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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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