Google has just unveiled the Pixel 5, its latest flagship phone, as well as the Pixel 4a 5G, which brings the latest Android features and top-spec camera (as well as, y’know, 5G) for under $500.
The new Google Pixel phones were unveiled at Google’s ‘Launch Night In’ event, alongside a new Nest-branded smart speaker that replaces the Google Home, and a new Chromecast with 4K and HDR.
Google Launch Night In: what’s been announced
• A new Chromecast with Google TV – a 4K HDR media streamer with Android TV built in, and the new Google TV interface, which is much smoother, bringing what you watch together from all your streaming apps. $49/£59, released October 15th.
• Google Nest Audio is Google’s new smart home speaker with Google Assistant. Replacing the Google Home, Google’s focus is on making the best-sounding speaker under $100, thanks to its separate woofer and tweeter. $99/£89, released October 15th.
• Google Pixel 4a 5G – this was already announced, but now we know it’s coming for $499/£499 on November 19th. Here’s what we thought of the regular Pixel 4a.
• Google Pixel 5 – Google’s new flagship adds water resistance, boosts to 8GB RAM, wireless charging in both directions, 5G. $699/£599, October 15th.
• New camera features on Pixel 4a and 5. New ultra-wide lens that’s also on the Pixel 4a 5G. Night Sight is now possible in Portrait mode. Portrait Light enables you to position a light in your photos after you’ve shot it!
• New Android features on Pixels – ‘Hold for me’ uses Google Assistant to listen to hold music for you, and alert you when someone answers; ‘Extreme Battery Saver’ is a mode that enables you to choose which apps are allowed to run at all, so you can expect 48 hours of use from a charge. New features will be available on older Pixel phones too.
Google’s Launch Night In event: How to watch
You can watch the half-hour event on YouTube, if you want to catch the action as it happened.
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Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G: price and release date
The Google Pixel 5 5G will cost $699/£599/AUS$1,079, and is set to go on-sale October 15th 2020.
It will comes in two fetching colours: Just Black and Sorta Sage.
The Google Pixel 5a 5G will cost $499/£499, and won’t release until November 19th.
It will come only in the Just Black finish.
Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a: specs
The Google Pixel 5 features a six-inch Full HD display – a little lower than some premium phones, but perfectly acceptable for the price. The screen will have a 90Hz refresh rate, meaning it’ll look smoother when scrolling around.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor will power it, which isn’t quite flagship class – it’s more like last year’s flagship class. But Google is good at making sure Android runs smoothly, so we’re not too concerned about this, especially with a new 8GB of RAM backing it up.
The battery is a little over 4,000mAh, so is in line with the big power packs we’re used to these days. It can wireless charge, and has reverse wireless charging, for juicing other devices.
Google’s Titan M security chip is included, which is designed to help keep your transactions and passwords secure on the device.
The aluminium back is made from 100% recycled aluminium, which is a trend we’re happy to see happening more and more in gadgets.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G has a 6.2-inch Full HD screen, though without the 90Hz refresh rate feature.
It has the same Snapdragon 765G processor as the Pixel 5, but with 6GB of RAM instead of 8GB. The Titan M chip is included again.
The battery is smaller at 3885mAh, but is still a good size overall. It has wireless charging, but not reverse charging.
It has a polycarbonate body instead of metal – one of the small tweaks here that obviously bring this into more budget territory.
One thing to note about the 4a, though – it has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which the Pixel 5 lacks!
Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a: cameras
Both the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G have the same camera setup, which is great – we love seeing top features at all prices.
There’s the 12MP primary wide-angle lens, which is pretty standard phone fare. But there’s now an ultra-wide lens as well, with a 16MP resolution, for taking batter landscape or architecture shots. The front camera is 8MP. This all makes it a really close setup to the iPhone 11, which has been a huge hit, so that works for us.
As ever, Google is applying a host of advanced computations to make your shots look bright, crisp and clear… and it’s adding some new tricks.
The one we’re most excited about is Portrait Light, which enables you to take a shot in Portrait Mode, then actually add a fake light source into the photo afterwards, with the photo’s looking change in 3D in real time to where you put the light.
We’ve seen this tech in apps before, but never as a standard tool built into a phone – it’s very cool. It’s built into the Google Photos editing tools now, so it’s easy to tweak long after you took the shot.
Portrait Mode is also upgraded with Night Sight now working in it, so you can take a shot of a subject in really low light, with the subject sharp and well-lit, and the background blurred. Google’s sample shots looked really nice.
There’s also a new Cinematic Pan video mode, which is not quite as interesting as the others here. It basically offers image stabilisation and slow-motion in a package, so you can create smooth video where you follow someone’s movement. That’s nice! It’s just not revolutionary.
Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G: Android features
Google announced some great new Android features coming to these phones, as well as to come older Pixels.
HD screen sharing in Google Duo is a fun feature for current times: it enables you to watch something like a YouTube video along with a friend, while keeping a video call to them in picture-in-picture, so you’re watching together while chatting.
‘Hold for me’ is a new option when you’re on hold with a call centre. Google Assistant will stay on hold for you, and alert you when someone has answered, so you can jump back on the call. It builds on the smarts of Google Duplex.
Extreme Battery Saver is a new option for those who really need to only sip power. You choose which apps are allowed to use up battery, basically, with others judiciously killed. Google says it can help you reliably get 48 hours of use from your phone.
There’s also an improvement to the clever Recorder app. It also transcribed recordings to text, but you can now edit your audio recordings by editing the text – delete a sentence and the audio is deleted too!
Google says these phones will get three years of future Android updates.