The Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL finally made good on a technology demo from 2015 with the introduction of Motion Sense gestures. The Soli radar chip technology lets you control some aspects of the phone simply by waving your hand, but a new leak claims Google will abandon this feature in the Pixel 5.
Google’s Pixel brand started strong in 2016, but each generation since has suffered from shrinking sales. The budget-oriented Pixel 3a has been the only bright spot in Google’s smartphone lineup, and it continues to overshadow the Pixel 4 and 4 XL. These phones launched in late 2019 with a rather sizeable bezel at a time when most device makers are trying to shave off unused space. Google needed that extra surface area for the new face unlock sensors and the Soli radar module.
Sources speaking to 9to5Google now say that Google’s troubles with the Pixel line have led it to scale back the feature set in its 2020 flagship. Soli is understandably on the chopping block.
Soli, which Google first demoed in 2015, tracks nearby objects and people. In the original demos, Google showed how Soli’s radar mapping could create virtual knobs and buttons, but the miniaturized version in the Pixel 4 is only good for a few things like controlling media playback and waking the screen as you pick the phone up.
Those are potentially useful features, but they don’t work reliably, and Google has been slow to add any additional capabilities. The feature is also disabled in some countries as Google couldn’t get regulatory approval for the radar technology. Running a radar sensor 24/7 also uses power that could otherwise support the phone’s mediocre battery life.
Removing Motion Sense from the Pixel 5 would be an embarrassment for Google, but it could also make the Pixel 5 a more successful phone than the Pixel 4. Google could cut the price of the Pixel 5 by dropping Soli, and the design could become more modern without so much space reserved for the radar module.
We’re still about five months out from the Pixel 5, but Google did start talking about the Pixel 4 several months early. We might know as soon as later this summer if Google is giving Soli the boot.
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