NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 15: The new Google Pixel 4 smartphone is displayed during a Google launch … [+]
The latest Pixel 4a leaks may have revealed that Google’s next flagship, the Pixel 5, could feature Qualcomm’s upper mid-range chipset: the Snapdragon 765.
Buried within the code of the next Google Camera app update, 9to5Google – which obtained the build from TechnolikePlus – found references to the 2020 flagship and its possible use of the mid-range chipset.
If accurate, this would obviously be a major change of tactics for Google. The search company opting for an impressive- but worse performing – chipset than its immediate competition from Samsung, Apple and every other manufacturer using the Snapdragon 865 would put clear daylight between the Pixel and its rivals.
But there is some logic at play here. Firstly, the Snapdragon 765 offers a lot of advanced features that would suit a Pixel phone.
Notably the imaging performance from the 855 (the processor in the Pixel 4) and a version of the fifth-gen AI engine found in the 865. Both would dovetail well with Google’s in-house made Pixel Neural Core, which helped produce one of the best smartphone cameras on the market (arguably better than the Samsung S20 in a few areas, too) and industry leading AI capabilities.
Then there’s 5G, which the 765 also offers at a lower price point. We’ve already seen how 5G capability has pushed up prices for 2020’s flagships. Samsung’s S10 started at $749, whereas the 5G S10 launched at $1299 and the S20 5G launched at $999. Expect Apple, OnePlus and others to follow suit.
I don’t know how much cheaper the Pixel 5 would be compared to the competition if it sported the Snapdragon 765 processor, but it would be cheaper and that’s important when smartphones are regularly topping $1000.
Google’s handsets have always prided themselves on a handful of standout features and a low upfront cost. The early Nexus phones – although charmingly inconsistent in performance – were some of my favourite devices, as are Pixel phones. But as prices have crept up – and Google removes cost saving features like free cloud storage for pictures – it’s becoming harder to justify buying a Pixel over other capable handsets.
Those flaws are only charming when the phone costs $600 or less – not when it’s $800 and more. The questionable battery in the Pixel 4? A manageable irritant at $500, a costly mistake at $800. The memory management issue in the Pixel 3? A small blot on an otherwise excellent phone at $500 – but a device defining problem at $800.
Then there’s the better than expected sales of last year’s Pixel 3a, and the poor sales of the Pixel 3 (and possibly the Pixel 4), which arguably showed that Google was right first time around with its high-end, low cost strategy.
The Pixel’s main selling points are not eye-watering specifications or cutting edge displays. People buy Google phones for its AI capabilities, camera and – when it’s cheap – price. The Pixel 3a embodied that formula and confirmed to Google what works best.
Going back to its roots and offering its unique – AI-led – experience in a cheaper phone makes logical sense for the Pixel 5. Especially pp against the spiralling price of the competition, all of which are adding an increasing amount of pointless features to justify the high price.
Google could be preparing for a huge shakeup of its smartphone division if it goes in this direction, which may force rivals to change tactics too.
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