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5 things Google absolutely has to get right with the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 4 XL in Clearly White
Google Pixel 4 XL in Clearly White (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Ever since I got my hands on the Pixel 4 XL back in October, I've been defending it every chance I get. This year's Pixel lineup has been met with a heap of backlash and criticism, largely regarding the phones' poor battery life.

I've been enjoying every second of using my 4 XL, but I also understand that these phones simply do not work for a lot of people. Google will always have its little group of die-hard Pixel fans, but if the company wants to make its hardware more enticing to other buyers and not risk losing its current customers to the growing competition, some things need to change in 2020.

We're still quite a ways off from the Pixel 5, but when it's inevitably released next October, these are the five key areas Google absolutely has to get right.

Battery life

Pixel 4 XL battery settings

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Without a doubt, the biggest knock against the Pixel 4 is its battery life. Especially on the smaller Pixel 4 (and the 4 XL for some people), the battery just doesn't last long enough for the phones to be viable options.

This is something Google struggled with in 2018 with the Pixel 3 series, and the Pixel 4 was arguably even worse. Battery life is one of the most important factors for any phone, so for Google to miss that mark two years in a row is pretty damning.

What makes this so frustrating is that this should be a fairly easy thing to resolve. Why does the Pixel 4 have such a hard time making it to the end of a day on one charge? Maybe because its battery is 2,800 mAh — not to mention that it has to power a 90Hz display.

A 2,800 mAh battery was never going to cut it.

So, how does Google not screw this up with the Pixel 5? Use. A. Bigger. Battery. That's it — that's all that needs to be done. Make the phone a little thicker, use a decently-sized battery, and voila.

While I personally haven't had any significant complaints with the Pixel 4 XL's battery life, people shouldn't need to go with the larger, more expensive version of a phone just to get adequate endurance. The small Pixel needs to get better in these regards, and if Google messes this up again with the Pixel 5, it's going to be hard to keep recommending these phones to people.

Ultra-wide camera

Google Pixel 4 camera

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Out of all the phones I've used in 2019, the Pixel 4 has been one of my favorites to take pictures with. It's been extremely reliable, capturing gorgeous-looking photos in just about any setting.

The Pixel 4 marked the first time Google added a second lens to its rear camera, with all past Pixels before it only having a single rear camera. The telephoto camera on the Pixel 4 does perform admirably well, and I agree with Andrew that it's seriously underrated. However, that doesn't make me miss the absence of an ultra-wide camera any less.

At this year's Made by Google event, Google Research's Marc Levoy said:

While wide-angle can be fun, we think telephoto is more important.

Yes, wide-angle is a lot of fun, but saying that telephoto is "more important" as a way to justify not putting a wide-angle camera on the Pixel 4 doesn't cut it. As much as I love shooting with the Pixel 4, I know there have been cool photo opportunities I've missed simply for the fact that it doesn't have a wide-angle lens. This is an almost unforgivable omission for a flagship that was released in late-2019, so here's to hoping Google gets off its photography high horse in 2020 and allows its users to take pictures however they want.

Better storage options

Pixel 4 XL showing the storage page

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Similar to battery life, storage is another key component of a phone that can tarnish the user experience if not handled properly.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL start at $799 and $899, respectively, and while you'd expect a lot of storage at those prices, those models only come with 64GB. If you want to upgrade to 128GB — the maximum amount of storage the phones support — you need to spend another $100.

This is a bad setup, and I say that as someone who has a 64GB Pixel 4 XL and has been getting along just fine with it. There are a few things, in particular, I take issue with:

  1. 64GB should not be the base storage amount for a flagship phone. Apple's guilty of this, and so is Google. That's fine if you're selling a mid-tier device, but for a flagship, 64GB doesn't cut it anymore
  2. Similarly, 128GB is too small to be the highest amount of storage that's offered. At the very least, 256GB should be an option, and probably even 512GB.
  3. All of this is made worse by the fact that the Pixel 4 doesn't support expandable storage and that unlimited original quality Google Photos backups are no longer offered.

Even if you and I can get by just fine with 64GB or 128GB of space, other people can't. If you're downloading Spotify songs for offline listening, loading the Pixel 4 up with movies for an upcoming road trip, and have a few games installed, that storage is going to be eaten through like nothing at all.

I don't see Google offering expandable storage anytime soon, so at the very least, the Pixel 5 needs to have a larger starting amount and more extensive options for people that want tons and tons of space.

