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Google Pixel 4 XL prototype is wearing a color you've never seen on this phone


When the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL were released last October, Google offered the phones in Clearly White, Oh So Orange, and Just Black. The middle color was dropped by design when pre-orders ended. But apparently there was a fourth option that never made it to the big time. A tweet revealed (via XDA) that Chinese online shopping site Taobao  posted a photo showing a prototype Pixel 4 XL with a gray back. The listing on Taobao mentions a Pixel 4 XL “engineering machine” with 6GB of memory and 64GB of storage for a price of 2699 Yuan, the equivalent of $382 USD. Google is offering the 64GB Pixel 4 XL for $599 (with a $300 price cut).

Some Pixel 4 XL owners would love to swap their device for this model with the matte gray back

The relative “cheapness” of the prototype, which in theory should sell for more than the Google Store version of the device because of its rarity, has many wondering how legit the back panel is. But based on comments made by repair website iFixit, swapping the rear panel on the phone would be a difficult task. Considering that there doesn’t seem to be any damage to the phone, we could be looking at a legit prototype. And XDA was able to confirm that the phone is a Pixel 4 XL through its IMEI. A sticker on the back of the prototype indicates that the handset was originally supposed to be Verizon-bound.

Another sticker on the device notes that “this device has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission and Industry Canada, nor has it been tested for compliance with EU regulations. This device may not be sold or leased. For internal testing and development only. Markings and packaging are not final.” This could indicate that the particular unit wasn’t supposed to find its way into the hands of a consumer. And yet another sticker covering up parts of face unlock reads “do not remove unless authorized by hwpasafety.”

Sometimes it is more interesting to see the ideas that a manufacturer tossed away rather than the ones that were actually used; there are probably a few Pixel 4 XL owners out there who would trade-in their glossy black model for a variant carrying a matte gray rear panel. But alas, Google decided not to offer this color for the Pixel 4 XL. Perhaps it will be an option for the Pixel 5 series.

The big news is that Google might be taking some of the pressure off of itself this year. What we mean by that is Google has traditionally taken some heat from analysts who would typically compare the latest Pixel handset with the most recent Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone. And last year it really felt that the Pixel 4 series was destined for greatness with face unlock, the Soli-powered Motion Sense, astrophotography and more. But it soon became obvious that Motion Sense was too limited, face unlock was launched without requiring that users have both eyes open in order to work, and astrophotography wasn’t grabbing consumers by the wallet. In addition, limiting the top storage option to 128GB when Apple and Samsung offer much more storage for their flagships didn’t help.

So the Pixel 5 family is expected to be powered by the Snapdragon 765G. Sure, the chipset has a 5G modem integrated, but performance-wise the component can’t compete with Apple’s A13 Bionic SoC and even Qualcomm’s own flagship Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform. Perhaps by moving the Pixel 5 line down a tier and selling the phones for a bit less than a flagship price, Google won’t have the spotlight on it and will be able to get the Pixel 5 handsets into the hands of more Android fans who love stock Android and want first crack at updates and  features being groomed for Android. Or perhaps a Pixel Ultra is coming with truly high-end specs. Whatever Google does with the Pixel 5 series, we’d like to give the company a tip on how it can sell more phones: improve the battery life!



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