The Google Pixel 5 is facing big challenges, and the phone hasn't even been released — or announced — yet. But when it does arrive, Google's next flagship phone will face stepped-up competition in a key area where the Pixel has always stood out.
That would be mobile photography, where the Pixel has always enjoyed a great reputation for taking superior pictures. Last year's Pixel 4, for example, still ranks as one of the best camera phones, thanks to its deft use of Google's software-powered computational photography. But other phones are closing the gap — and in some cases, they've even topped what the Pixel can do.
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Google Pixel 5 cheat sheet: What you need to know
• Release date: Fall 2020
• Price: $699 and up
• Processor: Snapdragon 865, 765G or 768G
• Cameras: Three rear lenses — main camera plus telephoto and ultra wide angle lens
• Other key specs: 5G connectivity, 90Hz screens
Since the Pixel 4 arrived, Samsung has rolled out a trio of top camera phones, led by the Galaxy S20 Ultra and its 108MP resolution and 10x lossless zoom. Apple's iPhone 12 is expected to arrive before the Pixel 5 — unless production delays push back that rumored September launch — and camera improvements will again be at the forefront of the changes Apple introduces.
Google will likely go upmarket with the Pixel 5 and pack in the kind of high-end features that really allow its phones to go toe-to-toe with the best that Samsung and Apple have to offer. That would be a change for the Pixel, which up until now has staked its claim for the title of best phone by doing more with less. It will also have to address some of the flaws from last year's Pixels, which include dim displays and disappointing battery life.
If Google can deliver hardware more in line with the competition, while also bringing to bear the strength of its software, this could be a big year for the Pixel. 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 and rumors (Updated May 21)
- A report claiming the Pixel 4a release is being pushed back could also have an impact on the Pixel 5's fall launch.
- Google has sent around a price survey that hints the Pixel 5 could cost $699 — a $100 drop from last year's starting price.
- A report claims the Pixel 5 might drop the Soli sensor introduced with the Pixel 4, which would mean an end to the Motion Sensor features that phone supports.
Google Pixel 5 release date
Google has been remarkably consistent with when it rolls out its new Pixel flagships. The Pixel 4 debuted at an Oct. 15 event last year, before shipping nine days later. That was a week later than the announcement and launch of the Pixel 3 in 2018. So we'd look at early to mid-October for the Google Pixel 5 release.
Before you ink that date into the calendar, though, keep in mind that the coronavirus outbreak is having an impact on consumer goods assembled in China. For example, some reports claim that Apple may have to delay the fall launch of the iPhone 12 because of factory closures and travel restrictions related to the disease. And Apple is hardly the only phone maker to have its devices assembled overseas where the coronavirus' impact has been the most severe. Keep an eye on shifting release schedules for all phones, including the Pixel 5.
To that end, phone leaker Jon Prosser says that the Pixel 4a — Google's budget smartphone — may not be announced until July, and sales won't begin until August. It's not that the phone isn't ready, but Google is reportedly holding the Pixel 4a back because of market conditions.
Pixel 4aI’m confused too, but here’s what I know 👇Timelines got pushed due to market conditions - not due to supply chain. Units are ready to ship.Announcement July 13Market launch“Just Black” - August 6th“Barely Blue” - October 1stPixel 5 likely pushed back, also. https://t.co/d6QLtKzxSBMay 21, 2020
So how does that impact the Pixel 5? Prosser says the delayed Pixel 4a rollout could push back the release of Google's flagship phone, too.
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. It will be interesting to see if Google holds the line on its smartphone prices, given that the cost of flagship models has been trending upward. The Galaxy S20, for example, starts at $999 — $100 more than the Galaxy S10's debut price — while Samsung cut the cost of last year's S10 models by $150.
While it wouldn't be shocking to see the Google Pixel 5's price climb toward that $999 starting point that the Galaxy S20 and iPhone 11 Pro have both reached, Google would have to make the new phone a much more substantive upgrade to justify the hike.
Google could wind up going in the other 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.
We're likely to once again see a Pixel 5 and a Pixel 5 XL, according to the source of Pixel 5 rendering. The device on display here is reportedly the Pixel 5 XL. How Google distinguishes between those two models remains to be seen, though traditionally the big differentiating factors between the regular Pixel and the XL version are screen size and battery.
Google Pixel 5 design
We have seen only a handful of leaked images of the Google Pixel 5 so far, led by a CAD rendering of the back of a Pixel 5 XL published by Front Page Tech, reportedly one of three potential designs for the smartphone.
With the exception of centering the camera module and running it all the way to the top of the frame, this isn't a significant departure from the Pixel 4. The rest of the back appears to be the same frosted glass look that Google has relied on in the past.
