It's official — the Google Pixel 5 debuts at the end of September. But what kind of phone will we see from Google, especially since it was just a month ago that the company was launching the low-cost Pixel 4a?
We're getting a pretty good idea thanks to a steady stream of rumors that are appearing with greater frequency now that we're getting closer to the Pixel 5's rumored launch. And it sounds like Google's flagship phone is going to scale back some features so that it can compete with the best phones on price.
• Release date: Sept. 30, 2020
• Price: $599-$699
• Processor: Snapdragon 765G
• Display: 6-inch, 90Hz
• Cameras: Two rear lenses (main sensor and ultra wide camera)
• Other key specs: 5G connectivity, Android 11
Rumors to date have claimed the Pixel 5 might not try to match the processing power of the best phones that Samsung and Apple have to offer. Instead, it would put an even greater emphasis on photography, possibly by adding more lenses (or at least, different ones). Whatever Google opts for, it will need to address some of the flaws from last year's Pixels, which include dim displays and disappointing battery life.
Read on to learn everything we know about the Pixel 5, including its potential release date, price, specs and more.
Google Pixel 5 latest news (updated Sept. 21)
- A string of Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G early product listings have revealed three color options — including one we didn't see coming.
- Google has slated a product event for Sept. 30 and says that new Pixel phones will be introduced.
- We continue to see more leaked photos of the Pixel 5.
- Android 11 is out. The new OS is available to current Pixels, as well as select phones from OnePlus. It's going to ship on the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 release date
There's no more mystery. Google is holding a product event on Sept. 30, and it says that new Pixel phones will be revealed at that time. A new Chromecast and new speakers will also be announced at that time, according to Google's invitation.
The timing matches rumors we've been hearing about the Pixel 5. (Leaker Jon Prosser expects the Pixel 5 to appear on Sept. 30, for instance.) And it's also in line with Google's past history for phone rollouts — as the Pixel typically debuts at an early October event.
Google's invitation mentions Pixel phones, as in at least two models. We expect the second device to be the Pixel 4a 5G. (More on that below.)
We could get our hands on the Pixel 5 pretty quickly after Google's Sept. 30 event. A leak from a French-language Google blog post claims the Pixel 5 will be available for pre-order on October 8, which would be a little more than a week after Google shows off the phone.
Google Pixel 5 price and models
The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL started at $799 and $899, respectively, which were the same prices that the Pixel 3 debuted at. Smartphone prices have been creeping upward — the starting price of the Galaxy S20 was $100 more than the Galaxy S10's, for example — so you wonder if Google might follow the lede of other smartphone makers.
Rumors suggest Google is going in a different direction, cutting the price on its flagship phone to better compete with more expensive rivals. A Reddit user posted a survey that Google's reportedly sending around to gauge reaction to smartphone prices, and the survey includes a phone fitting the Pixel 5's description with a starting price of $699. If true, that's $300 less than what a Galaxy S20 will run you.
The latest evidence that the Pixel 5 will cost less comes from a German tech blog, which places the price of Google's upcoming phone at €629. That would be around the $699 price range we've been hearing about for the Pixel 5.
Just how many phones will Google launch this fall? When the Pixel 4a debuted in August, there was just one model with no XL version. It seems like the Pixel 5 could follow suit and ship without an XL model of its own.
Despite the presence of Pixel 5 XL renders, evidence is mounting that Google is headed in a different direction. Leaked Google phone code names found in the Google app revealed the Pixel 4a 5G — since confirmed by Google. That's fueled speculation that Google could release this budget 5G phone instead of the Pixel 5 XL as part of the Pixel 5 launch later this fall. Similarly, a Camera app update in Android 11 doesn't mention the Pixel 5 XL.
Google Pixel 5 design
We're starting to see more leaked images of the Google Pixel 5, giving us a better idea of what the new phone will look like.
This initial CAD rendering of the back of a Pixel 5 XL published by Front Page Tech was reportedly one of three potential designs under considerations, but subsequent leaks really haven't confirmed that Google will adapt this centralized camera module for the Pixel 5.
