Last night, early Pixel 4 owners discovered that the Smooth Display’s 90Hz refresh rate is tied to screen brightness. Google confirmed and explained that decision today while promising a Pixel 4 Smooth Display update in the coming weeks.

The Smooth Display setting today “automatically raises the refresh rate from 60 to 90 Hz for some content.” Unlike the manual setting in Developer options, the main toggle does not consistently force the higher refresh rate in order to preserve battery life.

Google reiterated and expanded on that distinction in a statement to The Verge this afternoon. The screen is set to 60Hz when battery saver is enabled and during video playback, as well as in “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.

If display brightness is under 75%, the screen refreshes at 60Hz, though bright enough ambient lighting will allow 90Hz regardless of the hard slider requirement.

In the future, Google is planning to allow 90Hz in more brightness conditions, thus letting you experience the screen’s marquee aspect at more times. According to the company, this was already in development before it was brought to light last night. The exact brightness parameters were not specified today.

The timeline for this Pixel 4 Smooth Display update looks to be shorter than “in the coming months” quoted for eye detection in face unlock.

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Abner Li

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