Improved Motion Sense

Motion Sense on the Pixel 4

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

One of the Pixel 4's most unique, and controversial, features is Motion Sense. When Google first teased that it was incorporating its Project Soli radar technology into the phone, there was a lot of excitement about the possibilities this could bring to the Pixel 4. Instead, we got gestures for skipping songs, snoozing alarms, and dismissing phone calls — that's it.

I ended up liking Motion Sense a lot more than I had anticipated, but I also believe that the technology is severely underused on the Pixel 4. The forehead on the Pixel 4 is quite a bit bigger compared to other phones to accommodate its radar sensors, and I can't blame people that feel like Motion Sense doesn't justify its impact on the Pixel 4's design.

In its current state, Motion Sense doesn't fully justify its existence.

Skipping through songs by waving my hand over the Pixel 4 is fun, but that's about all I use it for. I wish I could use it to adjust my phone's volume, scroll through web pages, etc., but it's very limited in its supported functions.

I can't imagine Google ditches Motion Sense on the Pixel 5, so assuming the technology sticks around for another year, I'd love for Google to untap its full potential. If and when that happens, Motion Sense could be a genuine reason to buy a Pixel over something else.


Google Pixel 4 XL in Clearly White

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Last, but most certainly not least, is the matter of price.

I'm fine with Google wanting to market the Pixel as a flagship phone, but compared to the vast sea of competition, there's no denying that it's a tough sell.

Take the Pixel 4, for example. At first glance, it has an outdated design, only two rear cameras, and a steep $799 asking price. When you stack that up against the $599 OnePlus 7T with a flashier design and more rear cameras, Samsung's Galaxy S10 that's only $100 more, or even Google's own $399 Pixel 3a, the value proposition is hard to find.

There's also the issue of Google almost immediately discounting the Pixel just a month after it's announced. This year saw the Pixel 4 getting a $200 price cut for Black Friday / Cyber Monday, with it still possible to pick it up for $120 off (opens in new tab).

If Google's so eager to slash prices, why not just make those the MSRP? If Google had come out with the Pixel 4 for just $599 at launch, it would have been a lot more appealing than it ended up being.

A lower-than-usual retail price for the Pixel 5 could really change the conversation we typically have about Google's flagship, and all for the better. This seems like the thing least-likely to happen compared to everything else mentioned above, but at some point in the near future, Google needs to realize that its current pricing strategy doesn't work.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

