At today's big hardware event, Google announced a new Chromecast 4K streaming dongle, a new flagship smart speaker called Nest Audio and, most importantly, two new smartphones. There's the Pixel 4a 5G and the new flagship Pixel 5 — here's what you need to know.
The Pixel 4a 5G is actually a little more than a 5G version of the Pixel 4a. In fact, it actually shares a lot in common with the Pixel 5, including the same processor as well as the same front and rear camera systems — and same photo and video capabilities. But it's biggest feature is that it's a 5G phone for just $500 in a world where many of its competitors cost twice as much.
The Pixel 5, meanwhile, is Google's new flagship phone with a couple of key differences to justify to higher price.
The first big difference is durability. The Pixel 5 has a stronger body that's covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 6. This helps it be more drop- and scratch-resistant, as well as protecting it from water. The Pixel 5 has an IP68 water-resistance rating, meaning you can basically take it swimming (submerged for 1 meter, up to 30 minutes). The Pixel 4a 5G, on the other hand, has a softer polycarbonate body and isn't water resistant at all.
Second is the displays. The Pixel 5 is actually a little bit smaller than the Pixel 4a 5G. It has a 6-inch OLED display as opposed the Pixel 4a 5G's 6.2-inch display. But the Pixel 5 has a higher 90Hz refresh rate, making it the better option for watching videos and playing mobile games. Otherwise, the two are very similar in terms of contrast, brightness and overall color.
The final big difference between the new Pixel smartphones is the guts. The Pixel 5 also comes with 8GB of RAM, while the Pixel 4a 5G only comes with 6 GB of RAM. The Pixel 5 also has a larger capacity battery than the Pixel 4a 5G, and it's capable of fast wireless charging, which the Pixel 4a 5G doesn't support at all. And in addition to taking a charge wireless, the Pixel 5 can dispense a wireless charge as well, providing juice for supported devices, like the Pixel Buds.
One thing that the Pixel 5 lacks that the Pixel 4a 5G has is a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. This is something that Google's cheaper smartphones have had over the last few years. An interesting thing about both new Pixel smartphones is that they have the same exact camera and video capabilities. Both have a rear camera system that includes one standard and one ultra-wide lens — meaning no telephoto lens which is a bit disappointing.
As with most Pixel smartphones, the coolest features don't really have to do with hardware but with software, and Google added a few neat features that both new Pixel smartphones can take advantage off.
On the photo and video front, Google gave both front-camera systems Night Sight, its spectacular nighttime-shooting mode. It also added a new Portrait Light mode to the rear camera systems, which allows you to adjust lighting on Portrait photos, as well as a Cinematic Pan mode to capture smoother, better panoramic photos. Additionally, there are three new stabilization modes for shooting video.
Both new Pixel smartphones will have two other neat features which will be coming to older Pixel phones as well. Each will have an "Extreme Battery Saver" mode, which will allow you to get up 48 hours of juice. It does this by only running essential apps and timing out your phone screen faster.
And second, there's a new "Hold for Me" feature where, when on hold, you can make your Google Assistant wait on the line so you don't have to. When the hold ends and the person on the other end comes on, the Google Assistant will alert you. This is ideal for people who don't want to leave their phone on speaker mode and force themselves to listen to elevator music.
Both Pixel smartphones are available for preorder now. The Pixel 5 will be available on October 15th, while the Pixel 4a 5G will be available in November.