The waiting game for the Google Pixel 5a could be about to reach its endpoint. The next version of Google's budget phone has apparently gone to the FCC for certification from that regulatory agency, a common step for smartphones just before they're released.
As reported by 9to5Google, the Pixel 5a's arrival at the FCC was spotted by a Twitter user. The information included with the regulatory filing doesn't reveal much about the Pixel 5a, other than the one models has great support for sub-6GHz 5G bands. It was already rumored that the Pixel 5a would run on the 5G-equipped Snapdragon 765G system-on-chip, so 5G compatibility for Google's phone was widely assumed.
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Really, the significance of this regulatory filing would seem to be that the Pixel 5a is on track for a launch this summer — something that Google has more or less confirmed in the past.
2 new Google FCC phone certifications: A4RG1F8F & A4RG4S1M (both Qualcomm SoC). "FCC ID: A4RG1F8F (original model: G1F8F) and FCC ID: A4RG4S1M (variant model: GR0M2, G4S1M) are HW identical except components depopulated for FR1 n41." pic.twitter.com/vyxcOqGsLeJuly 8, 2021
Earlier this year, a report had circulated that Google planned to cancel the Pixel 5a. The phone maker denied that report, saying that the updated model would definitely come to the U.S. and Japan. Google added that the Pixel 5a would be "announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced."
That refers to the Pixel 4a, which Google announced on August 3, 2020; the phone started shipping in the U.S. a few weeks later on August 20, with the Pixel 4a 5G arriving in October. If the Pixel 5a is going through regulatory approvals now, that would make a debut in early August very likely.
For what it's worth, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has also reported that the Pixel 5a would be "announced and released in August," without offering any additional information about the phone's rollout.
The Pixel A series has proven to be a popular addition to Google's line of smartphones, mostly because it delivers many of the same photo features as the flagship Pixel but at a much lower price. The Pixel 4a cost $349 for example, which is $350 less than what the Pixel 5 will run you.
Google could be hard-pressed to match that $349 price for the Pixel 5a given all the features the new model could be adding. In addition to 5G connectivity — which made the Pixel 4a 5G $150 more expensive than its LTE counterpart — the new model is expected to add an ultrawide angle camera after featuring only one rear lens on the Pixel 3a and 4a. The Snapdragon 765G powering the Pixel 5 would also be a step up from the Pixel 4a's Snapdragon 730G chipset.
As with previous Pixel A models, we expect the focus of the Pixel 5a to be on the software-powered photo features Google is bringing over from its flagship devices. All this should be confirmed soon enough, now that the Pixel 5a appears to have reached the certification stage.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.