- Google unveiled the Pixel 5 on Wednesday, its next flagship smartphone and competitor to the iPhone.
- The announcement comes after Google revealed the name of the device in August.
- Google’s Pixel line doesn’t have as big of a presence in the market as it rivals from Samsung, Apple, and Huawei, but the company often uses the phones to introduce new Android features.
Google on Wednesday introduced the Pixel 5, its newest high-end smartphone meant to go head-to-head with the upcoming iPhone 12 and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 phones.
The phone will be among Google’s first 5G smartphones, starting at $700 alongside the cheaper $500 Pixel 4a 5G. It’s a notable departure from last year’s Pixel 4, as the company is focusing more on value and core features like camera quality and battery life. Google’s previous flagship phone introduced flashy new motion-detection features but was criticized by some reviewers for its high price and shorter-than-expected battery life.
Google is also tailoring some of its apps and services to take advantage of 5G networks. For example, the company’s Duo video-chatting app will now support a feature that makes it possible to share your screen with the recipient of the call and watch videos together. Google also said it would optimize video and photo streaming in YouTube and its photos app for 5G.
Google’s Pixel phones have focused on their camera quality in years past, and that’s continuing with the Pixel 5. Google is adding an ultrawide camera lens to the Pixel 5, a critical feature that lets phones take images with a wider perspective that the Pixel 4 was lacking.
Google is also improving portrait mode, the feature that lets you snap a photo of a sharp subject against a blurred background, to work with Night Sight. That’s the shooting mode Google announced two years ago that enables its phones to take better photos in low-light conditions.
The Pixel 5 is getting a boost when it comes to power efficiency too. A new “extreme battery saver” setting will let users extend the battery life of their Pixel 5 by up to 48 hours by choosing to enable only essential apps, the company says. It can also charge other devices, like earbuds or other accessories, by resting the device on the phone’s back.
The Pixel 5 may look similar to the Pixel 4a 5G, considering they share the same processor and camera, but there are some key differences between the two. The pricier Pixel 5 has a larger battery, a slightly smaller screen with a higher refresh rate, a more premium glass body, water resistance, and the previously mentioned battery-sharing feature. The Pixel 5 also lacks a headphone jack, which the Pixel 4a 5G includes.
Google also announced a new Google Assistant feature that enables the digital helper to wait on hold during calls and alert you when a person joins the line.
With the Pixel 5, Google walked back some of the big bets on new technology that it made with last year’s Pixel 4. Google’s presentation made no mention of the motion-detection features powered by Google’s Soli radar technology that served as one of the Pixel 4’s main attractions.
Google’s ambitions with the Pixel 5 appear to be more focused on value, as it’s launching at a lower price than the Pixel 4 did last year and runs on a less-powerful Qualcomm processor.
The announcement comes after Google unveiled the name of the phone in August. Multiple leaks have also surfaced showing the Pixel 5’s design and features ahead of its official unveiling.
Though Google’s Pixel phones have earned praise from reviewers in the past, the global smartphone market is still largely dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huawei.
The Chinese smartphone giant Huawei accounted for 20% of global smartphone shipments in the second quarter of 2020, according to figures from the International Data Corp. Samsung, meanwhile, placed in second with 19.5% of the market, while Apple landed in third with a market share of 13.5%. Google was not named as one of the top five smartphone vendors.
Google’s Pixel division has also undergone a shake-up over the past year, with key camera executive Marc Levoy and Mario Queiroz, Google’s previous Pixel leader, departing the company.
Google may not make up a notable slice of the smartphone market, but its Pixel phones provide an avenue for the company to introduce exclusive Android features and provide a blueprint for other Android phone makers to follow. For example, some features in Android 11 — like the ability for your phone to recommend apps based on your daily routine — launched on Pixel phones first.
The Pixel 5 is debuting just before Apple is expected to unveil its next-generation iPhone this month. The phone, rumored to be called the iPhone 12, is expected to be the company’s first 5G iPhone, coming after many Android device makers like Samsung have launched several 5G phones.
Apple typically launches its new iPhones in September ahead of Google’s Pixel launch, but the company said in July that it expected supply of the new phones to arrive later this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Google, meanwhile, is launching its Pixel flagship slightly earlier than usual, getting ahead of Apple’s iPhone announcement. The company has introduced new Pixel phones in October in years past.