the google pixel 5a on a bench with water splashed droplets
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google’s line of A-series devices is where the company puts its budget-friendly phones. With the expectation that the upcoming Google Pixel 6 Pro could be very expensive, Google’s budget offerings are more important than ever. The newest of these phones is the Google Pixel 5a, and it represents the first phone of any kind from Google in 2021.

As with previous phones in the series, the Pixel 5a offers the core features users expect from a Pixel while keeping the price comparatively low. However, unlike previous A-series devices, this phone’s price might not be quite as low as you may have hoped.

See also: All Google Pixel phones released so far

Google Pixel 5a at a glance

a close up of the google pixel 5a google logo g logo
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google launched the Google Pixel 5a on August 17, 2021. As with the 2020 launch of the Google Pixel 4a, the company didn’t do a big streaming event or give much fanfare. Instead, it announced the phone with a basic press release.

Don’t let that apparent lack of excitement belittle the phone’s appeal, though. All in all, the Pixel 5a is like a slightly watered-down version of the Google Pixel 5 (or a beefed-up version of the Pixel 4a 5G, take your pick) with a bigger display, bigger battery, and better build quality. Sure, it’s missing a few major features of the Pixel 5 — including wireless charging and a high-refresh-rate display — but you still get a lot for what you’ll spend.

See also: Google Pixel 5 review | Google Pixel 4a 5G review

Speaking of which, the Google Pixel 5a starts at $449, or $50 less than last year’s Pixel 4a 5G. However, that’s also $100 more than the Pixel 4a, which is a pretty big ask. Pixel fans should find a lot to love here, though.

The Pixel 5a is only available in two countries: the United States and Japan (where it costs 51,700 Japanese yen). It is possible Google could bring the phone to other areas of the world eventually, but there is no confirmation of that as of yet.

google pixel 5a press image mostly black
Google Pixel 5a
Water resistance comes to the Pixel A-series
Google's Pixel 5a offers a few quality-of-life upgrades over its previous devices that may make you want to join Team Pixel. It has a metal unibody design, an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and a battery that just won't quit.

Is the Google Pixel 5a worth buying?

the google pixel 5a display with app icons on the pixel launcher home screen
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Pixel 5a

The Pixel 5a is a good phone for its price. If you have never owned a Pixel phone before and are looking for a cost-effective entry point, this is worth a look.

However, if you already own a recent Pixel device, such as the Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G, there really isn’t any reason to buy this. Your Pixel 5 is going to be better than this in more than a few ways, and your Pixel 4a 5G is going to be so similar that upgrading would be a waste. If you already own one of those phones, we recommend waiting for the Pixel 6 series.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 5a review

The biggest roadblock with this phone, though, is its limited availability. Since it’s only landing in two countries, there are probably loads of people reading this who would buy the phone but simply can’t get one. Unfortunately, those buyers would be better served by buying a different Pixel.

The bottom line here is that buyers in the US and Japan who don’t already own a recent Pixel and want something fairly inexpensive will do well to check out the Google Pixel 5a. If you don’t fit those criteria, this isn’t the phone for you.

What experts are saying

the google pixel 5a in maybe moon case being held in a hand
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Here at Android Authority, we gave the Google Pixel 5a high praise. We gave it a score of 4.5/5 and labeled it with our Recommended badge.

We loved a lot about the phone, including its amazing battery life, crisp display, long software updates promise, and stellar photography skills. We also loved the IP rating, which you don’t see often on phones in this price bracket. However, we didn’t like that it still has a 60Hz display refresh rate and a year-old processor.

Around the web, here’s what some other sites have to say on the Google Pixel 5a:

  • Eli Blumenthal from CNET: Blumenthal gave the phone a score of 4/5, praising its overall value and similarities to other Pixel phones. However, he criticized the confusing 5G support (the 5a doesn’t support mmWave 5G).
  • Jordan Palmer from Tom’s GuidePalmer gave the Pixel 5a the same score we did (4.5/5). He called it “the king of affordable phones” and praised the camera, display, and water resistance. He did ding the phone for its aging chipset, lack of wireless charging, and limited availability, though.
  • David Lumb from Tech RadarHere we have another 4/5 review score. Lumb praised the cameras, software, value, and battery life. He didn’t care much for the 18W wired charging speeds, wishing they were faster. He also pointed out how few improvements there are over other Pixel phones.

