Get ready for a flurry of Google Pixel 5a news. After a quiet start to summer, in which we've heard little about Google's successor to the excellent Google Pixel 4a, new signs point to the Pixel 5a arriving in a month or so.
That's later than some people were expecting, given Google's habit of sometimes launching new hardware at its annual developer conference. But that May event came and went with nary a peep about the Pixel 5a. But rumors of an August launch are beginning to pick up, so it's time to familiarize yourself with the latest Pixel 5a expectations.
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Google has already said there will be a Pixel 5a, so it's a matter of when not if. And when the new phone does arrive, Google will need to bring its A-game, as there are some excellent budget-priced phones in the market from the likes of OnePlus, Motorola and Apple with the iPhone SE.
Here's what we know about the Google Pixel 5a so far.
Google Pixel 5a news (Updated July 8)
- The Pixel 5a was spotted getting FCC certification. Usually, that's a sign a phone is about ready to launch.
Google Pixel 5a release date
The release date for the Google Pixel 5a could be coming into focus, after some confusion earlier in the year. It started when a rumor claimed the Pixel 5a had been canceled due to the chip shortage plaguing the consumer electronics industry. But Google the said the "Pixel 5a 5G is not cancelled. It will be available later this year in the U.S. and Japan and announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced."
That would seemingly point to a late summer debut, given that the Pixel 4a shipped in August 2020. And according to Bloomberg's' Mark Gurman, history is going to repeat itself, as he forecasts an August 2021 launch for the Pixel 5a.
Want more proof? The Pixel 5a appears to be getting its FCC certification. Usually that happens just prior to a phone's launch. We're pretty confident the August date will be a go for this phone.
Google Pixel 5a price
The Pixel 5a's potential price is another area where the rumor mill has been mum so far. But price figures to be a major focus for this phone, not only because of the stepped-up competition but because the Pixel 4a's low cost was one of that handset's biggest selling points.
The Pixel 4a debuted with a $349 price. That was $50 cheaper than the iPhone SE as well as a $50 drop from the Pixel 3a's original price. Since then, competitors have undercut the Pixel 4a on price — the OnePlus Nord N10 5G is available for $299, for example.
You would think that Google will want to keep the Pixel 5a under the $400 threshold, or even at its predecessor's $349 price. That could be complicated by the fact that Google seems like it's adding 5G connectivity to this year's model, and that can drive up a phone's cost. The Pixel 4a doesn't have 5G, for example, while the Pixel 4a 5G does, and that latter phone costs $150 more.
For what it's worth, leaker Max Weinbach told the Mobile Tech Podcast that the Pixel 5a is likely to cost more than the Pixel 4a.
Google Pixel 5a design
Here's where we've seen some hints as to what Google might have planned for the Pixel 5a, thanks to renders posted by noted leaker Steve "OnLeaks" Hemmerstoffer. The bottom line: if you're familiar with the Pixel 4a, you already have a good idea of what the Pixel 5a looks like.
Hemmerstoffer's posted renders look a lot like last year's budget phone from Google, from the punch-hole camera cutout in the upper left corner of the display to the square camera array on the phone's back. Presumably, the Pixel 5a will be made out of plastic like its predecessors — one of the ways Google has been able to keep costs down on this part of its phone lineup.
Based on leaked Pixel 5a specs accompanying Hemmerstoffer's render, it sounds like the new phone will have a lot more in common with the Pixel 4a 5G than the Pixel 4a. The Pixel 5a is expected to feature a 6.2-inch OLED display with full HD resolution. That's the same size as the screen on the Pixel 4a 5G. At an expected 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches, the Pixel 5a would be the same size as the Pixel 4a 5G as well.
In another leak, a screen protector for what could be the Pixel 5a has been spotted in the wild. It shows a design with a punch hole for the display in the upper left corner and what appears to be fairly narrow bezels.
While some may be disappointed that Google is making few changes from last year's phones, it's not surprising that the Pixel 5a would share so much in common with its immediate predecessor. The point of this particular phone is to give consumers a lower-cost option; Google probably figures to reserve more substantial changes for its pricier flagship Pixels, like the Pixel 6 expected later in the fall.
