Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G review: Can Google's new cheap phone beat Apple and Samsung?
The Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4A are extremely similar machines.
They share the same cameras, both are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765 chipset (which is actually a downgrade compared to the 855 in the Pixel 4) and both run Android 11.
Bizarrely, the screen on the new Pixel 4A is bigger (6.2" vs 6.0") — so what are you getting for that extra $200?
The Pixel 5 is water-resistant and supports wireless and reverse wireless charging. It has a 90Hz screen (think 90 frames per second) for smoother scrolling and gaming, which should also run better on 8GB RAM vs the Pixel 4A's 6GB.
The Pixel 5 is also built with Gorilla Glass 6 surrounded by an aluminium frame and back.
Comparatively, the Pixel 4A is plastic but it also comes with a classic 3.5mm headphone jack that's missing on the Pixel 5.
Otherwise their design is the same. There's no option to upgrade or expand the phones' 128GB storage, both feature a finger-print reader on the back and both have traded the radar on their predecessors for an edge-to-edge screen featuring an 8MP hole-punch selfie camera in the top-left corner.
Google has (finally) added an 16MP ultra-wide lens next to the 12.2MP wide lens on the back of the new Pixels.
On paper, that pales in comparison to the hardware inside Samsung's offerings but, as always, Google's secret weapon is software.
Photos on the new Pixels are still beautiful. Google pictures, like Samsungs, have a distinct look in contrast and saturation. Which photos look better comes down to personal preference but I've always had an appreciation for the high contrast, vibrant look of the Pixel's photos.
Google has also improved portrait mode which now works at night and added an AI lighting feature to touch up portraits (even older shots) in post.
Three different stabiliser levels have been added to the Pixel's video to mimic cinematic moves, which will go unused by most.
Google has stripped out much of what made the Pixel 4's hardware unique to bring the price of the Pixel 5 down.
The radar system which could sense when your hand was close and wake-up the phone is gone, as is the fastest face-unlock on a phone I've ever experienced. That face-unlock was powered by Google's own machine learning chip known as Neural Core, which is also out.
Google insists the Pixel 5 and 4A (with 5G) will get similar power out of the Snapdragon 765 chip and I haven't noticed any problems during my time with the phones.
What has been fixed, is the old Pixel woeful battery life. Google has added "extreme battery saver" but I'm happy to report I've never needed to use it. Both the Pixel 5 and the new 4A have had no problems powering through entire workdays without needing a charge until bedtime.
Google's not-so-secret weapon has always been its software.
Not only do the Pixels launch with Android 11, it's also improving the Google Assistant and my personal favourite app, Recorder.
Assistant's new "Hold For Me" feature is touted to end everyone's most hated chore, waiting on hold. I've not had an opportunity to try the feature for myself, but push a button and the new Pixels will monitor the call for you and notify you when the person on the other line has come back to chat.
As for the upgraded Recorder, not only does it transcribe people's voices without an internet connection (which is a godsend during long-winded COVID-19 interviews), you can now delete words from the transcript and have it reflected in the audio. It's genuinely remarkable and easy audio editing.
Google has sacrificed some of what made its phones special to play in a new, cheaper market.
At $799, the new Pixel 4A is an easy sell: 5G with the essential bells and whistles at the most affordable price.
The little extra you get on the Pixel 5 is somewhat negated by its smaller screen and the knowledge that this flagship has lost some wind from its sails.