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August 18, 2021
☕ Good morning! Tomorrow is Tesla AI Day. A new Tesla chip coming?
Pixel 5a does almost nothing, does it well
the google pixel 5a home screen showing a close up of the google search bar
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Finally, Google launched the Pixel 5a, its mid-year launch ahead of the much more hotly anticipated Pixel 6 series, coming in a month or two.

It’s a slightly amazing device: 

  • Google has essentially perfected the Pixel 4a 5G with the release of the 5a. It’s the 4a 5G Plus. 4a 5GS.
  • The Pixel 5a sticks with exactly the same chipset, memory, camera setup, and 18W wired charging. But it has switched up the build and other components as follows: A metal unibody design, a slightly bigger display (6.34-inches, up from a 6.2-inch screen), a much, much larger battery, and an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance — a first for the A-series lineup.
  • Google dropped the price by $50, and it now starts at $449.
  • Good luck getting one, though, if you’re not in the US or Japan, the only two launch countries.
  • And that release availability makes even less sense than ever! Google’s not using a new chipset from Qualcomm, which may have led to constrained supply. It’s using the same one from last year! Google, Google, Google, why isn’t this phone more available?

$ for ?:

  • Maybe Google is admitting that this phone is uniquely competitive in the US market. 
  • A $450 Android phone sticking with a 60Hz display, an older chipset, and a camera setup that hasn’t changed in years, would, in many parts of the world, be a bit of a stinker for those that live for best specs. You’re paying a high price for features you’re not getting.
  • But competition is stifled in the land of the free. The $400-$500 range includes Samsung’s A52, (or the just launched A52s) and Apple’s iPhone SE. Apple can get away with it because of iOS; Samsung’s A52 has a few nicer options and is regularly on sale for cheaper.
  • If you look at the UK, Europe, India, and of course China, $450 gets you, at least: a better display, a better SoC, faster wired charging, maybe even wireless charging, and some kind of telephoto option.
  • The Poco F3, for example, is about $400, and packs a Snapdragon 870 chipset, 120Hz OLED screen, and 33W charging.
  • Even just-as-new sub-$200 phones have 90Hz displays which present smoother, snappier scrolling. It’s not a big thing, but it’s the future.

The experience:

  • What is crucial though is the software experience. Google’s ageing camera gets by because it’s optimized enough to often beat our fancier hardware, though the lack of zoom is getting very tired. 
  • Google brings to Android its Pixel software, promises of updates, and nice Google add-ons like Google Recorder app, Call Screening for spam calls, and more.
  • And where Chinese OEMs crush the Pixel on specs and value, they don’t always deliver when it comes to a better Android experience, which Google mostly gets right.
  • The other bonus from Google is Android updates, beta testing of next Android editions, and tighter integrations with Assistant. 
  • Our Pixel 5a review says: “No, it’s not the most exciting phone you’ll see in 2021, but it works, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do […] it just works.”
  • That’s enough for a large part of the market. Other headlines were “boring but better than ever” and “it’s not broken, so Google didn’t fix it.”

🔋 We tested Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 5 against the fastest smartphone charging standards: temperature-aware charging (Android Authority).

🎧 New leak spills specs, design of Bose’s upcoming Bose QuietComfort 45 flagship headphones (Android Authority).

👉 Samsung’s new Galaxy A52s 5G kicks up the A52’s performance and adds a new color (Android Authority).

🍩 Google sweetens YouTube Premium with 3 free months of Stadia Pro (Android Authority).

🍎 Report: Apple, Amazon, and Google’s supply chain plans to move production from China to Vietnam ‘on hold’ due to COVID disruptions, meaning AirPods 3 and some Macs/iPads are being made in China, as is the Pixel 6, despite plans for Vietnam-based manufacturing (Nikkei Asia).

👮‍♀️ Twitter is experimenting with the ability for users to report “potentially misleading content,” with users in the US, South Korea, and Australia first to trial (The Guardian).

🤖 Boston Dynamics’ robots latest feature is parkour (Engadget).

🎧 NuraNow: You can get earbuds on $5/month subscription, though you don’t actually ever own them (Gizmodo).

🚗 It’s emerged Waymo has to hand-build their “self-driving” Chrysler vans, which has car people wondering: If Waymo can’t do self-driving cars, can anyone? (Jalopnik).

💳 “Mastercard is phasing out magnetic stripes on its cards starting in 2024” is the headline, but the real story is they’ll still be around until 2033. 2033! (The Verge).

🤖 This AI helps detect wildlife health issues in real time (Wired).

🍻 German chemists identified over 7,700 different chemical formulas in beers. Prost! (Ars Technica).

🐕 I’m delighted that a dog just like mine was returned to its owners after being allegedly stolen — what a cutie it is! (Twitter).

🌽 “We are NASA scientists that study Earth systems, how they’re changing, and how they impact our favorite foods. Ask us anything about agriculture, drought, and food security!” (r/askscience).

Wednesday Weirdness

Spotify playlists are being gamed for fun weirdness, with the Twitter account Weird Spotify Playlists doing a lot of work to compile the twisted genius of the internet.

I like the POV playlists such as middle age dad:

spotify weird memes 1

But the anti-joke ones are pretty great too:

spotify weird memes 2


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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