Other renders initially showed off the Pixel 5 with chunky bezels like the Pixel 4 before it. But then, renders posted by David Kowalski (@xleaks7) via Pigtou featured very thin bezels on the Pixel 5, suggesting that Google will getting read of face unlocking and motion gesture features. (More on that below.) These Pixel 5 renders are reportedly based on leaked schematics giving them a bit of heft.
Images of the Pixel 5 that have surfaced confirm this look. New photos from blogger Jose Antonio Ponton depict a phone with thin bezels and a square camera array. In a bit of a mystery, one screenshot calls the phone the Pixel 5s — that could indicate a variant meant to work with a specific 5G network, though.
As Ponton shared additional Pixel 5 photos, one of which clearly shows the selfie camera cutout in the lefthand corner of the phone, more theories emerged about the 5s moniker. Android Central speculates that it's a remnant of Google's initial plans to release two phones this fall.
Google Pixel 5 display
We're getting a better sense of what kind of screen the Pixel 5 will offer. Like the Pixel 4, it's likely the new phone will feature an OLED panel with Full-HD resolution (or QHD if you're looking at the Pixel 4 XL). The Pixel 4 featured a 90Hz refresh rate, and that's likely to return with the Pixel 5.
At one point, it seemed like the Pixel 5 could feature a 120Hz refresh rate, matching phones like the Galaxy S20 lineup. That rumor comes from Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants, who pegs the screen size at 6.67 inches. That would make the Pixel 5 the largest phone Google's ever made.
However, Android Central recently claimed to have confirmed several Pixel 5 specs, including the display size. That report put the Pixel 5's screen at 6 inches. If you want a larger display, you'll have to opt for the Pixel 4a 5G, which is said to be getting a 6.2-inch panel.
Google Pixel 5 cameras
While we were thrilled with the results we got from the Pixel 4 when testing that phone's two rear cameras, there's one noticeable feature missing compared with other top flagships. The Pixel 4 doesn't have a wide-angle lens, though that could be changing with the Google Pixel 5.
The CAD render of the Pixel 5 that's been the source of so much speculation over Google's upcoming phone showed off three lenses on the back of the phone. However, with subsequent photos of the phone depicting only two lens, it looks like the Pixel 5 will follow the design of the Pixel 4 and stick to two lenses.
But that second lens may not be the one you're used to. Android Central's August report on Pixel 5 specs claimed the Pixel 5 would still feature two lenses, only the telephoto lens found on the Pixel 4 would be replaced by an ultrawide lens. If that move does happen, we'd have to assume it's another area where Google is trying to keep costs down on the Pixel 5.
It also sounds like the main lens will feature the same 12-megapixel sensor as last year's Pixel 4.
That Camera app update in Android 11 that has people speculating about the lack of a Pixel 5 XL model also contains hints on new photo features coming to the Pixel phones. They include a Motion Blur mode for taking action shots, an audio zoom feature that focuses audio on whatever subject you're recording a video of, an adjustable camera flash and more sharing options for video.
Google Pixel 5 specs
It seemed like the Pixel 5 was in line to get the Snapdragon 865, the leading processor for Android phones (at least until the Snapdragon 865 Plus came along). But rumors have suggested that Google is going to go in a different direction.
9to5Google got its hands on the Camera app for the Pixel 4a prior to that phone's release. Within that app, there's code related to the Pixel 5 which suggested that phone will ship with a Snapdragon 765G system-on-chip. Android Central since backed up that claim in its report on the Pixel 5 specs.
The Snapdragon 765 is a midrange processor, unlike the high-end Snapdragon 865 found in phones like Samsung's new Galaxy S20 models. That would suggest less processing oomph, though the 765 has an integrated 5G modem. The G variant of the Snapdragon 765 lineup is optimized for gaming, with faster graphics rendering and support for hardware and software tweaks aimed at mobile games.
There's also a third option for what the Pixel 5's processor could be: the Snapdragon 768G. Essentially a newer version of the 765G, this chipset features a faster GPU and boosts the clock speed of the main core in the CPU. In other words, a Snapdragon 768G-powered Pixel 5 would have more of a performance punch than one with a 765 chipset.
