There’s a lot to unpack with the Google Pixel 5, since the search giant is seemingly doing everything it can to avoid the mistakes it made with last year’s Pixel 4. This includes boosting the amount of screen real estate.
Google’s added a proper full screen display this year, with a hole punch camera and no ugly notches getting in the way of things. But there’s a secret hiding in plain sight, in the form of a speaker under the display.
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Anyone who’s looked closely at the Pixel 5 will notice that there’s no obvious speaker grill at the top of the phone. That’s not entirely uncommon, since phone companies are getting incredibly good at hiding them. But in this case, it’s because that grill isn’t actually there; instead it's hiding under the screen.
We know that because Google has published an official hardware diagram of the Pixel 5, showcasing which hardware features are where. The bottom speaker is in its usual place on the base of the phone, but the top speaker is nowhere near the top bezel.
The official imagery suggests that the speaker is right in the middle, one Pixel 5 screen protector has a cut-out suggesting it’s positioned slightly to the left. It’s not clear why the cutout is necessary, since the under-display speaker already has to pump vibrations through the screen itself. Perhaps Google’s trying to make sure nothing interrupts whatever it is you’re listening to.
Under-display speakers aren’t exactly new, and we’ve seen them before on devices like the LG G8, Huawei P30 Pro, and Huawei P40 Pro. That said, they’re not particularly common, with a lot of phone makers instead opting to make their top speakers more discreet and less noticeable.
An under-display speaker isn’t particularly groundbreaking either, so it’s no surprise Google didn’t bother to tell us about it at the Pixel 5’s launch event. In fact, a lot of people won’t even realise it’s there, which is invariably a good thing.
Hopefully, this is the start of more wide-scale inclusion of under-display speaker tech, taking us a little bit closer to the truly uninterrupted full-screen displays phone makers have been promising us. The OnePlus 7 did this with its pop-up selfie camera, and the Samsung Galaxy S21 could pull this off with an under-display camera, but a recent rumor has cast doubt on this killer upgrade.