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Opinion: Pixel 4’s ‘massive bezel’ is more than justified by the amount of tech inside

Since Pixel 4 details started leaking out, people have been complaining quite a lot about the “huge bezel” that is up above the display. Today, Google has shown off why the Pixel 4 has that bezel, and there’s no longer any room to complain about it. Here’s why.

The past couple of years have seen an all-out war on bezels which has led to ugly notches, clever camera solutions, and absolute usability nightmares. Essentially, most Android OEMs have tried ditch bezels regardless of the cost, and often at the expense of including features that are useful or even crucial to the consumer. However, it seems the Pixel 4 is going to buck that trend.

The Pixel 4’s design is simply practical

A breath of fresh air

There’s only so much bezel that you can take away from a smartphone before things start getting annoying. The OnePlus 7 Pro, for example, ditches almost all of the bezel, but at the expense of convenient face unlock and some minor gripes with day-to-day usability. Still, it’s the best we’ve seen in this arena.

Google has never really tried to fully please bezel haters. The Pixel 2 XL implemented a taller screen, but kept pretty thick bezels (and let’s not even talk about the smaller Pixel 2) while the iPhone X slimmed down. The Pixel 3 series slimmed things down a fair bit, but with a huge notch on the larger device. Still, these designs were largely for practical reasons.

The Pixel 3 XL had a huge notch, but it was for the sake of the dual front-facing cameras that enabled a wider field-of-view for selfies, a beloved feature by “normal” buyers of the device. The Pixel 2 XL, on the other hand, used that extra space for the sake of speakers, something that followed on the successor.

pixel 3 xl pixel 2 xl top bezels

The Pixel 4 is taking a step back to the Pixel 2 XL’s bezel design, and that’s not a bad thing

With Pixel 4, it seems Google is keeping up with this practical outlook on design, but while making noticeable improvements as well. In the most recent official teaser image, Google confirms leaked renders that have been floating around that show a slim bezel on the bottom with a considerably larger one at the top.

That design choice has many complaining, and others exaggerating just how big it is. If you ask me, this is a good design because it completely backtracks the enormous notch that stirred up so much controversy last year. Further, it makes room for a ton of tech that should help make the Pixel 4 an impressive device.

pixel 4 face unlock

Google confirmed the top bezel holds sensors for facial recognition

There’s more tech in the Pixel 4’s bezel than the iPhone’s notch

The bezel is worth it, and it’s less ugly too

In the latest teaser for the Pixel 4, Google strips all masks off of the Pixel 4’s front design to show us every sensor underneath that “massive” bezel as so many headlines have described it. (And as if someone took that as a challenge, we have this masterpiece.)

As seen in the image below, there’s a typical selfie camera, a speaker, and an ambient light sensor. That’s all pretty typical, but along with that, there’s a ton of hardware used for face unlock. That includes two IR cameras, a dot projector, and a flood illuminator. On top of all of that, Google also stuck a Soli radar chip, as we first reported, in the top bezel which is going to be used to assist face unlock and power hands-free gestures too.

What’s especially impressive to me is that this is more tech than what you’d find in the iPhone X’s notch. One of the biggest complaints about the notch on most Android phones is that it’s used just for a camera and nothing more, but few people complain about the same (if you ask me more intrusive) design choice on the iPhone, simply because it’s justified by some of the same sensors Google is now using. If Apple can get away with less in a worse design, how can anyone complain about what Google has opted for?

I can’t stress this enough. If you think all of this tech isn’t enough to justify a bezel that actually looks thinner than the Pixel 3 XL’s notch, you’re just wrong. Google’s design here allows space for all of this technology without cutting into the screen, all while it appears to be slimming things down on the whole compared to its previous generation.

What do you think of the Pixel 4’s design now that you’ve seen why it is the way it is? Let us know down in the comments what you think!

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Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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