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Google unveils the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G

Both Android 11 phones focus on experience and value for money rather than raw performance.

Published onSeptember 30, 2020

google pixel 5 pixel 4a 5g event release date
  • Google has introduced the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G at its Launch Night In event.
  • Both promise 5G, Snapdragon 765G chips, and larger batteries, along with familiar cameras.
  • They will be available from October 15 starting at $499 for the 4a 5G and $699 for the 5.

Two of Google’s most poorly-kept secrets are now official. Google has introduced the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G at its Launch Night In event, including their release dates and prices. The details won’t be surprising if you’ve been paying close attention, but these are still important devices — both as showcases for Android 11 and a shift in Google’s Pixel strategy.

Unlike last year’s flagship-level Pixel 4, the Pixel 5 is an upper mid-range phone with a 6-inch, 90Hz OLED screen, a Snapdragon 765G chip, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of non-expandable storage. There’s IP68 water resistance, too. You won’t find a hand gesture sensor or other unique hardware tricks, although the Pixel 5 does offer wireless charging (including reverse wireless charging) and 18W fast charging. And yes, the rumors of a new color were true — you can get the Pixel 5 in a green Sorta Sage hue in addition to Just Black.

The cameras will be mostly familiar to past Pixel owners with a 12.2MP main rear sensor, a new 16MP ultra-wide shooter and an 8MP front camera. As usual, Google is counting on AI and other software features to deliver quality photos. A new Google Photos editor with Portrait Light lets you adjust the lighting for foreground objects even for photos you took years ago, while Cinematic Pan adds movie-like effects to your shots. Night Sight is finally available when capturing portrait mode shots.

See also: The best Android camera phones you can get

The Pixel 4a 5G, meanwhile, is considerably more than a Pixel 4a with faster wireless data. At the event, Google confirmed the Pixel 4a 5G would have a larger 6.2-inch OLED (albeit at 60Hz) as well as the same Snapdragon 765G and cameras as the Pixel 5. You’ll have to be content with 6GB of RAM, a plastic body, and 18W wired charging, but it could be worthwhile if you want more than the no-frills 4a without spending much on features you know you won’t use.

Software and Google services play important roles beyond photography. Extreme Battery Saver helps wring up to 48 hours of longevity out your phone, while Hold for Me saves you from having to listen to hold music while you wait for customer service. These features will be coming to older devices in time.

google hold for me pixel 5

The Pixel 5 is available to pre-order now in the US and several other countries with a release date of October 15 and a $699 price. The Pixel 4a 5G starts at a $499 price with a release date of October 15 in Japan, and November 9 elsewhere. Buyers also get free three month trials for Stadia and YouTube Premium, 100GB of Google One storage for three months, Google Play Pass and Gold/Silver Play Points status.

Neither the Pixel 4a 5G nor the Pixel 5 is likely to make you jump ship if you have a Pixel 4 or earlier, but that’s probably intentional. Google’s Pixel sales were struggling as it chased flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S series and Apple’s higher-end iPhones, and that was before the pandemic shifted the focus to lower-cost devices. Mid-range phones like the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G help escape those direct comparisons and put the emphasis on value for money.