There's a growing mountain of evidence that the Pixel 4 was saddled with a battery that's just too small, and Google's road to an acceptable runtime involved slashing the phone's abilities with software limits. The latest discovery comes from XDA Developers' Mishaal Rahman, who found an unused high brightness mode hidden in the Pixel 4's code.

A "high brightness mode" has become a typical feature of smartphone display panels. Rather than a dedicated toggle, manufacturers usually enable a high-brightness mode when the user pegs the brightness slider all the way to the max or when the ambient brightness sensor detects sunlight. This usually negatively affects battery life, but when the choice is between seeing your phone or not seeing your phone in direct sunlight, the runtime tradeoff is a welcome option.

The Pixel 4 display is not that bright, with a full-screen peak brightness of around 450 nits. The Galaxy S10, on the other hand, has a peak full-screen brightness of 800 nits, and a big difference seems to be the lack of this boosted brightness mode. Rahman found the Pixel 4's high brightness mode hidden in the Pixel 4's kernel, but it's not a mode normal users can freely switch into. It doesn't turn on via the slider or with high ambient brightness.

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