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The Pixel 5 looks like a back-to-basics Pixel that we can all get excited about

Google Pixel 4 XL long-term review
Google Pixel 4 XL long-term review (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

It seems we're going to learn all there is to know about the Pixel 5 in September. Regardless of what Google shows off, some people are going to like what they see, some won't. There will be plenty of serious discussion about it (along with the usual remarks from people with no intentions of ever buying it) but without hearing a single word we mostly know what to expect: a 5G-ready device with a great display and a great camera.

I really hope that's where Google stops. Make it out of whatever is necessary so it charges wirelessly and doesn't feel like a slimy hunk of plastic when your hands are wet, hold back on some of the more ambitious extras like IR scanning and Soli sensors, and give us a solid but basic phone where nothing is left to the imagination.

Yeah, that sounds pretty boring but boring is what Google needs to do this time. Basically, rebuild the Pixel 3 which was one of the best Pixels so far. Google's just not ready on the hardware front to do anything more.

Google's not ready to try anything new when it comes to making phones.

I'm not worried at all about the processor. We expect it to have a Snapdragon 765G and a Google-designed coprocessor that will handle all of the AI components for Google Assistant and the camera. Without a few hundred extra processes running in the background at all times this will be plenty and it cuts the costs considerably.

I like the Pixel 4. I know I'm in the minority but Face Unlock is cool tech (no Apple didn't "invent" it) and while the Soil sensor wasn't very utilized it does a great job of knowing I'm reaching for the phone and unlocking it. I even like the way it looks with the orange back (the white looks good, too) and the coated metal frame feels good. I'm not trying to bash it too much, but nobody can deny it was a dud because the battery life is so bad. Only Apple was able to get away with poor battery life, and even it had to address the problem in recent years.

Even HTC engineers couldn't make the Pixel 4 as good as the HD2 from 2009.

I just think the Pixel 4 was too much phone for an inexperienced company like Google to try and build. I know that some talented engineers from HTC were brought on board and HTC has built some iconic Android and Windows phones in the last 10 years, but that wasn't enough. If it were, the Pixel 4 would have never shipped.

This year is a chance to fix it. I'm sure Google has learned a lot about what people really want from the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a and they can apply that knowledge to the Pixel 5. There's no reason the Pixel 5 can't be a Pixel 4a "clone" built with a brighter 90Hz display and have some extras like wireless charging and waterproofing. This would mean a few design changes and some very expensive certification testing, but it should affect the price too much.

Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 3a

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

And the price is an extremely important factor. Apple and Samsung can get away with making phones that cost $1,000 or more but Google can't. It doesn't matter what a Pixel phone is made of or what sort of specs it has — people will never see that much value in a Pixel phone. If people don't think a product is worth the asking price, they don't buy it.

Price is the most important spec in 2020.

A Pixel 5 without any fancy IR cameras but with a similar display should be priced around $600 but will probably be $700. That's still a lot of money, but it's not anywhere near the outrageousness level of some other phones. I guess Google still has to try and make a profit from the Pixel series even though it never will. Part of the price bump will likely be because of extras like wireless charging and water-resistance ratings and 128GB of base storage. Just make sure it's less than the Pixel 4 was and you'll get a lot more attention, Google.

When all is said and done, Google needs to leave the pie in the sky ideas to other companies and go back to making a good, dependable Android phone without things nobody asked for. Google has so much data about how we actually use our phones it should be able to do this without a crazy expensive price tag. If not, then the Pixel 4a will be the best Pixel of 2020.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

