After dropping official teaser images for the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G earlier this summer, today at its Launch Night In event Google has finally given us a full rundown on its newest Pixel phones.
For the Pixel 5, Google is trying something a bit different. Instead of competing directly with super expensive high-end phones from Apple, Samsung, and others, Google is making more of a “budget flagship,” with prices for the Pixel 5 starting at $700.
So instead of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, as you’d find in a premium Android phone, the Pixel 5 features a Snapdragon 765G chip, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000 mAh battery. You’ll also get a 6-inch OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and dual rear cameras, including a 12-MP main cam and a 16-MP ultra-wide-angle lens. Sadly, this means the 2x telephoto lens found on last year’s Pixel 4 is gone, though you will still have access to Google’s Super Res Zoom feature when you want to zoom in.
Google lowering its ambitions for the Pixel 5 might seem strange at first, but it actually makes sense. When it came to flagship phones, Google’s Pixels were already being crowded out by Apple and Samsung. Furthermore, unlike cutting-edge iPhones or Galaxy phones, the best aspects of the Pixel line have never been related to hardware. So by making a handset featuring solid but not super high-end specs, Google can deliver a more affordable phone that’s still reasonably fast while still concentrating on what Google does best: software and the overall Pixel experience.
That said, it’s also important to note that Google has ditched the Motion Sense system used on the Pixel 4 in favor of a simple fingerprint sensor, and while you should still be able to unlock the phone with your face, it won’t be quite as secure as what you’d find on an iPhone.
Another new feature on the Pixel 5 is that in addition to standard Qi wireless charging, you also get reverse wireless charging, which you can use to recharge your Pixel Buds or other wireless earbuds on the go.
The Pixels are known for their photography, and Google has improved its class-leading image quality with a new focus bracketing feature that works with HDR to produce brighter more colorful photos, while also adding the ability to use the Pixel’s powerful low light Night Sight feature in Portrait Mode. Portrait Mode has also been improved with a new Portrait Light tool to help prevent things like a backlit scene from blowing out your pics. And with the new Google Photos editor, many of the Pixel 5's camera features can be applied to pics you’ve already shot.
As for video, Google is introducing three stabilizing modes to help you capture steady, shake-free footage, along with a new Cinematic Pan mode to help you capture more engaging shots. Finally, to help make sure the Pixel 5 won’t die on you, it’s getting a new Extreme Battery Saver mode that allows you to choose which features you need and which ones can be shut down to save on juice.
Finally, to help save you time when calling in to major business, Google has upgraded Duplex on the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G with a new Hold for Me feature that allows the phone to detect when you’re on hold and then ping you when a real person finally answers your call. No more sitting and waiting for an actual human to pick up, unless you want to.
Aside from the Pixel 5, there’s another new Pixel: The Pixel 4a 5G is basically a larger, slightly more powerful version of the standard Pixel 4a with support for 5G connectivity. Starting at $500, the Pixel 4a 5G costs $150 more than its small sibling and sports a 6.2-inch OLED display (up from 5.8 inches on the Pixel 4a). Inside there’s a Snapdragon 765G chip instead of the Snapdragon 730G chip. (And yes, you do get a headphone jack.)
While I haven’t been able to test either model out in person yet, this year Google seems really focused on making solid, straightforward phones, and considering the increasing number weird and wacky handsets on the market, keeping things simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The Pixel 5 will be available starting at $700 on Oct. 29, and the Pixel 4a 5G will be available for $500 on Nov. 19.