Despite being Google’s best phone and classed as their “flagship” device, you could argue that Google has gone back to basics in a bid to get the simple stuff right. The tech giant has slashed the costs of their new device compared to the Pixel 4, removed some unnecessary additions and focused attention on the most important parts to their phones.
Having previously tried to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung at the top of the smartphone tree, Google has decided to reign it back in and tap into a different market. What they’ve done with the Pixel 5 is make the best Pixel phone while still managing to play it safe. By improving its battery and already impressive cameras alongside the addition of 5G compatibility, Google has managed to still save customer’s money while improving its offering.
So what are the big differences to last year’s Pixel 4? There’s no glitz and glamour to the launch of this phone. No wow factor like there was with the Pixel 3 and ability to make reservations at restaurants while not speaking on phone calls. They have also got rid of face unlock, which they have replaced with a rear fingerprint sensor that can be found on older models and the Pixel 4a.
Even without the fireworks and snazzy presentations of their new devices, it’s still a very good phone. What they have done is focused on increasing the simplicity and reliability so that overall, the whole package of the phone is seriously impressive, even if it doesn’t shout out at you.
The best place to drill down into with this phone is every Pixel’s main talking point: The cameras. Competitors have struggled to compete with the Pixel camera’s strength for years and the new flagship is no exception to the trend. The pictures taken on the device are sharp, bright and stunning even if they’ve been taken in the dark. The setup is a 12MP main shooter like its predecessor, but the Pixel 5 has swapped out the 4’s 2x optical telephoto lens for a 16MP ultra-wide lens. For me personally, this makes a lot more sense as I tend to use an ultra-wide more.
As well as being able to snap some fantastic shots, Google offers the option to edit individual photos with alterations to lighting, cropping and saturation. When it comes to taking videos, they have made improvements by offering three different types of stability modes. These include Active, Locked, and Cinematic Pan. All three modes help to give the Pixel 5 the feeling of being able to take drone-like footage that’s buttery smooth.
In fact, buttery smooth really is the best way to describe this phone in almost every way. The combination of being powered by a Snapdragon 765G processor along with the 6-inch device’s 90-Hz refresh rate display makes using the phone fantastic. While it may not offer you 120-Hz like some premium devices, I found using the display to be fast, responsive and it did not stutter once with any activities. Yes, the processor may not be the updated Snapdragon 865 Processor, but I’m still really happy with the performance. Especially if the old chip is still more than capable. Hey, it’s even kept the costs down!
Carrying on its trend with the Pixel 4a, there is only one configuration of the 5 model, packing 128GB of storage and 8GB of ram. A notable feature is the addition of 5G compatibility. If you live in a city that has 5G speeds, get ready to enjoy fast mobile internet on Google’s premium device. Much to the delight of previous Pixel users, one of the most improved aspects of the phone is the upgrade from a 2,800mAh to 4,000mAh battery. If you used any of the previous flagships, you’d struggle to make it to the end of the day on a single charge. Now though, any anxiety of running out of charge has been left in the past. I found when using the device that I could easily make it through a whole day on a single charge with plenty still in the tank.
The back of the phone is made of aluminium and the phone gets rid of any fingerprints and just feels nicer to hold. You can also feel an extra layer of ‘bio-resin’, which is essentially a thin layer of plastic. That layer helps the phone to wirelessly charge, something that has been previously difficult with phones that have metal backs. The aluminium part makes the phone feel more durable; a welcome alternative to the glass backs of the iPhones and premium Android devices. Another great charging feature to note is its Battery share: The ability to charge other devices like Pixel Buds and alternative wireless earphones by simply placing them on the back of the phone.
The Pixel 5 will set you back £599 ($699) which as we’ve already mentioned is cheaper than the top premium flagship phones. But in releasing the Pixel 4a 5G alongside the slightly smaller 4a, Google is essentially competing with itself. The 4A 5G uses the same processor and costs £100 less, at £499. Now that other companies are bringing out mid-range versions of smartphones, Google also finds itself competing with the cheaper OnePlus Nord or even the more premium OnePlus 8T.
Overall, I think that this is an absolutely fantastic phone that still has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market. Android 11 has never felt so good and the additions of 5G, wireless charging and better battery life make it a fantastic daily driver. While the Pixel 5 is Google’s flagship phone, it isn’t exactly crying out to be a flagship like the direction the rest of the industry is heading in. Google is trying to do something different with its latest lineup and appeal to those looking to maybe pay a little less and get better value for money.
To some, the simplicity and minimalism may be a little too unadventurous. It’s true that Google may have played 2020 very safe with some easy wins. But if you’re looking for a top quality phone that doesn’t cost flagship prices, this device has all the features you need at a more affordable price.