If Google does opt for either the Snapdragon 765 or 768G, it's unlikely the Pixel 5 would challenge the upcoming iPhone 12 in terms of speed tests. The A13 Bionic in the current iPhones already outpaces the Snapdragon 865 in newer Android phones, and that's before Apple introduces the A14 that's expected to power the latest iPhones. However, a demo showing the Pixel's faster transcription speeds suggests the Pixel 5 won't be completely overmatched.
RAM has historically been a weak point of the Pixel lineup, with the Pixel 4 finally breaking from the 4GB of memory that came with its three predecessors to offer 6GB. We have no specific details leaked yet, but the hope would be that Google at least raises this to 8GB with the Pixel 5, as we see competitors like Samsung move to 12GB as the baseline for its high-end flagships.
Storage was another sore point with the Pixel 4. It offered only 64GB in the base model in a year when Google dropped its offer of unlimited original-quality photo storage in Google Photos for Pixel owners. Given the focus on imaging with the Pixel line, Google needs to move to 128GB.
Google Pixel 5 5G
No matter which processor powers the Pixel 5, you can expect 5G connectivity. Qualcomm builds a 5G modem into the Snapdragon 765, 765G and 768. Even if there's a surprise and the Snapdragon 865 ends up powering the Pixel 5, Qualcomm requires phones makers to include its X55 5G modem with that chipset.
The only question is what types of 5G the Pixel 5 will support. Some phones don't always include the antennas to work with mmWave-based 5G, which Verizon relies heavily on for its 5G network. Considering the close relationship Google enjoys with Verizon, though — the Pixel has always been available through the carrier — we'd anticipate the Pixel 5 will work with Verizon 5G.
Google Pixel 5 battery
The battery life of the Pixel 4 was a concern last year, as it was equipped with just a 2,800 mAh power pack. That small battery limited the Pixel 4's battery life, as it lasted just 8 hours and 3 minutes on our battery test — roughly two hours less than the average smartphone.
According to a Pixel 5 battery leak, Google will equip this year's phone with a 4,000 mAh battery, which would be a big boost over the Pixel 4. This same leaker posted a photo of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G to Reddit and then deleted the picture. So if this person did see the phones in the wild the rumor seems trustworthy.
An earlier Pixel 5 leak has the battery slated to weigh in at 3,080 mAh, which would put it between the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
Google Pixel 5 software and special features
Here's the safest bet you can make about the next Pixel — it will be the first new phone to ship with the next version of Android. The final version of Android 11 is out — you can read our Android 11 review — and it's almost certainly going to ship with the Pixel 5.
Among the features you can expect in Android 11 are new permission controls, messaging improvements and under-the-hood improvements aimed at 5G. Android 11 also adds a media player widget for easier control of music playback, and there's now a Devices Control menu for managing smart home devices when you press the phone's power button.
As for special features, it sounds like Google may be adding to the gesture controls introduced with the Pixel 4. XDA Developers found a feature code-named Columbus that adds a double-tap gesture to the back of the phone, allowing you to do things to open the camera app and pause media playback.
However, another rumor suggests that Google may be pulling back from the Motion Sense features introduced with the Pixel 4. Stephen Hall of 9to5Google suggested that the Pixel 5 might drop the Soli sensor that enables Motion Sense. While such a move would eliminate features that helped distinguish the Pixel 4, no Soli sensor might mean improved battery life and less of a bezel on the new phone.
Google Pixel 5 outlook
Google made some relatively simple mistakes with the Pixel 4 hardware, such as the small battery size, limited internal storage and the omission of a wide-angle camera, and yet still managed to deliver a solid but unspectacular overall device. And feedback from that phone gives Google a roadmap for better success with the Pixel 5.
Last year's Pixel 3a success and the arrival of the Pixel 4a should also help define a better position for the Pixel 5. Instead of being a phone that's close to but not quite in the class of the iPhone and Galaxy S/Note devices, the Pixel 5 can position itself as a true competitor to those well-established handsets.
With a couple weeks remaining before Google's big launch event, there's still more information we're hoping to hear about the Pixel 5. But what we've heard so far suggests that Google is hoping to offer a more attractively priced phone to take on the iPhone and Galaxy S smartphones that dominate the market.