Could Google Pixel 4 Have Launched in India With Project Soli Radar Chip Disabled?

The Google Pixel 4 smartphones are not arriving in India anytime soon. There was great excitement about the photography brilliance that the Google Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL phones were expected to bring to the table. But a combination of factors at play have scuppered Google’s plans, and the plans of many who intended to buy one of these phones. Let us just say, the futuristic plans of Google with the Project Soli radar chip to drive gesture-based navigation of the phone’s interface don’t really tie in well with the spectrum licensing rules and regulations that are currently in place in India. Touch without touching seems to be Google’s mantra, but the spectrum requirements say don’t touch!

But what if someone was to say Google should simply go ahead and launch the new Pixel 4 phones in India while simply disabling the Project Soli radar chip? That, for all intents and purposes, is a good idea. However, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

The thing is, the Project Soli radar chip doesn’t work in isolation. The security, the biometric authentication, the attention bubble and the gestures themselves are all a part of a larger package, but an integrated one. While Google doesn’t specifically say anything about the reasons why the Pixel 4 phones aren’t launching in India, from our understanding it isn’t as simple as disabling one piece of hardware in a phone and then selling the rest to work as well as expected. One would assume that the gesture controls won’t work, but the rest would be hunky-dory. Since this is in integrated package, disabling the radar chip would mean the face recognition feature might also stop working. Remember, the Pixel 4 phones don’t have a fingerprint sensor either. Back to the days of punching in a four- or six-digit security code every time you want to unlock the phone? 2011 called and it wants it feature phone back.

Considering the price of the phone—this Pixel 4 range starts at $799 (around Rs 58,000) and factor in local taxes as well, and the starting price point if this phone was to be launched in India, would be around Rs 69,000. At that price, for a phone that will be significantly limited in terms of functionality, would perhaps be a no-go for even the most ardent Pixel camera enthusiast.

Then there is the small matter of following the regulations as prevailing in India. Google doesn’t say, but they could be using a variety of, or a combination of options, to ensure that the radar chip doesn’t work in countries where it is not legally authorised to work. Such as India. They could disable it based on the Google account credentials, GPS, mobile tower data and even the cellular network you may be connected with. Now you may ask what happens in case a person is roaming? Well, in that case the Pixel 4 phone will know the credentials of the original SIM card and that the network it may be connected to in India, for instance, is a roaming patch-up.

The Project Soli radar chip works on the 60 GHz spectrum frequency, which is not commercially usable in India. The ball is now in the government’s court.