Google has officially unveiled its next midrange phone, the Pixel 5a. The big news today (and always the main selling point of the Pixel A-series) is the price, which is $449, or $100 more than the Pixel 4a. Google’s blog post includes a phone comparison sheet showing its lineup as the Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, and Pixel 4a, so hopefully the $349 Pixel 4a is sticking around.
Part of the reason for the price increase is that the Pixel 5a is a bigger phone, with a 6.34-inch display and 73.7 mm width compared to the Pixel 4a’s 5.8-inch display and 69.4 mm width. Another big change is the addition of IP67 dust and water resistance, which means the phone should survive submersion in 3 feet of water (1 meter) for 30 minutes. As with the Pixel 5, the Pixel 5a’s body is metal coated in plastic instead of the pure plastic body of the Pixel 4a. We didn’t see the appeal of this construction in the Pixel 5, but the new phone is presumably stronger now.
As usual, we’re getting a no-frills design that takes care of the basics. On the front, there’s a slim-bezel OLED display and a hole-punch camera in the top right, while there are two cameras (main and wide-angle) and a capacitive fingerprint reader on the back. Specs include a Snapdragon 765G (that’s a 7 nm chip with two Cortex A76 cores and six Cortex A55 cores), 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and the biggest battery of any Pixel: 4680 mAh. The main camera is 12.2 MP and looks like the same Sony IMX363 sensor that Google has used for the past four years. There’s a 16 MP wide-angle and an 8 MP front camera. Oh yeah, the headphone jack is sticking around for at least one more year.
If there’s a disappointment with the Pixel 5a, it’s the 60 Hz display, which is looking pretty slow in a world where 90 Hz and 120 Hz are often the norm. We’re not talking about high-end phones, either. OnePlus sells a 90 Hz phone in the US for $180, while the Galaxy A52 5G has a 120 Hz display and costs $500 in the US. (Of course, there are better deals internationally, but the Pixel 5a is not competing in those markets.)
Since its launch in 2019, the Pixel A series has been one of the best midrange phones you can buy. The phones usually combine solid specs, a no-nonsense design, stock Android, and three years of Google’s day-one Android updates. The phones are great if you can get them, but most people can’t. Google is one of the world’s largest companies, but its hardware division has a very small footprint, typically only shipping Pixel phones in anywhere from nine to 13 countries. The Pixel 5a distribution will be even smaller, with Google officially listing only the US and Japan. For comparison, a top-shelf launch from Samsung or Apple usually debuts in around 70 countries and often expands to 100+ countries in the subsequent months.
Google is also falling behind when it comes to the phone’s support lifecycle. The Pixel 5a will get three years of major updates and three years of security updates, while Samsung now offers three years of major updates and four years of security updates, even on cheaper phones in the Pixel 5a price range. Samsung will be a lot slower than Google at shipping these phones out, but it feels wrong that the creator of Android doesn’t offer the longest support life cycle anymore.
The Pixel 5a is up for preorder now and ships on August 26.