Google’s line of mid-range smartphones have been quite the hit in recent years and no sooner had the Pixel 4a arrived than rumours started about the Pixel 5a for 2021. And Google has now sent out the first phones to reviewers (not us, sadly). You can see some of their photos later in this article.
While little was known about the phone for some time, leaked renders and specs pointed to a phone that’s visually indistinguishable from last year’s line-up, so don’t expect this to be a radical leap forward.
Don’t expect a wide release either, as Google has confirmed that the Pixel 5a will launch in far fewer countries than previous Pixel phones.
Here’s everything we know so far.
Is the Pixel 5a cancelled?
No. But sort of yes, depending on where you live.
In April 2021 infamous (but not always reliable) leaker Jon Prosser made headlines by claiming that the Pixel 5a has been scrapped due to the ongoing global chip shortage, which has caused delays and production problems in everything from phones to games consoles over the last year.
“Barbet” (Pixel 5A) has been canceled. ?
I’m told it’s due to the chip shortage, and as of this morning, it’s not moving forward.
Pixel 4A and 4A 5G will continue to be sold throughout 2021.
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser)
April 9, 2021
Within hours Google responded, issuing a statement to 9to5Google, denying that the 5a has been cancelled, but admitting that it might not launch in the usual range of markets:
“Pixel 5a 5G is not canceled. It will be available later this year in the US and Japan and announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”
So yes, the Pixel 5a (or 5a 5G to give it its apparently full name) is on the way, but it will only launch in the US and Japan. Whether it will also launch in other markets later in the year is yet to be seen, but a smaller launch than usual certainly seems likely.
When is the Pixel 5a release date?
Google’s statement above confirms that the 5a 5G will be announced “in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”
The Pixel 4a launched in August, so it seems likely that the 5a will follow in or around August 2021. Some had hoped it would turn up earlier at May’s Google’s I/O conference, when we saw Android 12 launch, but there was no such luck, so we’re still waiting.
Leaker Mark Gurman agrees with us, writing in Bloomberg that we should expect the 5a “to be announced and released in August,” while Prosser has since given a more specific prediction: Thursday 26 August.
We’re expecting the Pixel 5a 5G to launch on its own, with other expected Pixel products – like the Pixel 6, foldable Pixel phone, and Pixel Watch – more likely to follow later in the year.
How much will the Pixel 5a cost?
Along with his release date prediction, Prosser has claimed that the Pixel 5a will cost US$450 – which falls neatly between the Pixel 4a price of $349 and the 4a 5G’s $499 price tag.
Moreover, Prosser says that the phone will only be available to purchase online or in Google’s new physical retail store in New York – so don’t expect widespread availability, or big carrier partners.
Here are the prices of previous Pixel a-series phones, for reference:
- Pixel 3a – £399/$399
- Pixel 4a – £349/$349
- Pixel 4a 5G – £499/$499
What will the Pixel 5a specs be?
In terms of design, Google hasn’t changed much at all as you can see from the photos the first reviewers have been posting on Twitter:
The Pixel 5a 5G is in the house! Got any questions for @TheRichWoods? Leave a comment here
Rich thanks #TeamPixel for the #GiftFromGoogle pic.twitter.com/vUdDqqL9sO
— XDA (@xdadevelopers)
August 17, 2021
Pixel 5 vs 5a pic.twitter.com/LH0J2pH5dN
— Max Weinbach (@MaxWinebach)
August 17, 2021
And in fact, it’s exactly what we saw in the first leaked renders of the phone from OnLeaks (below) which showed a phone that’s closer to the larger Pixel 4a 5G than the regular 4a.
That makes sense now that we know it’s called the Pixel 5a 5G, positioning it more as a follow-up to that phone than the standard 4a.
Though the phones are now out in the wild, the specs haven’t been published so until the lucky first reviewers measure, weigh and report on them, we’re still reliant on previous leaks.