All in all, it is difficult to find negative reviews for the Google Pixel 5a from reputable sites. Keep that in mind if you are thinking about buying this phone.

Google Pixel 5a specs

Objectively, the Pixel 5a is a better phone than the Pixel 4a 5G. However, it’s not quite as good as the Pixel 5. Check out the specs for the device below, which includes the Pixel 4a 5G specs so you can see how similar they are:

Google Pixel 5a
Display
6.34-inch OLED display
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
413ppi
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
SoC
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
2.4GHz + 2.2GHz + 1.8GHz
Octa-core, 64-bit

Titan M Security Module
GPU
Adreno 620
RAM
6GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
Storage
128GB
No expandable storage
Cameras
Main:
12.2MP dual-pixel
1.4μm pixel width
Autofocus with dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilization
ƒ/1.7 aperture
77° field of view

Secondary:
16MP ultra-wide
1.0μm pixel width
ƒ/2.2 aperture
117° field of view (107° after distortion correction)

Front:
8MP
1.12μm pixel width
ƒ/2.0 aperture (fixed focus)
83° field of view

Sensors
Proximity
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer
Gyrometer
Magnetometer
Pixel Imprint
Barometer
Buttons and ports
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
3.5mm headphone jack
Audio
Stereo speakers
2 microphones
Noise suppression
Battery
4,680mAh
18W fast charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
IP rating
IP67
Connectivity
Wi-Fi 2.4GHz + 5GHz
802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO
Bluetooth v5.0 + LE, A2DP7
HD codecs: AptX, AptX HD, LDAC, AAC
NFC

US: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS
ROW: GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
SIMs
Single nano-SIM
eSIM
Software
Android 11
Minimum 3 years of OS and security updates
Dimensions and weight
156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g
Colors
Mostly Black

What’s up with the Pixel 5a’s IP rating?

the google pixel 5a on a bench with water splashed droplets
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

For the first time in Google’s budget series, the Pixel 5a comes with an official IP rating. Its IP67 certification means it is resistant to dust particles and water.

The “6” in an IP67 rating represents the highest possible rating against particle ingress. That means it offers complete protection against dust, dirt, and other particles entering the phone. The “7” in the rating refers to water resistance. Although this isn’t the highest rating, it represents a safe immersion level of 1m for a specific length of time (usually 30 minutes).

Required reading: Everything you need to know about IP and ATM ratings

This all means you don’t need to worry about dropping the Google Pixel 5a in a puddle. It also means you won’t need to worry about lint from your pocket or beach sand getting into the phone.

An IP67 rating is only one notch below the gold standard for flagship smartphones, which is IP68. For what it’s worth, the Google Pixel 5 offers this rating and is much more expensive. At the Pixel 5a’s price point, an IP rating of any kind is unusual — but certainly welcome.

Is the Google Pixel 5a camera any good?

the google pixel 5a camera app showing flowers
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The camera hardware within the Pixel 5a is identical to the hardware in the Pixel 4a 5G — which, in turn, is identical to the hardware in the Pixel 5. As such, the camera experience you’ll see from the Google Pixel 5a will match that of those two phones.

We have numerous articles related to the photography prowess of the Google Pixel 5. We also have a full review of the Pixel 4a 5G that goes over its camera. We highly suggest checking those out along with our main review for the Pixel 5a.

See also: The best camera phones you can get

In a nutshell, the Pixel 5a’s camera is great for what it is. You don’t get a telephoto lens, but the standard and wide-angle lenses produce some great results. When you consider you’ll pay half as much for the Pixel 5a as you would some flagships, the photo quality you’ll see will be pretty astounding.

That being said, Google’s software is doing the bulk of the work. Since the hardware in the Pixel 5a is years old at this point, you’re simply not going to get the power and versatility you would from more recent flagships.

At this price point though, that probably isn’t a big deal. This phone costs $449, but you’re going to get photos that look like they came from something much more expensive than that.

How is the Pixel 5a’s battery life?

the google pixel 5a display close-up with battery stats
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The battery in the Google Pixel 5a is the biggest ever for a Pixel phone. At 4,680mAh, it’s roughly 13% larger than the battery in the Pixel 5 and roughly 17% larger than that of the Pixel 4a 5G. Depending on your usage, the Pixel 5a will be able to last you two, maybe even three days.

