Mobile Apps

Google’s own code may explain why the Pixel 4’s Smooth Display isn’t always as smooth as you’d like

Google is not permitting some applications the use of Pixel 4’s ‘Smooth Display’ feature to run at 90Hz. The blacklist was leaked in source code for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. The applications are Google Maps, Pokemon Go, Waze, and WeChat.

It is not known whether these apps are in fact, unable to function at 90Hz or not, but it has confirmed that Google Maps and Waze only worked at 60Hz on a Pixel 4. For these applications, the prohibition does not come as a surprise as they drain the battery on a regular basis and so have to be kept working at a 60Hz limit. They simultaneously make use of the phone’s GPS, GPU, and cellular radio while keeping the screen active. If they are run in 90Hz, they will drain the battery further.


It isn’t sensible for Google to keep WeChat back, though, as the source code for the Pixel 4 mentions ‘poor performance’ at the highest refresh rate of 90Hz.

Smooth Display has not bee received as well as Google hoped. Earlier in the week, some users noticed that the refresh rate of the Pixel 4 drops to 60Hz the moment the brightness is higher than 75%. Google anticipates that 90Hz rates will be available once the Smooth Display is put in place. The answer to this issue might be the commits found in Android 10’s source code – the screen would flicker with a change in refresh rate.

The display makes use of different gamma curves for different refresh rates. The panel vendor would not be able to tune the curves to match the brightness for different rates of brightness. A flicker would then be visible to the user. The problem is bigger when the gamma is at its lower end as human eyes would be able to view the flicker better in a darker place.

In order to prevent the flicker from taking place, high refresh rates are better accepted in brighter ranges.

Here’s hoping that Google works on the issue and sends out a software update to let us use the Smooth Display at a lower brightness and we can go back to optimally using our apps.

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