They say the dimensions are 156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm, which put it at a very similar size to the 4a 5G (it’s a touch taller and thicker, though narrower across the front). Once again it has a flat display – reportedly a 6.2in FHD+ OLED, the same as the 4a 5G, and with a similar bezel.
Prosser disagrees here, claiming that the phone has a larger 6.4in OLED panel, with up to 90Hz refresh rate. If true, this would likely mean that all of OnLeaks’ predicted dimensions are incorrect, as the chassis would have to be larger to incorporate this bigger screen. Prosser does still use OnLeaks’ renders to illustrate his piece however, and claims that this Mostly Black finish will be the only one available.
Once again there’s a single punch-hole selfie camera, with a two-camera array on the rear. We don’t know the specs of these cameras for sure (though Prosser says it will be the same camera setup as the Pixel 5) but Google itself may have leaked some key details.
In a blog post touting the Pixel phones’ HDR capabilities Google accidentally shared two images that may be from the Pixel 5a.
This city shot almost certainly is, as it actually contains EXIF data saying it was taken by a Pixel 5a. It’s clearly a shot from an ultrawide camera, and lists an aperture of f/2.2 – the same as the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G’s ultrawides. Even more damningly, Google has since removed that image from the blog post’s photo album (though not before it was grabbed by GSMArena), so the company clearly clocked its mistake.
This second shot is less certain – it’s still in the photo album, but it’s the only image in there to not include EXIF data on the device that captured it, and was taken on 16 February this year, so it’s at least possible that it’s from a Pixel 5a.
The 5a might be remarkably similar to the 4a 5G on the inside too. 9to5Google dug into Android 12 Developer Preview 3 code and found multiple references to the 5a codename ‘barbet’ alongside ‘sm7250’ – the parts number for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip.
That’s the same 5G chipset found in both the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, which makes us wonder what exactly will differentiate this year’s model from last year’s.
Prosser also says that the 765G will be the chip used by the 5a, adding that it will be paired with 6GB of RAM and a 4650mAh battery. He doesn’t mention any charging speeds, but does clarify that wireless charging won’t be supported.
AndroidPolice’s Max Weinbach reported a battery capacity of 4680mAh, though this was prior to receiving a phone from Google.
By contrast, Trak reports slightly different specs, with a Snapdragon 750 supposedly at the heart of the phone. It goes on to suggest the phone will include 6GB of RAM and 128GB UFS 3.1 storage, along with a a 3840mAh battery with 20W fast charging. Take this leak with a pinch of sale though, as the site doesn’t cite any specific source for the leak.
We don’t need rumours to know that the rear fingerprint sensor has remained, though we’ve not seen evidence that the headphone jack and stereo speakers are also present. Prosser adds that the phone has an IP67 water-resistance rating.
The headphone jack has at least been confirmed by the phone’s appearance in FCC certification, which didn’t reveal much else except a few connectivity details: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth LE, NFC, and sub-6GHz 5G.
Pixel 5a wish list
What we would like to see are additions like wireless charging and waterproofing as these would make a bigger difference to the user experience. The iPhone SE has them, albeit at a higher cost so perhaps one, but not both, is a realistic outlook.
Although rumours point to Google re-using the Snapdragon 765G, we’d still hope for an upgrade to the Snapdragon 780G with decent RAM and storage as per the 4a. This would be good news for potential buyers, as the processor supports 5G, 120Hz refresh rates, 4K HDR recording and playback, plus a maximum of 12GB of RAM.
True, we don’t think the Pixel 5a will necessarily have those features, but the processor would mean that any are possible if Google wants to bless their customers with some upgrades.
However, don’t expect Google to change its Apple-esque policy on omitting expandable storage.
Camera tech will likely be one of the biggest lures for the Pixel 5a. Google has done a great job of offering a flagship camera at an affordable price.
The Pixel 4 has a telephoto lens so that could be brought to the 5a if Google can make it work cost-wise. As soon as the phone’s specs are confirmed, we’ll update this article.
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