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Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: All the biggest changes to expect

pixel 4 vs. Pixel 5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Sarang Sheth)

The Google Pixel 5 figures to be a much different smartphone than previous Pixel flagships to come out of Mountain View. While Google has looked to go toe-to-toe with market leaders Apple and Samsung in the past, rumors this time around point to a different tack for the Pixel 5. With this phone, Google may concentrate on what it does best — photography and software — and leave the specs race to other flagships.

That could mean a pretty dramatic departure from the Google Pixel 4 that came out last year. To find out just what kind of changes to expect, we've compared the rumored specs of the Pixel 5 vs. the Pixel 4. While all this is subject to change once Google formally announces its new phone, this Pixel face-off gives us a pretty good idea of the new direction Google could take.

Here's how the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4 compare in some key areas.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4 specs

PhonesPixel 5 (rumored)Pixel 4
Starting price$699$799
Screen size6 inches5.7 inches
Refresh rate90Hz90Hz
CPUSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 855
RAM8GB6GB
Storage128GB64GB, 128GB
CamerasMain and ultra wide (rear); Selfie (front)Main and telephoto (rear): Selfie (front)
Battery size4,000 mAh2,800 mAh
5G?YesNo

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Price

The Pixel hasn't hit the $999-and-up prices of devices like Apple's iPhone Pro or the Galaxy S and Note handsets from Samsung. But this is still a phone that's gotten more expensive over time. The Pixel 4 debuted at $799, while the Pixel 4 XL cost $899.

Rumors suggest Google wants to reverse course with the Pixel 5, offering a phone that costs substantially less than rival flagships. A survey released by Google earlier this year indicated the company planned to roll out a $699 phone, and a German tech blog subsequently reported that the Pixel 5 would cost €629, which is in the ballpark of that $699 figure. 

The bottom line is that you're likely to pay less for the Pixel 5 than you would have for the Pixel 4. But to get that lower price, it sounds like Google had to make some sacrifices, ditching some of the Pixel 4's more premium and differentiating features.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Design and display

A big difference between the Pixel 5 vs. the Pixel 4 will be the lack of different models for the new phone. While Google has always come out with two versions of the Pixel — a standard model and a larger XL phone — rumors suggest that's changing with the Pixel 5. In other words, don't look for a Pixel 5 XL.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Instead, the Pixel 5 is likely to feature a 6-inch screen — bigger than the 5.7-inch display on the Pixel 4 but not as large as the Pixel 4 XL's 6.3-inch panel. Google introduced a faster 90Hz refresh rate to the display on the Pixel 4 models, and that's all but certain to stick around for the Pixel 5. That will mean smooth scrolling and immersive gaming experiences.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

The Pixel 5 (left) and the Pixel 4a 5G, which will likely replace the XL version (Image credit: Reddit)

Early Pixel 5 renders suggested a new look for the camera array on the back of the phone, but it seems like those were flights of fancy by concept designers. Subsequent leaks have pointed to the new phone having a design very much like the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4a, with a big square camera array in the upper left corner and a sparkly finish on the back. 

On the front of the Pixel 5, the bezels around the top of the screen could shrink, as Google may get rid of the Soli sensor it added to the Pixel 4. (More on what this means for the Pixel 5's features below.)

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Cameras

The Pixel 4 introduced a second lens to the back of Google's flagship phone in the form of a 16MP telephoto lens. While there had been hopes that the Pixel 5 might work in an additional camera — specifically a wide-angle optic — it looks now like Google's upcoming phone will stick to two lenses.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

Pixel 4 (Image credit: Google)

What cameras you'll actually find on the Pixel 5, however, could be dramatically different. The next Pixel is expected to have a main shooter, as before, but instead of a telephoto lens, Google is rumored to be swapping in an ultra wide-angle camera. Be careful what you wish for, I suppose.

