There's a new feature coming to the Pixel 4 that has never been successful on any other smartphone — but Google could be the first to actually pull it off (GOOGL, GOOG)


google soli pixel 4

  • Google teased that its upcoming Pixel 4 smartphone will come with a feature called “Motion Sense,” powered by the company’s Soli radar technology that it’s been working on for five years. 
  • Motion Sense will let you skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls just by waving your hand in front of the phone. 
  • The thing is, other smartphone makers have tried motion gesture controls like Motion Sense before, and the feature has never caught on successfully. 
  • With that said, Google promised that Motion Sense will improve over time, and the company has a great reputation of following through on that promise. It might actually pull off something other phone makers couldn’t. 
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Google has chosen to confirm two features on its upcoming and highly anticipated Pixel 4 smartphone: a smarter, more efficient face unlock, and a new technology called Motion Sense. 

Motion Sense, otherwise known as motion gesture controls, will use technology created by an internal Google project called Project Soli. Soli’s radar technology has been in the works for five years, but has never been available for mainstream use until now. 

Motion Sense powered by Soli will “allow you to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand,” Google said in its blog post, where the company confirmed its Motion Sense feature in the Pixel 4.

It looks cool — check it out in Google’s video below: 

Revealing details of an unreleased smartphone is an unusual move for most smartphone makers. So when something is revealed ahead of a launch, you’d imagine a company would try to maximize the hype with something wild or amazing. 

The thing is, Google isn’t the first company to try motion gesture controls — but it has never successfully become a selling point on any smartphone before it. 

Samsung was a pioneer in motion gesture controls with its 2013 Galaxy S4. The technology let you do a bunch of things by waving your hand in front of the phone — it could even detect where your eyeballs were looking to scroll up and down apps and articles.

But I can tell you right now that most people aren’t controlling their phones with their eyeballs, waves, or hand gestures. 

More recently, LG tried to differentiate its latest LG G8 smartphone with motion controls, where you have to form your hands and fingers into some odd claw shape to control media. LG’s motion control feature was largely dismissed by reviewers, myself included.

Read more: LG’s latest flagship phone is a solid alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy S10e, but only if you can get it at a discount

In short, history hasn’t been kind to motion gesture controls on smartphones — they were simply never useful enough, nor did they ever work well enough, to replace the good old screen tap. 

pixel 4 render

Improving over time

With all that said, motion gestures aren’t a deal-breaker, either. If you like them, they’re there. If you don’t, you can forget they ever existed without affecting any other part of the smartphone’s experience. I’m won’t cast a final verdict on the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense until I’ve actually tried it.

At the same time, Google said that the initial use-cases for Motion Sense — skipping songs, snoozing alarms, and silencing phone calls — are just the beginning.

“These capabilities are just the start, and just as Pixels get better over time, Motion Sense will evolve as well,” Google said in its blog post.

And Google has built a solid reputation when it comes to improving things over time. For instance, it gave the incredible “Night Sight” low-light camera feature that was introduced with the 2018 Pixel 3 to the original Pixel that was released in 2017, thus dramatically improving the camera on the original Pixel with nothing more than a software update. 

With that in mind, I have more trust in Google than most other smartphone makers to make motion gesture controls “a thing.”

SEE ALSO: The ‘Minority Report’-style motion-sensing tech Google has been developing for 5 years will be a major part of the Pixel 4

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