28 Comments
  • I echo those sentiments, buy to chime in on your first statement, they need a better battery as well, hands down. I have the 4xl and while the battery is better than the 4, it still needs improvement across the board.
  • "All we need is a great display, a great camera, and a great price." Disagree. If the battery is just as miserable as the pixel 4, none of those other things will matter.
  • It would be really nice if Google actually had availability of a product when the claim they have launched it.
  • Fully expecting a $400 phone with a $1000 price.
  • Seems to be the trend these days..
  • You wouldn't be wrong....
  • I guess I'm into minority here but I'm the only person who thinks they should recognition is better than fingerprint scanner?. I mean when you work with your hands for a living the fingerprint sensor is basically useless when your hands are dirty . To be honest it's the only thing that keeps me from not selling my Pixel 4 XL.
  • I don't understand...if your hands are dirty what do you do with the phone once it's unlocked? Do you proceed to use the touchscreen with your dirty hands? Seems to me you would need to clean your hands to interact with your phone anyway or use Google Assistant.
  • This is assuming that he doesn't have an Otterbox-style case on it. I'm sure there are a lot of people who fall in this bucket and face unlock would be more beneficial.
  • I agree with you. After a year of waiting for apps to updated to support face facial recognition they are goi g to abandon it? Google can be build just as good a phone as anyone else. It was the arrogance of the team that built it which caused the problems. A bigger battery, 128 gb of base storage and a wide angle lense would have made this phone much more successful. If google fixed those three things they would have a competitor and would sell many more units than the 4 series. They already have a budget phone. Fix the issues, charge 799 and 899 and build from there.
  • The Pixel 4 and 4XL are great phones. We need new tech in Flagship phones. What Google got wrong with the phones was the price tag. That's it. We have Google going backward like Moto. No one takes Moto seriously outside of technophiles, and then the only reason we do is because of what they used to have. Let's call this what it is, they're taking a downturn with phones, and WearOS. They may get into trouble if they can't do better relatively soon. We saw BlackBerry do great for a long time, same with HTC, and Moto, and now look at all of them. Mediocrity.
  • So many bad takes... "The Pixel 4 and 4XL are great phones. We need new tech in Flagship phones. What Google got wrong with the phones was the price tag. " --So you want more phone for less money....There's some saying about beggars and choosers that comes to mind. "No one takes Moto seriously outside of technophiles" --South America would beg to differ. "They may get into trouble if they can't do better relatively soon. We saw BlackBerry do great for a long time, same with HTC, and Moto, and now look at all of them. " --Someone doesn't understand how Google makes money. Comparing Google to those mobile hardware companies is apples to oranges. Please tell me just how Google is going to "get into trouble" like the other companies you mention. Android could die tomorrow and Google ain't going anywhere.
  • I'll get it as long as it's not too big!
  • Wireless charging has been around far too long to be a "flagship" feature, and drive the price up that much. This will be the phone of my choice if it comes in at $600. The lack of IR camera, lesser processor, and touchless features makes this palatable at $600. This will essentially be the 4a with one camera add, and wireless charging. The price of the 4a went down (from the 3a launch), so it makes sense this will come in under $700. If it slides above $600, I will look elsewhere. As some have stated, $500 is sounding like the sweet spot.
  • They could get to $500 if they drop the wireless charging, IP certification, glass/metal build, squeeze to summon Assistant, custom co-processor, and 90hz display. At that point it is the 4a with more cameras (and a better processor) like you said. But if that's what you want why not just get the 4a? The Pixel 5 is going to offer a lot more than the 4a...if those features aren't worth the increased price to you then get the 4a or 4a5G. You sound like every other rube on here asking for the kitchen sink but expecting to pay under market value for it. You don't get to beg for all the features you want and also choose the price. That's not how it works.
  • Rube? Good one. I am NOT asking for a lot. My point is very clear. Wireless charging is a big thing to me. It has been around since Windows Phone, had it in many of their handsets. It is far from expensive to implement. I'm fine with the processor. RAM at this level is becoming standard. Screen size is fine, not asking for bigger. Battery is a guess, but with wireless charging I'm fine with what is expected. One report states two cameras, while another states three. I'm simply pointing out that while it is a new phone, they are obviously targeting a new, mid-to-slightly higher mid-range phone. If they are leaving out some of the newest features, we would expect the price to drop. They are no longer in flagship territory. It is their flagship model, but as we have seen with other manufacturers their flagship is not an expensive phone.
  • Call me crazy but I SWEAR the Nexus 5 had wireless charging. I keep hearing people say a glass back = wireless charging but the N5 was able to do it, wasn't it? I remember getting a wireless charging pad, trying it and realizing I didn't like the idea of every time I picked it up it would stop charging. . . Now I think wireless charging is good for overnight but... I swear the N5 had this... Maybe even the 4?
  • Nexus 4 and 5 both had it. No, you don't need a glass back for wireless charging but I'm not hearing people saying that.
  • Thank you for addressing this. Just a few years ago we had affordable Flagships that added wireless charging and it wasn't such a big deal. Now Midrange phones are more expensive or just as much as the Nexus 4 and 5 yet wireless charging is nowhere to be found.
  • Heck I had a Moto Droid Turbo with a Kevlar/ Mesh back and it supported wireless charging. Worked pretty good too.
  • I don't get you... You always have the wrong pictures. Here is the Pixel 5:
    https://youtu.be/A1aC1EjJYsA Pixel 5 will not have a white power button - the phone with white power botton is the Pixel 4a 5G.
    I see these things are very confusing for this article author. Go to Google store - there is an official picture of Pixel 5 (left) and Pixel 4a 5g (right). It's quite easy to understand... If you want.
  • I can deal with the lesser chip and no face unlock but a screen size of sub 6 inches is an absolute deal breaker. And not adding a wide angle lens is just the icing on the cake of the deal breaker cake! I think the Finance group at Google took control this year.
  • All I need: great battery, ultra wide and telephoto Google quality camera, great screen with minimal bezels that can house front facing speakers, wireless charging, fingerprint scanner (because masks), highest water and dust-proofing, and that's it.
  • If Google prices it at $700, the iphone 12 is going to wipe the floor with it, especially if rumors of the 5.4" iphone 12 costing $649-$699 and not running a mid range processor.
  • The 4a5g=3800mamp battery
    The pixel5=4ooomamp battery, not the best but improving!
  • Going from just a great camera, to a great camera AND a screen? That's progress!
  • "Even HTC engineers couldn't make the Pixel 4 as good as the HD2 from 2009" Umm, what makes you think the HTC engineers were calling the shots on this?
    Their last flagship was arguably better than the Galaxy S9 in performance, photography, and audio.
  • Ummm.. no not really. The skins they(Samsung and HTC) put on android was terrible. But Samsung has been the king of hardware for years.