The Pixel 5’s display is in line with the latest top-end phones from Apple and Samsung, but changes to its features and a lower price put the handset more directly in competition with lower-end phones from those companies.
Google started offering its own smartphones with much fanfare in 2016, after years of collaborating with handset makers on a bespoke Nexus line intended to demonstrate the best of its Android operating system.
Progress has been slow. IDC data show Pixel shipments rose 52 per cent to 7.2 million units last year, but Apple, Samsung and Huawei each sell more than 100 million handsets a year.
The Pixel 5 moves to a front display that is almost all screen. Both new phones include slower processors, fewer camera sensors and cost less than the premier phones from Google’s rivals.
Google has also removed the facial recognition camera and motion sensor from last year’s Pixel 4, instead adding a hole-punch sized notch for the camera and reverting to a fingerprint sensor on the back. The US starting price for the Pixel 5 is $US699 ($975), $US100 less than last year, and the same price as the entry-level iPhone 11.
Apple and Samsung’s latest top offerings cost more than $US1000. Rick Osterloh, Google’s hardware chief, said the company removed expensive components because it didn’t want to sell a $US1000 phone that would price many consumers out of the market in an economic downturn.
The flagship handset unveiled on Wednesday for new fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks now comes in a single 6-inch model, replacing the 5.7-inch and 6.3-inch Pixel 4 offerings from last year.
It comes in black and green. The phone also adds the ability to charge headphones on the phone’s back, and a new, low-power mode to extend battery life.
Pixel devices have won over some customers with capable cameras and photo-related software. But Apple and other manufacturers have caught up and one of Google’s leading camera technology experts, Marc Levoy, left this year.
The Pixel 5 adds an ultrawide-angle camera, replacing the telephoto camera lens from last year’s model. The latest setup helps users photograph more of the environment, while the telephoto lens had more zoom.
Google is making up for the lack of optical zoom with software. Apple and Samsung offer three separate cameras on the rear of their pricier top-tier phones.
The front camera on the Pixel 5 is 8 megapixels, the same as the Pixel 4, but the new handset has more memory and a larger battery. The phone also adds a feature to use portrait mode in the dark and new modes for enhanced video stabilisation.
The Pixel 4a 5G is similar to the Pixel 4a announced in August, but adds a 6.2-inch screen, improved cameras and a faster processor. That phone costs $US499, considerably more than the smaller non-5G variant. Both phones are scheduled to be released on October 15, Google said.
Apple plans to launch four new iPhones this month, adding faster chips, improved cameras, its largest and smallest display options and an updated design, Bloomberg News has reported.
Google introduced other hardware products on Wednesday, including a new Nest Audio speaker and an updated Chromecast TV streaming device.
The Australian prices and specifications for the new devices are:
- Pixel 5: $999. Colours available: Sorta Sage and Just Black
- Pixel 4a with 5G: $799. Colours available: Just Black
- Nest Audio: $149. Colours available: Chalk and Charcoal
- Chromecast with Google TV: $99. Colours available: Snow, Sunrise and Sky.