August 23 update below. This post was first published on August 22, 2020.
Google’s next smartphone, the Pixel 5, is coming soon – perhaps as early as next month. But as the leaked images and renders of it continue to emerge, it becomes clear that Google seems to have given up on its ambitions of producing an iPhone-beating flagship.
The latest renders come from the solidly reliable Steve Hemmestoffer, whose Twitter identity, @OnLeaks, has published the images in conjunction with Pricebaba. And they don’t make for easy viewing if you’re a Pixel fan who wants their next phone to be an iPhone-beater.
August 23 update. Leaks are continuing for Google’s next phones. In the last few hours, an alleged image of both the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 appeared on Reddit (since deleted), as spotted by 9to5Google. The image shows the backs of two phones, one smaller and in black, which is claimed to be the Pixel 5 and the other larger and colored white, which is the Pixel 4a 5G, it seems.
In the main post below, I’ve said that I hoped it might be possible that previous images, complete with the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor of which I am not a fan, might not be the Pixel 5 after all, but the Pixel 4a 5G. Well, dear reader, this new image dashes such (admittedly desperate) hopes.
Both pictures show phones with fingerprint sensors right in the middle of the back. So, that’s that. On the other hand, there are some positive and interesting details. Both phones pictured have the same camera set-up, so the Pixel 4a 5G is not only gaining faster connectivity but multiple cameras instead of the Pixel 4a’s single lens. So, the $150 price differential between 4a and 4a 5G is now seeming more of a bargain. Unlike the Pixel 4, these phones have the flash at the top of the camera square, not the bottom.
At the same time, a bunch of alleged specs were revealed for the Pixel 5. A Snapdragon 765G processor which is mid-range but 5G-capable has long been suspected, but the rumored details now include a big battery, 4,000mAh and 8GB of RAM. Specs for the Pixel 4a 5G include 6GB of RAM and a slightly smaller battery, 3,800mAh. The Pixel 5 won’t have an audio jack, but the 4a 5G will, it’s claimed.
More leaks are expected, so please check back. In the meantime, here’s the deal with those renders.
Time was, the Pixel line was absolutely up there with the best top-flight smartphones. It came late to multiple cameras but this didn’t really matter because Google’s mastery of photography-through-software was second to none. The way it achieved bokeh effects through just one lens was little short of black magic. These rumors show a camera panel with two lenses peeping through.
Last year, on the Pixel 4, it introduced facial recognition with the only system that came close to Apple’s Face ID. And while it didn’t always have the nicest notch, or the edge-to-edge screens of rivals, it caught up in the last few days with the Pixel 4a. This is a highly capable but very keenly priced handset.
And it seems like the appeal of a low price has become the driving force for the Pixel 5. There have already been rumors that the 5 will have a chipset which will be mid-range while supporting 5G (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765).
But the renders have one element which stands out, and not in a good way: the fingerprint sensor on the phone’s back. Look, I’ll be clear, I’ve always disliked a rear fingerprint sensor. It seems to me to be in the very worst place you can put such a sensor, requires a combination of just-so design and nimble finger dexterity. It is something people got used to and made the best of.
But it is – more than most other features – the defining element of the budget phone. Put the fingerprint sensor on the back, and you have to charge a lower price.
In the case of Pixel 5, however, it indicates something worse: the excellent facial recognition has gone, sacrificed on the altar of the all-screen design.
The renders show the same holepunch camera in the top-left of the screen as on the Pixel 4a. This is not enough space for a full facial recognition system.
All of which seems to confirm rumors that the next Pixel won’t a flagship to take on the iPhone 12, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and so on.
I admit, I’m clutching at straws here, but isn’t there any chance that this might not be the Pixel 5 at all but the Pixel 4a 5G? It’s due to be revealed in full at the same time, and these images look completely like the 4a, save for the extra rear camera.
Well, Steve Hemmestoffer says not, pointing out that the Pixel 4a 5G has a headphone jack, but this does not. Additionally, the Pixel 4a 5G is expected to have a slightly larger display.
That’s not to say this phone will lack dazzling features: we already know from details in the code that new photo features are coming.
Additionally, Android Central has posted a list of expected specs, including a bigger battery, reverse wireless charging, and more.
We’ll know soon enough, but if it really is true, then the Pixel 5 could be an anticlimax for Google fans in some respects – although a keen price, as the Pixel 4a has managed, might go a long way to making up for that.