Gordon Reid discusses Alphabet
Google launched a pair of new 5G Android smartphones: the Pixel 5, its flagship model, and the Pixel 4a 5G, an entry-level device with faster cellular network speeds.
The US$699 Pixel 5 matches the design of the latest top-end phones from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., moving to a front display that is almost all screen. The Alphabet Inc. unit 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.
Google started offering its own smartphones with much fanfare in 2016, after years of collaborating with handset manufacturers on a bespoke Nexus line intended to demonstrate the best of its Android operating system. Progress has been slow. While IDC data show Pixel shipments rose 52% to 7.2 million units last year, Apple, Samsung and Huawei Technologies Co. each sell more than 100 million handsets annually.
The flagship handset unveiled 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 new low-power mode to extend battery life.
Pixel devices 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 earlier 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 stabilization.
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 US$499, considerably more than the smaller non-5G variant. Both phones are scheduled to be released Oct. 15, Google said.
While the new Pixel phones are less expensive than the premier Apple and Samsung models, they lack the processing power and variety of camera and screen size options. Apple plans to launch four new iPhones in October, 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.