Ever since last year’s Google Pixel 3A, I’ve personally been questioning the positioning and marketing of the Google Pixel line of phones, as while none of them were ever bad, and all of them came with best cameras on the market, they seemed to underwhelm in other aspects of being flagship smartphones. This is seemingly a thought that was shared by the rest of the tech community, and one that with market trends, Google themselves realized, leading them to their most exciting and impressive phones in a long time, the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G.
Now as I’ve shown a few times on this site(and our podcast), I completely loved the Pixel 3A, pointing out that it essentially embodied the best parts of the Google Pixel line (camera, software, performance) without trying to overprice them or make them be packaged with some sometimes unnecessary flagship-worthy features just so these phones can be deemed worthy competitors to the iPhones and Galaxies of the world. Again, this isn’t because the Pixel phones are bad, but rather that Google themselves know how to make a good smartphone, just not a good flagship smartphone. Again each pixel has arguably had the best camera of it’s year, but flagship smartphones are meant to be more than that. They need to be Halo devices that are as attractive to use as they are to look at , in the same way the iPhone 11 and Huawei P40 Pro are, and hardware was by far the Pixel line’s Achilles heal. From coming late to wireless charging to the Pixel 2 XL’s screen issues to the overall underwhelming design of the last 2 Pixel flagships, the simplicity and utilitarian approach that the Pixel 3A (and now the 4A) benefit from never really quite cut it in the big leagues, and finally Google themselves realized that. It seems they also read the market, as the last 2 years’ have seen a rise in the popularity of powerful mid-range or even low end phones while flagships, growing ever more expensive have become less and less popular. Hence the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G show a move from Google to focus on their strengths, repurpose and reposition the Pixel line for the same fans who loved its Nexus line of phones, and capitalize on the mid-range and low end market that’s set the world on fire.
The Pixel 5 is obviously the first sign of this. While the Pixel 4 was a US $900 phone that tried to compete directly with the iPhone 11 and Galaxy S10 and Note 10, the Pixel 5 is instead a $700 upper mid-range player with specs that might not necessarily blow everyone away, but are more than enough for most users and still come with best software Android has to offer, the best cameras it has to offer, and even a few surprises that some of the most expensive phones on the planet don’t have. It swapped out a top-end Snapdragon 865 processor for the slightly less powerful 765G , but still has a respectable 8GB of RAM, starts at 128GB of storage unlike the Pixel 4’s 64GB base storage, brings back the 90hz display and brings in the wide angle camera that fans were hoping for ever since the Pixel 4 was rumored to be multi-camera. Add in a bigger battery despite the Pixel 5’s smaller size and the first ever aluminum body that somehow still has wireless charging, and you’ve got yourself a phone that honestly makes you wonder why you would need most of the $1000+ smartphones out there outside of a few niche use cases. The Pixel 5 is exactly what Pixel fans need, and even more so, what non pixel fans might finally want to try.
Then comes the Pixel 4A 5G. Honestly the only downside I can see with this phone is that it makes my previous claims of wanting the Pixel 4A lies. Simply put, unless you want wireless charging and water resistance, this phone is essentially all you need. The screen is bigger than the Pixel 5, it has a headphone jack (yay), comes with the exact same camera as the Pixel 5 (no tweaks or approximations like the 3A or 4A) and packs in the same processor and base storage as well. The screen is slightly less impressive at 60Hz and the body is plastic, but again, compared to the camera and processor you get it’s more than just a fair trade off. The 4A 5G might as well be a Pixel 5A actually, as it’s obviously a more affordable version of that phone than the 4, which it might be superior to. And of course, this phone enters the now competitive as heck $350-550 space with Pixel 4A, iPhone SE and OnePlus Nord, but it offers enough of its own specific benefits that it’s hard to turn away from it.
We’ll of course see as the reviews come in for both these devices but the main point has pretty much been made here. Pixel phones might have just found their niche, and if this lands the way it’s supposed to, Google’s finally found it’s way forward as a phone maker while customers have even more to look forward to from the market each year. And that’s great for both sides of the equation.