  • Totally agree with the 5 things Google needs to get right on the Pixel 5. However, I'm sure Google will still screw something up with their Pixel 5 though. Definitely need to include an underneath or back FPS.
  • Agree with you on all 5..
    Battery is always a must with my phones. Even my Huawei 4,000mah isn't enough. Looking at the s11 5,000mah model.
    Ultra wide is a must, as is expandable storage.
  • Latest update fixed the battery life....
  • For you. Three word minimum.
  • Some update if it managed to increase the battery size
  • 'While wide-angle can be fun, we think telephoto is more important.' Wide-angle is occasionally extremely useful for me; I never (as in NEVER) use zoom...
  • This is a YMMV issue. I rarely use wide angle but frequently zoom. But I don't think the camera is as important anymore.
    It's a very good camera but if you can't store photos or have enough battery to take photos, it's not very useful.
  • Most people will be fine with digital zooming after the fact; neither result will be very satisfying with smartphone optics regardless.
    On the other hand, it's impossible to magically produce more image when you're in a tight space, or want a grander vista. But I agree; it's definitely personal preference. It's just that it's a game stopper for many, so why not have both, if you're charging 900,- $...!?!
  • Points well said. Let's hope Google pays attention.
  • I don't have faith in Google getting any of these right with the 5. Price may be right with the 5a, but will anyone care by that point?
  • If the 4a is to the 4 what the 3a is to the 3, and if they use the new 765 chip to supply 5g connectivity options.... Google could have a first truly dominating phone in its lineup.
  • Wide-angle camera was the thing that stopped me. Having one for the past two years with LG V30 makes it impossible to think what it would be like without one. Too indispensable in smaller spaces. Rooms, getting everyone in a shot with the family, etc..
  • I'll second that. My V30 succumbed to gravity a couple months ago so it was time for an upgrade. I looked at all the available options and if some of the Chinese brands supported T-Mobile bands...better, I might be on one of them. I mean, 108MP cameras 40MP Wide Angle cameras, 5000mAh belatteries...I know pixels don't make the Pic, but it doesn't hurt to have more detail. I ended up with an LG V40 to keep my Wide Angle lens. And now I have a zoom lens too...the Pixel was something I looked at very seriously, but in the end...Google left out too many 'important to me' features.
  • I love the Telephoto lens/camera. My previous phone (LG G8) had wide angle and it was a solid "OK" but not necessary. I like having the telephoto much more.
    Battery life is fine for me so far. I can't complain about it.
    The Pixel 5 probably won't be on my list, since I just got the 4, but I think additional storage is ABSOLUTELY needed. 128G is not enough if you take a lot of pictures or video. I miss having external SD cards available but what can you do?
    So, Google needs to decide if it is a Flagship and treat it as one, or is it the lab phone that is cool and quirky and NOT FOR EVERYONE? I'm loving mine so far. I do miss the fingerprint sensor. I hope more of my applications get on board with the Google Biometric APIs.
  • Spot on for me. I would prefer the wide angle front facing feature that the Pixel 3 has. I'm always the one taking selfies of groups. But bad battery life and the price are major issues that could make or break the next version. They are doing great with software and most other hardware features now. Performance is the smoothest, build quality is good, and the camera is great.
  • So Google is pretty much like Apple telling users what they need or don't need on a device. I am enjoying tons of storage in my note 10+
  • I think Google is an Apple wannabe in hardware. It seems to follow Apple in many ways. Removing the audio jack and having the stupid, stupid notch. Just wait, they will follow with removing the charge port too. And let's face it, Android UI is a direct copy of iOS's grid of icons.
  • I don't think that's a bad thing in many ways with regards to hardware.
  • I hear you there. But my thought is, come out with something fresh and new and stop following the pact. They bought Moto, and did nothing with it, they bought HTC and they are still having LG make the phones. Doesn't make sense to me.
  • I will be good if Google can manage to pull it off
    I am due to upgrade my Pixel 2XL to P5XL when they stop the monthly security patches
  • Pigs have been known to occasionally fly. In THE MATRIX.
  • Google: we don't give a fk. we never did.. they can read this article and just laugh and do NOTHING at all.. that's google. i lost all faith in them. been a decade and they can NEVER make a goddamn phone right. you ain't Apple. stop pricing them at $1k. you're seriously INSANE. jesus.
  • No kidding, especially when they're selling an end of cycle SoC. Waiting 3 months will result in you having a Samsung with a next gen for the same price or less.
  • AKA 5 things Google will get wrong with the Pixel 5.
  • I'm not coming back to Pixel until they put a fingerprint sensor back on it
  • And front facing speakers!
  • I agree. Love a finger print sensor.
  • They don't need to do anything. Camera, check. Fast updates, check. Stock Android, check. Pixels already have everything they need to appease their fans.
  • Yep! Camera, software... That's all that matters ;)
  • Not even close for me. I could be on my last Pixel.
  • Let's not forget Video Quality....
  • Google should stop making phones. They have shown disinterest in providing important hardware features users want. I think they have a big disconnect issue and a lackluster commitment to providing a great phone in a complete package.
  • You forgot the /s
  • Dump motion sense
  • I agree 100%. But there's gotta be even more, because the snarky side of me immediately thought: "So what we're saying is make an iPhone 11 Pro, and release it a few months after the iPhone 12."
  • Yep, pretty much
  • You are spot on with every one of these things. Maybe since it will be the 5th year of the Pixel existence they will provide us with some goodies and not one step forward 2 steps back. Another thing that I really hope they take into account as we approach 5G it will probably consume more power. The same for introducing more features that consume more power. If they step it up in the battery Dept I certainly hope it's a substantial increase to be able to take advantage of all the features they introduce
  • I also think they need to step it up in terms of video quality as well. They need to quit using older hardware and quit relying on software to do everything! If you don't have the hardware to run it what good are software enhancements? They can only go so far
  • Came here to say battery. Glad you included it.
  • The problem with complaining about the lack of a wide angle lens and small storage as well as battery life is that the article closes with a complaint about the price. These are conflicting issues.
  • Agreed. This article belongs on r/choosingbeggers
  • Just look how well the 3a & 3a XL are selling, boatloads? I think Google should stick to the mid-range market. Their flagships are very overpriced for what's offered!
  • Then don't buy it.
  • Even though it's history, one could only imagine what it would've been like if Samsung had purchased Android when they had the chance...
  • You're delusional if you think it would be anywhere close to as good or as widespread as it is today,
  • So many bad takes on here it's laughable. Are Pixel phones perfect? Of course not, no phone is. Google is best in certain areas and lacking in others...that can be said about any of the top tier devices. The whole point of Android is that you as the consumer get to decide what to spend your money on. Every phone has it's compromises. Choose one that has the least amount of compromises for you. For Pixel fans it's that they don't want to compromise on security, software experience, updates, photo quality. And they don't care as much about expandable storage and extra lenses. We do care about battery life though...Google absolutely needs to get better there.