In a rare move by any tech company, Google confirmed the existence of the Pixel 4 several months ahead its anticipated release in October. The tech giant not only posted the news on its own Made By Google Twitter account, but it also included an image of the phone, which depicts a square camera bump, with multiple rear cameras. Judging by the reactions from the tweet, many were taken aback by the information -- not due to the phone itself, but because Google decided to unveil the news at all. The Pixel 4 has also now been spotted in use in London.
To drop an upcoming device's name and an official image this early is unusual. Despite numerous rumors, rendered images and leaked specs, companies like Apple, Samsung and Google generally like to keep mum about their product announcements until they hold official events like Apple's developers conference and September iPhone event, Samsung Unpacked and Google I/O, where the company took the wraps off its latest Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL. Google declined a request for comment, but we have a few guesses why Google made such a bizarre move.
The most popular theory is that Google wanted to get ahead of any accusations that it copied Apple and its next iPhone. For several months, the upcoming iPhone 11 has been rumored to have a square camera bump too. Because the iPhone is expected to come out in September and Pixel phones usually launch in October, it would be easy to conclude that Google "copied" Apple's design. (BTW: The camera layout isn't altogether unique -- the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for example, also has such a design.) To avoid such talk, Google could have decided to whip out the image early to say it had the design in mind long before the iPhone's launch, knowing that Apple will remain tight-lipped about any iPhone features until September.
Four months is a pretty long time to tease a product ahead of its assumed launch date. Perhaps Google unveiled this info in June because the Pixel 4 might actually not debut in October. Maybe the phone is coming earlier, like in September (to position it even closer in competition to the iPhone) or even August. This would be a strange move though, since the Pixel 3A and 3A XL were just announced in May and it'd be a good idea for Google to allow some time between announcements of its two phone series.
When Google announced the Pixel 3 last year, it was pretty much one of the most leaked phones at the time. Most outlets already had a general idea about what the phone would look like (Engadget unboxed the thing three days before its launch) and a lot of the rumored specs turned out to be accurate. Google even managed to poke fun at this fact before the Pixel 3's launch (see below). The same applied to the Pixel 3A. Due to all the leaks, people got wind that Google was working on a midtier variant of the Pixel, and we even peeped its new Purple-ish color before Google I/O.
Because we now live in such an era where it's so hard to keep a lid on product announcements, Google might have just decided to just say "screw it." If photos of the Pixel 4's camera was going to get leaked anyway (and it did), the company might as well jump on it, too. At least it can then get ahead of the news and control to some extent whatever narrative tech enthusiasts cook up. I, for one, welcome this energy and wouldn't mind more information from Google.