The Pixel 5a has an interesting challenge this year after Google pushed the value narrative with Pixel phones in 2020 including a phone that was in some ways already a Pixel 5a in the Pixel 4a 5G.
The Pixel 5 wasn’t panned, but due to Google’s deliberate shift downmarket with that device, it wasn’t in the discussion with the best flagships. If the Pixel 5a comes close to the Pixel 5 while coming closer to that familiar $349 price point, it could still grab attention among the best budget phones.
Here’s a look at all of the latest rumors and our own research on the Pixel 5a including the expected release date, pricing, design, specs and more.
Pixel 5a release date
Rumors that the Pixel 5a was cancelled ultimately led Google to confirm the existence of the phone in a statement to Engadget that also indicated the phone would arrive around the same time as “last year’s a-series phone.” The Pixel 4a was released on August 20, 2020, so we can expect the Pixel 5a sometime in August. Further support for this timeframe comes from a new Front Page Tech leak suggesting the phone will launch on August 26.
The other crucial detail here was that the Pixel 5a will not be shipping globally, according to Google it will only be available in the U.S. and Japan.
Pixel 5a price
The aforementioned leak from Front Page Tech indicated that the Pixel 5a will be $449. That would be a notable increase from the $349 price point of its predecessors and somewhat surprising given the level of success those devices have enjoyed.
What lends credibility to this claim is how close the Pixel 5a hardware is rumored to be to the current Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. If accurate Google would have to bring the price point up. Perhaps with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro almost certainly stepping up to true flagship pricing, Google feels that it is best served in that lower mid-range market with the A-series.
Pixel 5a design
We’ve had one real leak regarding the design of the Pixel 5a, but it’s a good one. Steve Hemmerstoffer (a.k.a. OnLeaks) released a series of renders based on alleged spec leaks that he received. While he doesn’t have a perfect track record, he’s been quite reliable over the years.
If you loved the design of the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G, then you are in luck because the Pixel 5a looks nearly identical based on these renders. The hole-punch camera is in its same familiar position in the upper-left corner with fairly minimal bezels surrounding the screen. The Pixel 5a will reportedly also retain the 3.5mm headphone jack like previous A-series Pixels.
One invisible design change that Front Page Tech reported on is the addition of an IP67 water and dust resistance, something that was reserved for the Pixel 5 previously. While not unheard of in the sub-$500 market it is still a welcome addition.
Considering its place in the lineup, it isn’t surprising that Google wouldn’t make significant design moves with the Pixel 5a. The real changes are coming with the Pixel 6 this year and will likely trickle down to a Pixel 6a in 2022.
Pixel 5a cameras
Google’s stagnancy with camera hardware in the Pixel lineup has become the stuff of legend, so there’s good and bad news for the Pixel 5a.
The bad news is that Google isn’t introducing any completely new camera hardware with the Pixel 5a. But the good news is that it appears to be bringing the Pixel 5 cameras to the cheaper model with a 16MP ultra-wide lens and that tried-and-true 12.2MP main sensor. Google inadvertently confirmed the ultra-wide lens in a research blog post on HDR+ by leaving the EXIF data for the sample photo below intact, 9to5Google noticed this and was able to identify it as taken with the Pixel 5a.
While details regarding the sensor for the front-facing camera haven’t surfaced yet, the physical size of the hole punch selfie camera on the Pixel 5a could be noticeably smaller than previous models as 9to5Google found references in the Google Camera code to a 55-pixel radius for this camera, down from 65 on the Pixel 4a 5G.
As always, the real magic of the Pixel camera is in computational photography. While it has arguably been overtaken on the high-end, no one is challenging in the budget realm, and this hardware update could make that true again in 2021.
Pixel 5a performance
According to the FCC certification and code in the Android 12 Developer Preview uncovered by 9to5Google, the Pixel 5a will use the exact same Snapdragon 765G chipset as the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. According to the Front Page Tech leak it will also get the same 6GB of RAM as the Pixel 4a 5G. While those aren’t powerhouse flagship specs, they are reasonable for a phone in this price range.
It’s also worth noting that while the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G weren’t stunners when it came to performance, we were overall satisfied with them for real-world usage. It was primarily from a value standpoint that we didn’t like the Snapdragon 765G in the Pixel 5. The phones also saw a significant 50% GPU performance boost following an update in April and presumably, the Pixel 5a will benefit from that same unlocked performance.
Pixel 5a specs
Returning to that Front Page Tech leak, the Pixel 4a 5G will allegedly move to a 6.4-inch display, up from 6.2, and it will feature a forced 90Hz refresh rate. That’s an interesting move as it is a larger display than either the Pixel 5 or Pixel 4a 5G and it inherits the refresh rate of the higher end phone.
If the battery claim is to be believed this would be the biggest in a Pixel phone to date at 4,650mAh. That’s about 800mAh larger than the Pixel 4a 5G and 600mAh larger than the Pixel 5. Given it’s power needs that should be plenty to get a full day out of the Pixel 5a.
Pixel 5a outlook
There’s no question that all of the attention is on the Pixel 6 this year with Google trying to right its flagship, but the Pixel 5a shouldn’t be ignored. Despite all of the positive signs, Google has yet to prove it can deliver a truly high-end phone to compete with the best from Samsung and Apple. However, it has definitively proven that it can produce some of the best budget phones on the market.
If the Pixel 5a can deliver 90% of the Pixel 5 experience for less than the Pixel 4a 5G, that would be enough to make it easily one of the top recommendations for anyone looking to spend less than $500 on a new phone in 2021.