Last night, leaker John Prosser took to Twitter to let the world know that he is 100% confident that Google’s upcoming Pixel 5 phone will cost $699. If for some reason you know nothing of the Pixel 5 up to this point, that price probably sounds fair. It may even sound pretty great considering the myriad of $1000+ flagship smartphones out there these days, but there’s something about the Pixel 5 you definitely need to know: it isn’t a flagship phone.
Instead, the Pixel 5 is more of a deceleration for Google in the smartphone race. Where flagship phones keep pushing more specs, the Pixel 5 is decidedly reserved. Where big phones keep getting bigger, the Pixel 5 is actually shrinking down. Where top-tier means Snapdragon 865 or 865+ in late 2020, the Pixel 5 pulls back to the more-reasonable 765G. So, who is this phone for?
With the heralded arrival of the Pixel 4a at its jaw-dropping $349 price tag, I was hopeful we would see equally-aggressive pricing for the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5. If rumors hold, the slightly upgraded Pixel 4a 5G (bigger screen, bigger battery, and faster 765G processor compared to the standard 4a) will come in at $499 and still be respectable. I’d like to see $449, but the 4a 5G will be a nice combo of bargain choices and fast-enough power.
The Pixel 5 does add a lot to the equation when compared to its 2020 Pixel friends (same 765G processor, a bump to 8GB of RAM from the 6GB in the 4a, a 90hz screen, IP water resistance, wireless charging, and presumably better build materials), but when stacked up against the Pixel 4 from last year, the comparison isn’t so rosey. The Pixel 4 is still faster with its Snapdragon 855 processor, the screen is nearly the same 90hz panel, and the build is likely on par with the Pixel 5, too. Remember, though, that the Pixel 4 housed both a secure face ID sensor array and the Project Soli radar system. Both were gimmicks and both are fine to be left off the Pixel 5, but both most definitely cost money to build and ship.
And you are telling me that a 2020 phone that is shipping with the Snapdragon 765G and removing all those expensive parts is only $100 cheaper? We’re seriously going to put the Pixel 5 next to something like the $399 OnePlus Nord and think it is OK to be charging $300 more for it? Or are we all OK with a price tag equal to Samsung’s recently-introduced Galaxy S20 FE that comes packing a 120hz display, 3 cameras, an in-display fingerprint scanner, and the MUCH faster Snapdragon 865 chip? Sigh.
I may not have had the Pixel 5 on the radar for a daily driver this year due to the underpowered chip set, but I still root for Google to succeed. In the past few weeks, I started to feel like Google understands its place in the market and knows that mid-range phones with a few high-end perks are their bread and butter. Then a $699 price tag leaks out for a phone that is decidedly not a flagship and most certainly mid-range and I’m back to wondering if Google gets it or not.
While this is all informed speculation until next Wednesday, I have the sneaking suspicion that $699 is exactly what we’ll see with the Pixel 5, and I think it will be a huge miss. There’s simply not enough upgrade to justify that price when compared with other devices or Google’s own, upcoming Pixel 4a 5G. It’s confusing and a bit of a shame, really. Each year we hope Google figures out this phone thing and each year I keep wondering when exactly that is going to happen. Maybe Pixel 6?