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The Google Pixel 4’s high refresh rate display doesn’t work all the time

The Google Pixel 4 has just been released, and initial reception towards their latest flagship has been somewhat mixed. Of course, there is the issue of how the Pixel 4 is the first flagship Pixel that doesn’t come with free storage of original quality backups on Google Photos, and the Pixel 4’s 2,800mAh battery is also really small by today’s standards.

One of the headline features of the Google Pixel 4 is the “Smooth Display”—which is essentially the 90Hz refresh rate display, something that a few flagship manufacturers have been including on their flagships. But there’s a caveat to this: the Pixel 4’s display automatically drops to 60Hz when the brightness of the screen is reduced to below 75%.

Initially noticed by a user on Reddit, it looks like the display is set to drop to 60Hz in a bid to improve battery life—which especially makes sense on the smaller Pixel 4. And having a variable refresh rate isn’t totally a bad thing, but the issue here is that you’d imagine that most users would set their phones at below 75% whilst indoors.

Google has released a statement to The Verge that explains that there are more scenarios where the refresh rate of the display will drop:

We designed Smooth Display so that users could enjoy the benefits of 90Hz for improved UI interactions and content consumption, while also preserving battery when higher refresh rates are not critical by lowering back down to 60Hz.

In some conditions or situations, however, we set the refresh rate to 60Hz. Some of these situations include: when the user turns on battery saver, certain content such as video (as it’s largely shot at 24 or 30fps), and even various brightness or ambient conditions. We constantly assess whether these parameters lead to the best overall user experience. We have previously planned updates that we’ll roll out in the coming weeks that include enabling 90Hz in more brightness conditions.

The biggest takeaway from that is that Google will be releasing updates in the coming weeks to enable 90Hz in “more brightness conditions”, while there should also be an update to the Pixel 4’s face unlock system that purportedly works even if your eyes are closed.

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