Now Google has managed to make that technology run on the phone itself, with some very impressive results. A new version of Assistant uses it to great effect. You can rattle off commands at breakneck speeds and it will understand the lot. If you want to open the camera, shoot a photo and share it to a friend you can now do it faster with your voice than you probably can with taps.
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The Google Recorder app is equally impressive, transcribing voice recordings on-device in real time and tying text and audio together so you can search through them. Unfortunately the new Assistant only works in US English for now. Reaching for the phone lights up the screen fully and gets it ready to recognise your face, but it can also snooze alarms and silence calls.
A swipe through the air above the phone can skip tracks in music apps or from the lockscreen, and more gestures are promised. It worked well when on a desk, but was harder to trigger when handheld.
Google has dumped the fingerprint scanner for its new 3D face recognition technology. It works through polarised sunglasses and not once did it fail to recognise me.
Fewer than 10 apps currently do so, though. And even leaders in fintech such as Monzo are saying it will take a while to implement, so you can forget your traditional banking apps. Google has made a name for itself with some of the best smartphone cameras on the market, and the Pixel 4 XL is no different, now with a dual-camera system on the back.
It is arguably the best point-and-shoot camera available. Still photos are full of drama and with an amazing amount of detail, even in very difficult lighting conditions. New for the Pixel 4 XL is the ability to manually alter the foreground and background brightness independently. Portrait mode for people, pets or objects is also improved particularly around things such as wisps of hair. The single selfie camera is also good, with a wider angle than most front-facing cameras.
Video capture is generally solid, but caps out at 4K at 30fps and is by no means market-leading.
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If video is your medium of choice there are better cameras than the Pixel 4 XL. The lack of the fun ultrawide-angle camera popular with other manufacturers is also disappointing, as is Google dumping free full-resolution Photos backup, which has been a Pixel value-add for years. I love the design, the feel, the 90Hz screen and incredible camera. The new on-device natural language understanding is a marvel. Face Unlock is genuinely great.
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A transformational leap just as Face ID was three years ago on the iPhone X , but only when it works. Only one app I routinely use a fingerprint with supports Face Unlock. The Pixel 4 XL is therefore a very hard phone to grade. Once Google fixes the problems and apps have been updated, the only thing really holding the phone back is below-average battery life. Cons: poor third-party app support for Face Unlock, Face Unlock needs eyes-open fix, Google Assistant needs G Suite fix, below-average battery life, no fingerprint scanner option. Google smarts also works to make the camera experience even richer, with Frequent Faces learning the people you photograph most and capturing photos of them when they look their best .
Google has brought together all of its best features into the one device with the new Pixel 4 range, including the helpful Google Assistant .
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Customers who purchase through Telstra will also receive a bonus Google Nest Hub. For a full list of plans please visit our Google Pixel 4 store page. Not all phone features are controlled by Motion Sense. For more information see g. Maps and navigation may not be available in all areas. Data charges may apply. Call charges will be in accordance with your Telstra mobile plan. Luke joined Telstra in where he has had the privilege to help bring stories to life in a unique and human way.
He was previously the head of editorial at Twitter Australia and the editor of cult tech site Gizmodo. In another life he was a cyber security specialist where he sought to educate people about how to stay safe online. When he's not writing, he's getting outdoors and patting all the nice dogs he meets.