Front Page Tech did indicate that it had also seen the front of a Pixel 5 prototype, and that it still featured a forehead bezel like the Pixel 4; no other details about the Pixel 5's look were revealed.
The Pixel line has never been known for its groundbreaking design. Based on our first look at the phone via this render, that's likely to remain true of the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 display
There are no rumors yet regarding the display in the Google Pixel 5, but with the Pixel 4, we saw Google step up to a 90Hz refresh rate on an OLED with Full-HD resolution (or QHD if you're looking at the Pixel 4 XL). On the Pixel 4, the screen's refresh rate will drop to 60Hz if the display gets too dim.
Although Samsung made the jump to 120Hz across the board with the Galaxy S20 line, it's possible that Google will stick to 90Hz for another year with the Pixel 5. That refresh rate is still an improvement over the 60Hz rate that's common to most top phones, while not putting as big a strain on the battery as 120Hz does.
For what it's worth, the person posting rumored images of the Pixel 5 to Slashleaks says that the 90Hz refresh rate will be back for the Pixel 5.
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 shows off three lenses on the back of the phone. Presumably, that's a wide-angle camera joining the standard and telephoto lens already found on Google's phones. Beyond the basic focal lengths, there are no rumors yet on the precise specifications for any of the lenses.
Google Pixel 5 specs
Earlier this spring, Qualcomm touted more than a dozen phones that feature its latest system-on-chip, the Snapdragon 865. The Google Pixel 5 wasn't included, but don't panic — Qualcomm's list only features phones that have already been announced. Since past Pixel flagships have featured the best Qualcomm chip available, it's a safe bet that the Snapdragon 865 is coming to the Pixel 5, just like it will be found in most of the best Android phones coming out this year.
Or at least that's what we assumed until 9to5Google got its hands on the Camera app for the upcoming Pixel 4a release. Within that app, there's code related to the Pixel 5 which suggests that phone will ship with a Snapdragon 765G system-on-chip.
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.
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. The Snapdragon 865 doesn't come with an integrated 5G modem, but Qualcomm requires phone makers to include its X55 5G modem with the chipset. Every Snapdragon 865-powered device announced as of this writing — in addition to the Galaxy S20 family, the chipset is also found in the Sony Xperia 1 II and the LG V60 ThinQ — features 5G connectivity, and it's all but certain the Google Pixel 5 will follow suit. Even Google turns to the Snapdragon 765 instead, that processing platform includes a 5G modem.
That's one of the factors that could drive up the cost of the Pixel 5 — 5G-powered phones tend to cost more than their LTE-based counterparts. But presumably the Pixel 4a would be available for budget-minded shoppers who don't feel the need to upgrade to 5G just yet.
Google Pixel 5 battery
There are no rumors regarding the size of the battery in the Google Pixel 5 yet, but it will be one of the most sought-after details. The battery size and battery life of the Pixel 4, in particular, 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. The Pixel 4 XL fared better, thanks to its larger 3,700 mAh battery, but its 9 hour and 42 minute time is still below what we'd expect from a leading smartphone.
The Pixel 5 could add another welcome power-management feature if data found by XDA Developers in an Android 11 developer preview is accurate. That leak claims that the Pixel 5 will support reverse wireless charging, allowing Google's phone to charge other Qi-compatible devices simply by placing them on the back of the phone.
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. Android 11 is already available as a developer preview, and we'd bet the house on that version coming to the Google Pixel 5.
Details about Android 11 features are expected to come into focus on June 3 when Google hosts an Android 11 preview event. (That same event may also give us a glimpse at the low-cost Pixel 4a.) So far we know that Android 11 will have new permission controls, messaging improvements and under-the-hood improvements aimed at 5G.
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.
What about the Pixel 4a?
The Pixel 5 won't be the first phone Google releases this year, of course. We're expecting to see a successor to last year's Pixel 3a, with the Pixel 4a now tipped to arrive June 5 — a few days after Google shows off its Android 11 preview.
Google launched the Pixel 3a lineup as a way to give phone shoppers a low cost alternative to its pricier flagships. The Pixel 3a offered the same computational photography features found in the Pixel 3 lineup, but with slower processors and less impressive specs. The promise of a lower-cost phone that still delivered excellent pictures proved to be a hit, and Google's expected to roll out a sequel in the spring.
You can visit our Pixel 4a hub for the full rundown of rumors, specs and pricing info. But look for the Pixel 4a to have a single rear camera, plastic body and a processor Qualcomm's Snapdragon 7 series — most likely a Snapdragon 730 chipset.
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 expected arrival of the Pixel 4a in June 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.
We still have a lot to find out about the Pixel 5 and probably eight more months of rumors and leaks. So stay tuned to find out just what the Google Pixel 5 will deliver when it arrives later this year.