What is Motion Sense good for…

After two days of the Google Pixel 4 usage, here are my thoughts about the Motion Sense/Soli feature…

First of, I think that many (if not all) “consumer” reviews of the Pixel 4 missed the real point of the technology by only focusing on the most obvious feature.

Is the swipe to change song a gimmick? It is. Is pinching the Pikachu a gimmick? No doubt. But that only means that there are still no real “obvious” use cases for the gestures technology, not that the technology is not useful.

The usefulness can be seen when you look at the phone itself and how you use it.


Motion Sense can detect presence and it makes use of it in four very interesting ways:


This is a part that is not yet utilized enough, but I see a lot of potential in the future:

In a lot of the Pixel 4 reviews, the reviewers concluded that the gestures don’t work very reliably, and I agree with that to some point. The waving detection is not perfect, but it works much better when you do it casually, without thinking to much about it. Also, it’s useful to know that the “gesture area” is over the whole phone and not just over the camera/forehead. It might even be more precise when you do the gesture over the screen. Think of it as a bubble over the whole phone.

The future

The thing that surprised me the most when I tried it out in practice is how good it actually works. Sure, the waving detection could be better, but everything else really seems to work as advertised. This leads me to believe that the hardware and the low-level software is really solid and there is no reason the user facing software wouldn’t get better with future updates.

Comparing it to other flashy features that manufacturers add to their phones to make themselves different, this one seems to be the most natural:

From my experience with the Motion Sense, I see a bright future for it. Unlike some other implementations (like using the regular front facing camera), this one is actually robust enough to be useful.

It still reminds to be seen if (and how) Google will expose the feature to developers, but even if that doesn’t happen, I think it still has a lot of potential on the OS level by predicting the phone usage.

I also see a lot of potential in battery usage savings – for now this is turning off the screen when you’re not nearby or going to standby when you’re not looking at the phone, but maybe in the future it could also do more, like decreasing the screen refresh rate when you’re not looking at it.

In my opinion, the best selling point for Motion Sense is that you (the user) don’t really need to think about it – it just helps the phone do its job better than before.