Google’s yearly fall hardware launch event brings several new products to get excited about, but for most of us, the focus is always on the Pixel phone. This year, it’s the Pixel 5.
Just about every detail of the Pixel 5 was thoroughly leaked before the announcement, so we weren’t particularly surprised by any of the core features or details. But we don’t get the full picture of the phone until we see Google unveil it for itself, when we can see how the company positions the new phone, what it focuses on, and what it feels the key features are.
Google focuses every Pixel launch event around the capabilities of the camera, as it’s easily the strongest part of the phone’s experience. For the Pixel 5, the fundamentals haven’t dramatically changed. Once again it’s using a simple setup, with a 12MP sensor that’s heavily bolstered by Google’s incredible photo processing prowess.
But this year we also get something new: An ultra-wide camera lens. It replaces the telephoto zoom camera on the Pixel 4 that was surprisingly controversial among fans who felt it was both not long enough to justify being a “zoom” camera and also not as interesting as an ultra-wide. So, now we get an ultra-wide instead.
On the software side, Night Sight remains along with HDR+ for some visual excitement, plus Google has added a way to alter the light source and position in its portrait shots after you’ve taken one, plus a new smooth panning mode called Cinematic Video for a movie-like look in your films.
Google is making an important change of direction with the Pixel 5 — it’s cutting corners and going cheaper. The Pixel 5 isn’t expected to compete with the highest-end phones, and isn’t priced like them either. After years of attempting to go toe-to-toe with Samsung and Apple on price, it’s taking a more pragmatic approach: The Pixel 5 is only $699.
Now that obviously comes with cutbacks — most notably the loss of its secure face unlock solution, which was only available for one generation but was a direct competitor to Apple Face ID. But it also steps down to a less capable Snapdragon 765 processor, rather than the latest and greatest 865+ chipset. Powering the phone is a 4,000mAh battery with 18W wired and 18W wireless charging, plus it has the ability to wirelessly charge the Pixel Buds earbuds when they’re placed on the back of the phone.
On the software front, Google has a very compelling story to tell with Android 11. Close Android observers will notice, however, that nothing Google is touting is actually new, because Android 11 was released to the public weeks ago and is already running on older Pixels.
The Pixel 5 is available to pre-order through Google’s online store now, in either Just Black or Sorta Sage colors, where it costs $699 or 599 British pounds. Shipping is expected to start on October 15. The phone will also be sold through Verizon and AT&T.