Google Pixel 5a cameras
For the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a, Google's philosophy has been that one camera lens is good enough, especially when the company's photo processing software is on hand to do all the heavy lifting. But the Pixel 5a may take a page out of the Pixel 4a 5G's book and add a second lens — an ultrawide angle shooter joining the main camera, according to leaked specs from Hemmerstoffer. There will reportedly be a phase detection auto focus module as well.
Google inadvertently confirmed that leak, posting photos taken by a Pixel 5a to a blog post on HDR+ advancements. Among the shots Google included was one taken by an ultrawide angle lens.
In essence, that means the Pixel 5a will be adopting the Pixel 5's rear camera module, which features a 12.2MP main sensor and a 16MP ultrawide angle lens. Past budget Pixel phones have similarly adopted the optics introduced in the flagship Pixel six months earlier, so such a move would be in line with what Google's done in the past.
Besides, the Pixel 6 is apparently due for a massive camera upgrade, adopting three rear lens, according to one rumor. If that's true, it would help draw a line between the Pixel 6 flagship and the more affordable Pixel 5a, something Google didn't really do with the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.
As with previous Pixels, the true standout camera feature will be Google's flair for computational photography, with capabilities like Night Sight and Super Res Zoom stealing the show. We'd expect the Pixel 5a to adopt many of the photo features Google introduced with last year's Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5a performance, 5G and battery
Other Pixel 5a specs remain unclear at this point, though it now seems like the Pixel 5a will make use of the same Snapdragon 765G chip you got in the Pixel 4a 5G or the Pixel 5.
In some ways this is good news. It guarantees the 5a will be 5G-ready, and because it's an older chip Google's already worked with, it could mean the phone costs less overall while offering a well-optimized experience. On the other hand, it may mean the Pixel 5a falls behind rivals who do manage to get their hands on newer silicon in terms of performance. Unless Google offers the Pixel 5a for as cheap as the Pixel 4a, then it will likely sell poorly since customers will assume (perhaps rightly) that nothing has really changed between the new generation Pixel a-series phone and the one before.
Since Google seems to be adding 5G support to the Pixel 5a, that could mean a bigger battery. The Pixel 4a featured a 3,140 mAh battery while the Pixel 4a 5G and its power-hungry modem and larger screen turned to a 3,885 mAh power pack. Since neither 4a model set the world on fire with battery life — both ran out of juice in less than 9 hours on our battery test — we're hoping Google turns to a bigger battery for the Pixel 5a.
Google Pixel 5a: What we want
We're assuming that delivering the best camera phone features at an affordable price will remain the Pixel 5a's raison d'etre as it's been for similar Google handsets. But we hope that's not the only thing Google's working on for this iteration of its budget phone. Here's what we're hoping to see when the Pixel 5a debuts.
A low price (with 5G): Just as important as the camera features on this particular phone is how much it costs. Google found the sweet spot with the Pixel 4a's $349 price, and we hope the phone maker is able to keep its new model in that ballpark, even as it adds features like 5G support. We can live with an ordinary design or more modest processor, but a Pixel 5a with a ballooning price tag would be a step back for Google.
Faster refresh rate: This could be a long shot, especially if Google's already having a hard time keeping the price of this phone below the $400 mark. But the Pixel 5 features a screen with a 90Hz refresh rate, and it would be nice to see that feature make its way down to the company's budget phones. Google could argue that faster refreshing screens is one of the ways it sets its flagship phone apart, but OnePlus has had no problem with adding a 90Hz refresh rate to its dirt cheap Nord N10 5G phone.
Better battery life: The subpar battery life on both the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G was the standout flaw on either of last year's models. And there's really no reason for it. Low-cost phones make up many of the entries on our best phone battery life list, so the pressure's on Google to figure out a way to eke out more battery life on its handsets, whether that requires a bigger battery, more efficient processor or software tweaks.