Phone announcement posts are generally a bit of release after months of speculation…but with Google, you typically know everything about the phone before it shows up on the store. Such is the case with the Pixel 5, the company’s 2020 Android flagship, and the Pixel 4a 5G, a cheaper alternative that sits above the Pixel 4a. They’re coming next month.
Let’s start with the Pixel 5. After years of complaints that the Pixel line was creeping up too far in price, Google seems to be listening, delivering this year’s premium Pixel phone without absolutely top-of-the-line specs. There’s only one model (unlike every Pixel generation, 1-4), and it’s only $700, $100 cheaper than last year’s base model Pixel 4.
The phone looks quite a lot like the Pixel 4a, borrowing its tiny bezel-and-hole punch camera combo on the front, and dropping the Pixel 4’s face scanning technology and Soli radar in favor of a more conventional fingerprint reader on the back. The material is aluminum, with a hidden hole filled in with plastic to enable wireless charging.
The differences are mostly internal and fit-and-finish. The Pixel 5 uses the Snapdragon 765G system-on-a-chip, which includes a slightly faster processor than the 4a and has 5G wireless capability. The Pixel 5 also has 8GB of RAM, up two from the Pixel 4 and 4a. It’s using the same 128GB of internal storage on the base model, but it gets other features reserved for the premium line: IPX8 water resistance, wireless charging (and reverse wireless charging, a new feature this year), and Gorilla Glass 6 on the screen.
Speaking of the screen, it’s 6 inches diagonal, which is just a hair bigger than the 5.8-inch Pixel 4a and a hair smaller than the Pixel 4a 5G (below). The screen is a 1080p OLED with 90Hz refresh rate, comparable in quality to the screen on the smaller Pixel 4.
It’s using the same camera setup from last year’s flagship, with dual 12.2MP/16MP wide-angle sensors on the rear and an 8MP sensor on the front, and its battery is 4080mAh, which is about what we’d expect from a phone this size. Considering the much-improved battery life of the 4a versus the 4, the Pixel 5 should last much longer than previous high-end Pixel phones.
You can pre-order the Pixel 5 from Google starting today, in sparkly black or sage green colors. It’s shipping October 31st.
Pixel 4a 5G
What of the Pixel 4a 5G, the cheaper-alternative-that-isn’t-as-cheap-as-the-other-alternative-and-has-most-of-the-same-specs? Branding is hard. For Google, anyway: I’ll repeat that the Pixel 5 has a 5G radio, despite lacking the name.
Oddly, the Pixel 4a 5G is bigger than both the 4a from earlier this year and the Pixel 5, with a 6.2-inch screen, with the same resolution but limited to 60 hertz. Oddly, that extra size in the screen and body is paired with a smaller battery, at 3885mAh.
Otherwise, the Pixel 4a 5G is pretty much the same phone as the 5, minus some premium features. It uses the same Snapdragon 765G processor, with 6GB of RAM instead of 8, the same 128GB of storage, the same fingerprint reader setup on the rear, and only a single 12.2MP rear camera. Like previous lower-cost Pixels, this one has a headphone jack.
The Pixel 4a 5G will cost $500, sitting between the Pixels 4a and 5 in terms of price. Oddly, it’s not available for pre-order today: Google is offering a waitlist instead. Google’s presentation indicated that the phone is shipping October 15th, at least in some countries. Over on Verizon, a $600 carrier variant will be available for pre-order on October 29th. According to Android Police, the 4a 5G will launch November 19th in the US.
Both phones will get three years of software updates from Google, starting with Android 11. They include the Titan M security chip, and new software features like Hold For Me, which can bring you back into a phone call when you’re on hold. Purchases come with extra goodies, like free trials of Google Stadia and Play Pass and 100GB of Drive storage.
A New Direction
All in all, the Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, and Pixel 4a 5G represent a significant shift in Google’s phone strategy, moving away from more expensive devices that directly compete with the high-end Galaxy S and iPhone models and try to capture a broader mid-range market. Focusing on more practical features, like longer battery life, is something that customers should appreciate. Based on our experience with the cheaper Pixel phones thus far, it should grant them the boost in sales they’ve been wanting for years.