At launch, no Pixel is without its issues, and the most recent problem might sound a bit familiar for those of you that remember the Pixel 2. A minority of Pixel 4 owners are experiencing what is alternately described as a popping, clicking, or tapping sound in videos recorded through third-party apps like Snapchat and Instagram. Not all units appear to be affected (we have inconsistent experiences with it in-house), but based on the example below, it seems like it could be pretty annoying.
Demonstration videos (by @604kev) recorded in the stock Google Camera app (left) and Instagram (right). Notice the regular "tapping" or "clicking" in the Instagram video.
The issue manifests as you can hear above, with video recorded on the Pixel 4 through at least some third-party apps exhibiting a rhythmic clicking or tapping noise, sort of like a scratched LP being played. Note that not all methods of recording video are affected. The issue occurs with third-party apps like Snapchat and Instagram, as well as in the AR-augmented Playground mode of Google Camera, but videos recorded in the stock camera app's normal "video" mode are unaffected.
Another example with ongoing audio is just below:
Actually, I just realized I already have in my Google Photos an IG Story video from last night that has the issue. Here it is, for a start. I can still film other samples to show that it only happens in 3rd party apps and not in the Camera app. pic.twitter.com/NNrGQqR7NB
— Kevin (@604kev) October 28, 2019
We've been able to confirm the issue is present on at least one device around the Android Police digital offices, and it's possible that loud or continuous sounds exaggerate the issue, based on our tests.
At the time of writing, the volume of reports related to the issue is fairly low (by our standards), with only a handful of reports outside a larger thread at the Google support forums. We aren't sure if that's due to the variety of ways the issue could be described, the fact that it only seems to happen with video recorded in third-party apps, if there's a lack of overlapping demographics, or if not all Pixel 4s are affected. Whatever the explanation, the examples make it clear that this is a genuine (and annoying) issue for those that have it.
In the meantime, a product expert on Google's product forums has escalated the issue, and those affected are invited to send feedback through the Google Camera and Settings apps.
A Googler on the Pixel Phone Help forums has chimed in on one of the relevant threads with a statement regarding the issue, claiming it will be fixed soon:
It isn't clear if the fix, which is expected to roll out "in the coming days," will happen via the affected apps or an update to the phones themselves, but it should happen eventually. We should note, one of our affected tipsters still suffers the same problem on the latest version of the Instagram app.
In the meantime, Google encourages those affected by the problem to record content via the main camera first, and then separately upload it to the social media app or site in question.
Fixed in video recorded via Playground
Based on reports as well as our own tests, a fix seems to have rolled out to the Playground app. However, the issue is still present in apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
Initially, we had hoped that a fix would debut through a system update, fixing this issue for the Pixel 4 in all apps at once. But if this Playground-specific fix is any indicator, it could ultimately be up to the apps and, therefore, individual app developers to fix this issue. That might mean significant delays for some apps or a lack of fixes at all in some cases. Developers do tend to prioritize issues by the number of customers affected, and Pixels don't exactly sell well.
Google's update notes for its December patches mention a Pixel 4 "fix for background audio static in third-party camera apps." Whether or not these clicks and pops count as "static" notwithstanding, that sure sounds like the system-level fix we'd been hoping for. The update won't land for Pixel 4 phones until next week, so we'll circle back around to confirm then.
Fixed with December 2019 update
Turns out that the nebulously worded fix in the update notes does, in fact, fix this issue. We've received reports from those affected that the problem is gone as of the December update. If you don't already have it and you're impatient to get it, you can also sideload the update yourself.