The Google Pixel 5 died before its time

Android 12 Material You Wallpaper
Android 12 Material You Wallpaper (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

RIP Pixel 5.

Google's flagship phone for 2020 has essentially been discontinued in all eight markets where it was sold — following in the footsteps of the Pixel 4, which also barely lasted a year from emergence to early retirement.

Google hasn't directly addressed the reason for the Pixel 5's discontinuation, but it seemed to acknowledge the situation in a statement this August, following the Pixel 5a launch.

With our current forecasts, we expect Google Store in the U.S. to sell out of Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 in the coming weeks following the launch of Pixel 5a (5G). These products will continue to be available through some partners while supplies last.

Our own sources tell us it's related to the global chip shortage, specifically the low availability of the device's Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor. The limited supplies that Google managed to secure instead went towards the Pixel 5a, which itself experienced a more modest launch in the U.S. and Japan only due to the same supply issues. (A 5a launch in Europe and India had previously been on the cards, sources tell AC, before the supply crunch hit.)

Google Pixel 5

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

The global chip shortage is at least partly to blame for the Pixel 5's early demise.

As a result, in most countries where Google phones are sold, the only options available are the newly-launched Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, plus the budget-tier Pixel 4a, which originally debuted in summer 2020. The 4a uses a different Qualcomm processor, the Snapdragon 730G, insulating it against Google's 765G supply difficulties.

You could be forgiven for seeing a fairly obvious Pixel 5-sized hole in Google's current phone lineup. As a mid-tier flagship, the 5 offers several key upgrades over the Pixel 4a that could be tempting for buyers unwilling to stump up $599 for a base model Pixel 6. The Pixel 5 packs IP68 water resistance, superior build quality, a slightly larger 90Hz display, wireless charging, 5G connectivity, and an upgraded camera system compared to the 4a. What's more, it stands out as one of the best balanced phones to have graced the Google Store — a return to form after the disappointment of the Pixel 4

It'd make sense priced somewhere between the 4a and the 6, and Google's lineup is clearly weaker for the lack of this product.

Google Pixel 5

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

A Pixel 5 priced around the $500 mark would still be one of the better miniature Android handsets available. Though weaker at video recording, Pixel 5's main camera holds up well for straight-up point-and-shoot photography. And Pixel 5 owners enjoy a full-featured software experience on Android 12, with only the headline Pixel 6 features like magic eraser and live translation being absent.

For the first time in five years, there's no 'premium' small Pixel.

As it stands, Google has no small-sized premium Pixel for the first time in the series' history. The vanilla Pixel 6, while not as enormous as the 6 Pro, is a substantial step up from its immediate predecessor in terms of sheer physical heft. It may be one of the best Android phones for most people, but it's nowhere near as one-handable.

Of course, the Pixel 5 hasn't disappeared completely. While brand new Pixel 5s may be elusive, refurbished and second-hand devices can be found online. In the UK, for instance, used Pixel 5s sell for around £350, which is about as much as you'll pay for a brand new Pixel 4a. And those phones will continue to be supported for Android platform and security updates until at least October 2023.

All considered, if you can find a Pixel 5 in late 2021, it's still a pretty good deal.

We don't yet know how Google will flesh out the Pixel series in 2022, beyond the likely emergence of a foldable of some sort and the inevitable Pixel 7 in the fall. But we certainly hope the good old Pixel 5 won't be the last attempt at a competitive, pint-sized Pixel phone.

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.