Related: The best Android smartphones with the best battery life

The Pixel 5a charges at a maximum speed of 18W. You can see those speeds with the charger and USB-C cable that come in the box with the phone. Unfortunately, the Pixel 5a does not have wireless charging, so you’ll need to stick to wired charging with this one.

How is the Pixel 5a’s performance?

the google pixel 5a home screen showing a close up of the google search bar
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

The chipset in the Pixel 5a is the same as what we saw in both the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G, namely the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G. This 2020 chipset supports 5G connections and is pretty powerful when it comes to mid-range processors. However, it will not produce results akin to a 2021 flagship chip, such as the latest-and-greatest Snapdragon 888. It’s also got successors in the form of the more powerful Snapdragon 768G and 778G.

Related reading: Everything you need to know about smartphone chipsets

In general, the processing speeds and stability you’ll see with the Google Pixel 5a will be more than adequate for day-to-day use. If you are planning on doing a lot of heavy gaming, emulation, video editing, or other processor-heavy tasks, you’ll likely face some hiccups. In general, power users should try to grab a phone with a recent 800-series chip, but the average user will likely have no issues with the Snapdragon 765G.

Pixel 5a software, updates, and more

a close up of the google pixel 5a home screen at a glance widget on the display
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

One of the biggest reasons people buy Pixel phones is for software updates. As one would expect, the Pixel 5a will be one of the very first devices to get the latest versions of Android. That will include Android 12, which should launch in a stable capacity mere weeks or even days after the Pixel 5a lands in stores.

The Pixel 5a will see a minimum of three years of software updates, all the way through Android 15.

Theoretically, the Pixel 5a should get Android 13, Android 14, and Android 15 as well. It should also see monthly security patches and quarterly feature drops. The bottom line is that if software updates are important to you, the Pixel 5a is a great choice.

There are rumors that Google’s Tensor chipset — which will debut on the Pixel 6 — could allow the company to substantially extend its update schedule. However, the Pixel 5a does not have this chip. Therefore, we expect it to have the normal schedule of software updates for a Pixel, which is a minimum of three years after launch.

Another advantage of getting the Pixel 5a is that the phone comes with three months of Google One. You’ll get 100GB of cloud storage and automatic backup across Google Drive, Gmail, Google Photos, and more. The Google One trial is available to new members everywhere Pixel 5a with 5G is sold. The offer expires on May 15, 2022.

You’ll also get three months of YouTube Premium and Google Play Pass with the phone.

Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a 5G vs Pixel 5: What’s new?

the google pixel 5a on a bench compared to the pixel 5 and pixel 4a 5g
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
Left to right: Google Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 4a 5G

You can look at the Google Pixel 5a in one of two ways. Its name suggests it is a “lite” version of the Google Pixel 5. However, you could instead look at it as a direct sequel to the Google Pixel 4a 5G. Either view would be valid.

Really, though, the phone is a dead ringer for the Pixel 4a 5G but features some of the internals and build materials of the Pixel 5. In essence, it’s like a hybrid of the two. Here are the core differences. If you don’t see something listed on here, that means it’s the same across all three devices.

Pixel 4a 5G (2020)Pixel 5a (2021)Pixel 5 (2020)
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
6.2-inch OLED display
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
413ppi
19.5:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Pixel 5a (2021):
6.34-inch OLED display
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
413ppi
20:9 aspect ratio
60Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
Pixel 5 (2020):
6-inch OLED display
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
432ppi
19.5:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
Corning Gorilla Glass 6
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
6GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
Pixel 5a (2021):
6GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
Pixel 5 (2020):
8GB of RAM (LPDDR4x)
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Volume controls
3.5mm headphone jack
Pixel 5a (2021):
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Volume controls
3.5mm headphone jack
Pixel 5 (2020):
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Volume controls
No headphone jack
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
3,885mAh
18W fast charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
Pixel 5a (2021):
4,680mAh
18W fast charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
Pixel 5 (2020):
4,080mAh
18W fast charging
12W wireless charging
5W reverse wireless charging
USB-C 18W adapter with USB-PD 2.0
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
4G LTE
mmWave 5G
Sub6 5G
Pixel 5a (2021):
4G LTE
Sub6 5G
Pixel 5 (2020):
4G LTE
mmWave 5G
Sub6 5G
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
No IP rating
Pixel 5a (2021):
IP67
Pixel 5 (2020):
IP68
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
153.9 x 74 x 8.2mm
168g
Pixel 5a (2021):
156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm
183g
Pixel 5 (2020):
144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm
151g
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
Plastic and glass build
Pixel 5a (2021):
Metal and glass build
Pixel 5 (2020):
Metal and glass build
Pixel 4a 5G (2020):
Just Black
Pixel 5a (2021):
Mostly Black
Pixel 5 (2020):
Just Black, Sorta Sage

What are some good Google Pixel 5a alternatives?

