Pixel 4 Battery Life Is Biggest Reason Not to Buy It

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are two of the most advanced smartphones ever made, filled to the brim with computational photography tricks, fancy hand gestures via a radar chip and a recording app that can transcribe what is said in real time.

It's just too bad that Google didn't pay more attention to one of the key basics: battery life. Based on our testing, both the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL trail the longest-lasting phones by a wide margin. 

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL battery life vs competition

Swipe to scroll horizontally
PhoneBattery Life (hrs:mins)
Pixel 48:03
OnePlus 7T8:47
Galaxy Note 10 9:10
Pixel 4 XL9:42
Galaxy S1010:19
iPhone 11 Pro 10:24
Galaxy Note 10 Plus 11:09
iPhone 1111:16
iPhone 11 Pro Max 11::54
Galaxy S10 Plus12:35

Pixel 4 battery life

With its 2,800 mAh battery, the Pixel 4's capacity is less than the Pixel 3's 2,915 mAh battery. So it wasn't a big surprise that this phone turned in a shorter runtime on the Tom's Guide battery test, which involves continuous web surfing at 150 nits of screen brightness. We use T-Mobile's network for our testing to be consistent across phones. 

The Pixel 4 lasted only 8 hours and 3 minutes on our battery test, which is well below the handsets on our best phone battery life list and most competing flagships. For example, the iPhone 11 lasted 11:16 while the iPhone 11 Pro (with a similar size display to the Pixel 4) lasted 10:24. That's about two and a half hours longer endurance from Apple's phone.

The picture isn't much better when you compare the Pixel 4 to Samsung's similarly sized flagship phones. The regular Galaxy S10 lasted 10:19 on our battery test and the regular Galaxy Note 10 hit 9:10. The Android phone that finished closest to the Pixel 4 was the OnePlus 7T at 8:47. 

Pixel 4 XL battery life

The Pixel 4 XL benefits from a larger battery than the Pixel 3 XL, as Google stepped it up from a 3,430 mAh pack to a 3,700 mAh one in its newer phone. The result was a battery life increase from 9 hours and 30 minutes to 9:42. Nevertheless, the Pixel 4 XL is shamed by other premium phones.

Take the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Apple's big-screen phone lasted an excellent 11:54, which is more than two hours longer than the Pixel 4. The Galaxy S10 Plus lasted an even longer 12:35. And the Galaxy Note 10 Plus endured for 11:09, which is nearly 1.5 hours longer than Google's handset.

Bottom line

If you're wondering whether the faster 90Hz refresh rate on the Pixel 4's and Pixel 4 displays contributes to the poor battery life, it does but not a ton. When we tested the Pixel 4 with the smooth display effect turned off we saw a runtime of 8 hours and 36 minutes, which is only about a half hour better than with 90Hz turned on.

The bottom line is that Google's new phones simply don't last as long on a charge as competing phones. So if battery life means a lot to you, go for the larger Pixel 4 XL to get more juice or opt for a Samsung phone or new iPhone

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.