his hands on a metal model of new phone and seemingly spilled all the details about the new dual camera and design, it was just a matter of counting the days. So rather than let it play out with rumors and speculation for months like it did with the Pixel 3, Google went ahead and took control the narrative.
It’s a smart and savvy move. Smartphone makers have long wrestled with the reality that keeping a new handset secret until its launch is a futile effort. Ever since an Apple engineer accidentally left his iPhone 4 in a Redwood City bar, leaks have become big business, and there’s very little Apple, Google, or anyone else can do to keep their latest creation under wraps.
And that inevitably leads to disappointment. Whether it’s from people hoping that the leaks are fake or people who decide that the new design isn’t up to snuff months before they get to see it in person, the big event is never as celebratory as it should be. Even something like the iPhone X led to more criticism than celebration, as people focused on what they knew rather than what was new.
And there’s the rub. The parts of the phone that Apple and Google can keep under wraps—the software features, chip enhancements, and architecture improvements—are overshadowed by the superficial aspects of the hardware. By leaking the look of the phone (or half of it anyway), Google is shifting the focus to what its new phone can do.
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