The Pixel 5 is going to be a different kind of flagship phone from Google, with more modest specs to achieve a lower price point than the company's previous premium handsets. And while we have known this for a while, what we didn't know was precisely how much cheaper the Pixel 5 would be compared to, say, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 3, which each launched at $799.
The good news is we may potentially have our answer; the bad news is it's not the answer anyone probably wanted to hear. According to leaker Jon Prosser, the Pixel 5 will cost $699. Moreover, Prosser says he's "100%" sure of this.
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While $699 certainly qualifies as cheap these days in the realm of flagship phones, the Pixel 5 doesn't look to be an enticing value, especially compared to rival devices that are launching at the very same time.
The recently unveiled Samsung Galaxy S20 FE costs $699 as well, but that device has a legitimate high-end processor — the Snapdragon 865 — unlike the Pixel 5's expected Snapdragon 765G. The Galaxy S20 FE has a dedicated telephoto camera with an optical zoom, which the dual-lens Pixel 5 will purportedly miss out on. The Pixel 5 is rumored to have a smaller battery than Samsung's latest Galaxy, as well as a slower peak refresh rate, if that's something you care about.
Pixel 5 5G 128Gb $699100%September 24, 2020
But the Galaxy S20 FE isn't the only competing handset Google should be worried about. There's also the OnePlus 8T, which will be revealed October 14, and likely match the Galaxy S20 FE on a lot of these points, especially in terms of performance. And we can't forget the entry-level, 5.4-inch model of the iPhone 12, which could cost as little as $699 even though it's destined to pack Apple's pace-setting A14 Bionic silicon.
All of this is to say I don't know how Google can expect to get away with selling the Pixel 5 at the same price as those devices, when it's going to be considerably slower and therefore more likely to bog down over years of ownership. The Snapdragon 765 series of CPUs, while very good, are regularly appearing in devices that cost $200 to $250 less than the Pixel 5 will based on this rumor. I'm even reviewing one right now, in the form of the $449 Motorola One 5G.
You also have to consider the other handset Google figures to launch on Sept. 30 — the Pixel 4a 5G. That device will have the exact same chipset, but ditch some of the Pixel 5's more luxurious features, like IP68 water resistance, wireless charging and that 90Hz refresh rate for the display. And Google has already confirmed that phone will cost $499.
Unless those three differentiating features are worth $200 to you — and I doubt many people would argue that they are — I'm not sure why anyone would turn down the Pixel 4a 5G or the even cheaper $349 Pixel 4a in favor of the Pixel 5. For $599 or $649, you might be able to make the case. At $699, though? I'm not seeing it, and I really hope Prosser's intel is wrong.
Over the past year and change, Google has gotten very good, very quickly at delivering excellent affordable handsets. Mountain View has a clear understanding of what smartphone buyers on a budget really want, yet at the same time it's demonstrated no understanding of why some people purchase flagships. Maybe it shouldn't bother making them anymore.