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G rear on table
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

One of the more obvious alternatives to the Pixel 5a is the Pixel 5. However, that phone has been discontinued. The Pixel 4a 5G is objectively inferior to the Pixel 5a, so that’s not worth investing in anymore. Below, you’ll find the devices that might deserve a look if you’re not totally sold on the Google Pixel 5a.

  • Google Pixel 4a ($349): The Pixel 5a is better than the Pixel 4a in multiple ways. However, the 5a is also $100 more expensive than the 4a, which is not chump change when you’re talking about phones in this price tier. If you choose to save $100, you’ll sacrifice the rear wide-angle lens, the large battery, the IP rating, and a few other perks. However, $100 is $100.
  • Samsung Galaxy A52 5G ($499): If you’re not locked to the Pixel ecosystem, one of the best competitors is the Galaxy A52 5G. Jumping ship will get you more camera lenses on the rear, a bigger display with a 120Hz refresh rate, a microSD card slot, and an under-display fingerprint sensor. You’ll get a slightly weaker processor, though, and you’ll lose out on Google’s stellar photography software.
  • Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G ($399): If you don’t care much about processing speed and software updates but do care a lot about battery life, this is a good alternative to the Google Pixel 5a. This enormous phone has a stylus, making it kind of like a cheap Galaxy Note phone. Its price is certainly right, but the Pixel 5a will mop the floor with this phone when it comes to photography, so keep that in mind.
  • iPhone SE ($399): Finally, if you’re not locked to Android at all, you should check out the iPhone SE from 2020. Sure, it’s going to have a weaker battery and only one rear camera lens, but its processor is going to be incredibly powerful and its compact size will be refreshing for those sick of big phones. Plus, you save $50, which isn’t bad.

Where to buy the Google Pixel 5a

the google pixel 5a on a piece of cement showing its back in mostly black color
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
  • Google Pixel 5a: $449 / 51,700 Japanese yen

The Google Pixel 5a is available now. You can only buy it directly from Google at the moment, but other select retailers will likely carry it soon.

google pixel 5a press image mostly black
Google Pixel 5a
Water resistance comes to the Pixel A-series
Google's Pixel 5a offers a few quality-of-life upgrades over its previous devices that may make you want to join Team Pixel. It has a metal unibody design, an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, and a battery that just won't quit.

The phone is only coming to the United States and Japan. It is possible Google could bring the phone to more countries in the future, but it doesn’t appear that would happen any time soon. For now, it’s safe to bet the Pixel 5a is locked to just those two countries.

Within the US and Japan, the Pixel 5a will see full carrier support, but no US carriers will actually sell it. In the US, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and their various MVNOs and subsidiaries will support the phone.

The phone will also be available through Google Fi or unlocked through the Google Store. You can get three months of the Google Fi Unlimited Plus plan included when you purchase a Pixel 5a with 5G on Google Store.

FAQs

Q: Does the Pixel 5a have the new Google-made chipset?
A: No. The Google Tensor chipset will debut on the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro later in 2021.

Q: Is the Google Pixel 5a water- and dust-proof?
A: It has an IP67 rating, which means it is dust-proof. However, it is only water-resistant at a depth of up to 1m, so it probably wouldn’t be safe to take it for a swim.

Q: Is the Pixel 5a camera better than the one in the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5?
A: From a hardware standpoint, no. The camera hardware in the Pixel 5a is identical to what’s found in the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.

Q: What is the Pixel 5a made of?
A: The Pixel 5a’s build materials are similar to those of the Pixel 5. The back is of metal construction, though the front is covered with Gorilla Glass 3.

Q: Does the Google Pixel 5a have a headphone jack? What about a microSD slot?
A: The Pixel 5a does have a 3.5mm headphone port. However, it does not have a microSD slot.

Q: Will the Pixel 5a connect to mmWave 5G networks?
A: No, this phone will only connect to Sub-6GHz 5G. This is important to note because the Pixel 4a 5G did support mmWave.

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