The move away from a telephoto lens makes sense if you buy the notion that Google is looking to keep costs down on its new phone. Telephoto sensors are expensive and usually the first cameras to be dropped from multi-lens arrays in midrange phones. What's more, Google's Super Res Zoom feature, which uses computational photography to enhance digital zoom, has proven more than capable of making up for the lack of a telephoto lens.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

Pixel 5 renders (Image credit: Pigtou and @xleaks7)

The Pixel's prowess as a camera phone has always depended heavily on Google's software to stand out from the crowd, and that's likely to continue with the Pixel 5. A Camera update found in the Android 11 beta includes features like 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 additional sharing options for video.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Performance

Based on the rumors, it looks like the Pixel 5 will be taking a step back from the Pixel 4 in terms of processing power. Previous Pixels have all featured chipsets from Qualcomm's top-of-the-line 8 Series, with the Pixel 4 running on a Snapdragon 855. At the time of the phone's late 2019 release, that was one of the best mobile processors you could find in an Android phone.

The Pixel 5 is reportedly going a different route. All signs point to Google using a Snapdragon 765G, a still capable chipset that lacks the processing oomph of something like the Snapdragon 865 Plus found in the new Samsung Galaxy Note 20. The decision could be driven by price — phones with the Snapdragon 865 series tend to cost around $1,000 (or more in some extreme cases), while Snapdragon 765-powered handsets cost as little as half that.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

(Image credit: Google)

Google gains one advantage by going with the Snapdragon 765G. That system-on-chip includes a built-in 5G modem. For all its strengths, last year's Pixel 4 featured no 5G connectivity. Google essentially confirmed that 5G is coming to the Pixel 5 when it promised the phone would debut in the fall after launching the Pixel 4a.

The Pixel 5 could also get a boost in RAM over last year's phone. Google has traditionally been pretty stingy with memory, and the Pixel 4 features just 6GB at a time when 8GB and 12GB of RAM are found in rival phones. Rumors point to the Pixel 5 getting 8GB of memory while potentially doubling the phone's capacity to 128GB.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Battery and charging

The Pixel 4 took a big step back in battery life, paying the price for Google's decision to scale back the size of the battery to 2,800 mAh. On our battery test, the Pixel 4 barely lasted 8 hours — well below average for any smartphone, let alone one that's supposed to be a flagship device.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

Pixel 5 render (Image credit: @OnLeaks and Pricebaba)

Google has apparently learned its lesson, if rumors about the Pixel 5 are true. The battery size is expected to increase to 4,000 mAh, a big gain over the Pixel 4. Throw in the energy efficient Snapdragon 765G expected to power the Pixel 5, and we could see vastly improved battery life on this phone, possibly enough to place a Google phone back among the devices with the best phone battery life.

Like the Pixel 4 — and unlike the Pixel 4a — the Pixel 5 should offer wireless charging. An FCC filing for the phone also suggests the Pixel 5 is gaining the ability to charge other Qi-compatible devices, similar to the Wireless PowerShare feature found in Samsung's flagship phones.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4 special features

The Pixel 4 introduced Motion Sense gestures controls via the Soli sensor added to the top front of the phone. With Motion Sense, your Pixel 4 could detect midair gestures like a wave of the hand and do things like skip forward when playback videos or music. Gesture controls were promising, but a little limited, and we were hoping to see Google expand on them in future phones.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4

Pixel 4 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That may not be happening any more based on early Pixel 5 rumors that suggest the Soli sensor is a goner. (That would account for the thinner bezels around the Pixel 5's screen.) It would have been nice if Google had more fully developed Motion Sense, but if it means a lower price for the Pixel 5, that's probably a trade-off most users will make. We hope this doesn't affect the Face Unlock feature on the Pixel 5, as that was one of the Pixel 4's great strengths.

You can expect the Pixel 5 to ship with Android 11, which Google is currently working on in the background. Of course, the Pixel 4 will be one of the first existing phones to get the Android 11 update, so that's hardly an edge for the latest Pixel.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4: Outlook

The Pixel 5 will definitely be a different phone from the Pixel 4. Whether it will be a step backward is something we won't know until we get a chance to compare the two devices and find out which Pixel 5 rumors are fact and which are  fiction.

But based on this Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4 comparison, it's safe to assume the Pixel 5 will be a less expensive phone that's banking on its value and software features to make up for some of the downsized specs from the Pixel 4.