- Battery life
- No glass back + retaining wireless charging
- Class matching photo quality
- Improved video quality
- Fingerprint sensor
- 5G support for futureproofing
- Performance is great for 99% of tasks
- Unless you need waterproofing, it doesn’t offer a ton more than the 4a 5G
- Confusing marketing strategy will hinder the public perception of the phone
- Video quality likely still not up to par with Samsung/Apple
- Minimal design not to everyones taste
- Spec-nerds/many YouTube reviewers will scoff at the the “mid-spec” processor and same main camera sensor/lens combo and jump to conclusions
Last year after getting my Pixel 4, I wrote a post here (Pixel 4 thoughts: a good phone let down by Google's bad bets) outlining the three bets Google made on last year’s model that backfired on them. This year’s Pixel 5 address all three of these issues and includes a move back to a reliable fingerprint sensor (extremely useful advantage over face unlock in modern-mask wearing scenarios) and the unexpected move back to an aluminum rear casing, while maintaining wireless charging convienence.
Battery life has been solid to excellent so far. I’m a heavy daily user of my phone: I synchronise 2 x work email accounts + gmail, push notifications for all, have bluetooth connected to my Withings watch and aeropex headphones most of the day & commute daily in areas of limited/weak mobile signal while streaming video/music for entertainment. With my Pixel 4 probably hitting the 40% mark at lunch time with this usage, the Pixel 5 is easily making it through till home time with 45-50% left. Of course this is a brand new battery, but the bigger capacity is showing it’s worth in combination with the less power hungry processor.
Performance has been on par with my Pixel 4…for my use. Now if you like to play graphic intensive games or edit 4K video on your phone you might notice the difference but even when I’m editing RAW files in Lightroom mobile, I’m not noticing a significant disadvantage compared to the Pixel 4. When taking photos, even with the lack of the Pixel core for camera processing the speed to generate the final image after capture isn’t much worse than the 4; not too sure what reviewers are complaining about here.
Speaking of the camera, the most annoying comments I’ve seen from reviewers is criticising Google for sticking with the same sensor+lens combo yet still praising the photos in particular as great, although no longer class leading as it was in the Pixel 2 days. The common thought out there is that with better hardware Google would be able to get better results from it’s algorithims.
The issue I have with this is the same as the assumption that a technically better camera will get you better photos. If you take a photographer with camera gear from a few years ago (older sensor/processor) but who understands how to get the best out of that hardware; handing them a brand new top spec camera won’t neccasarily make their photos better.
Google themselves have mentioned this as the reason why they stuck with the same camera hardware (https://www.theverge.com/21496686/pixel-5-camera-comparison-sensor-specs-features). Given they are still producing results in photos that can be compared to newer hardware from the top manufacturers, and often is preferred by those who like the “look” of the Pixel’s processing; it’s a strange thing to criticise their consistency of results.
The camera is what you expect, with a ultrawide this year instead of the telephoto for even more flexibility. It is a shame that Google’s proven photo quality is, predictably, dismissed in the review space because of the lack of something new.
I’m very happy with the Pixel 5 coming from the 4. But in the end, the biggest barrier to the Pixel 5’s success is the Pixel 4a 5G. Bang for buck, the 4a 5G gives you 90% of the phone for 70% of the price. Want to save even more and can sacrifice a little performance/battery life to maintain the smooth experience and photo quality, the standard 4a is half the cost.
Side-note Once again, I find myself liking the Pixel fabric case despite initially regretting the purchase. I still have a ultra-thin case and screen protector on the way but it’s likely I’ll stick with the fabric case regardless.