You wanted to know more about Google’s latest smartphones, and we have all the answers here
Every weekend, we assemble the latest headlines, editorials, and exclusive content into the Android Police Newsletter and send it out to thousands of readers. If you’re not one of those readers, you could be missing out on the most important stories of the week, as well as content you’ll only find in the newsletter, like our Pixel 5 and 4a 5G Q&A. Here’s all the important stuff featured in the Android Police Newsletter from October 18, 2020.
Pixel 5 + Pixel 4a 5G Q&A
We recently dropped a fresh Q&A encouraging you fine folks to ask us anything about the new Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. We received a ton of responses (thanks for that), and here’s what our Editor in Chief David Ruddock and Senior Editor Ryne Hager had to say:
Pixel 5 Q&A by David Ruddock
Q: Is the Pixel 5 an upgrade from the Pixel 4 XL or a downgrade, since it has a mid-range chip?
A: This is a tough question, and really depends on what you do and don’t want from the phone. I personally consider it a downgrade, as I very much like face unlock and the telephoto lens on the Pixel 4 XL, and also believe the Snapdragon 855 is a significantly more powerful chip than the 765G. I also see no reason to buy a 5G phone yet! I think your 4 XL will continue to serve you well for quite a while, regardless, and the Pixel 5 overall doesn’t bring a lot of upgrades to the table.
Q: Pixel 5 or the Galaxy S20 FE?
A: We get a lot of “which one do I buy” questions like this, and they’re hard to answer without more context. For me, though, the Galaxy S20 FE is more compelling. It has a larger screen, a faster processor, and will still get 3 years of OS updates. It’s also been on sale for as low as $600 here in the US, which is a pretty screaming deal if you ask me.
Q: Given the lackluster improvements to the Pixel 5’s daylight photos, do you think we’ll finally get a new and bigger sensor from Google next year?
A: I think Google is likely to continue using this sensor until it feels a newer part is going to provide enough of a performance uplift to make starting from scratch on their tuning worth it. You have to remember, there’s a balance to weigh when switching to a new camera, and that balance is the time and investment you’ve already placed in tuning the old one just how you want it, and the new possibilities a newer sensor unlocks. That all said, I do think it’s time for Google to look at newer cameras, as much larger and more advanced sensors are now available.
Q: How are the Pixel 5’s haptics compared to the Pixel 4?
A: They’re noticeably worse, unfortunately. About the same as the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G, which are totally “fine,” but a real step down from the Pixel 4 and 4 XL’s premium haptics. They’re less defined, less precise, and less responsive.
Q: What’s the deal with fast wireless charging? Do I really need the Pixel Stand, or will any Qi charger work?
A: For 10W wireless charging, Google recommends the Pixel Stand and a handful of certified products, which you can find on the Google Store here. As for other chargers, I’ve not had great luck, though I’ve heard some do work at the full 10W with the Pixel, I don’t know any exact model numbers.
Q: Is the Pixel 5 a worthy upgrade from a Pixel 3?
A: That depends! The Pixel 5 will probably feel about as quick as your Pixel 3, but it will have twice the storage (assuming you have the 64GB model), twice the RAM, and adds a secondary ultra-wide camera. It also has a much, much larger battery that lasts a really long time. If all of these sound like compelling reasons to upgrade, you might want to consider doing so. (That said, I suggest you wait for a discount or deal. They’ll definitely happen.)
Q: How does the Pixel 5 feel in the hand? Plastic-y or premium? How about the size in hand?
A: The paint does feel a bit plasticky, but I personally find it a pleasant departure from all the glass sandwiches. It doesn’t feel cheap, if that’s what you mean. As for size, that’s all relative! I think it’s a fairly small phone, but I have fairly large hands.
Q: Have they improved on video and audio recording or is this still a device for photos only?
A: From the testing I’ve seen, Google is making serious strides on video with this phone. The new stabilization modes really do seem to work, and one review I watched demonstrated vastly superior audio recording on the Pixel 5 compared to the Pixel 4 XL under difficult (wind noise) conditions. I can’t say I’ve recorded any video at this point, though, so I’m just reporting on what I’ve seen others claim.
Q: Is the build quality scratch resistant enough to use it without a case?
A: It’s far too early to say. I recommend a case, if only to make the fingerprint reader easier for your finger to find.
Q: How is battery management? How long does it last on a single charge?
A: The Pixel 5 easily achieved 6-7 hours of screen on time in my testing, and that’s with always on display enabled. The battery is big, and the phone is very power efficient. I did 8 hours over two days, and I expect you could realistically break 10 in a single day. Very very good battery life.
Pixel 4a 5G Q&A by Ryne Hager
Q: How is the comparison of 4A to OnePlus 8T? Which would you recommend?
A: Way different price points here; it depends on what you want. If you want the best camera and battery life, get the Pixel. If you want OP’s feeling of speed, a faster chipset, and a 120Hz display, spend more money and get that. I recommend both depending on your needs and budget, though 4a 5g is a better value clearly.
Q: Do you recommend the Pixel 4a or the Pixel 4a 5G and why?
A: This comes down to your needs. The 4a is a screaming deal. I love it, and it’s a great phone at an amazing price. 4a 5G has a little more oomph and even better battery life, a bigger screen, but it costs a good chunk more. Really, I’d just judge between those details to determine if you want to spend more for the 4a 5g. Personally, I think I prefer the baby 4a over the 4a 5G, but that’s just my taste.
Q: I don’t care about 5G. Can I use a different version of the phone on Verizon, or must I buy the mmWave version for another $100?
A: The unlocked version should work with Verizon’s LTE, and Google says Verizon sub-6 5G support is coming to the unlocked model as well.
Q: What IS the release date in the US for the Pixel 4a 5G?*
A: Pre-orders go live on October 29th, and phones will hit the shelves on November 19th.
Questions about both devices
Q: How is the battery performance with 5G on vs. LTE only?
A: DAVID — I think that most worries about 5G and battery life are overblown. Having used a number of 5G phones at this point, I don’t believe there is a significant increase in power consumption when 5G is on, or even when it’s actively connected.
Q: How are the speakers when playing music or gaming?
A: RYNE — All smartphone speakers are lacking in bass and too shrill to replace even a cheap BT speaker. Gaming performance was “fine” but same caveats apply. If you want good audio, buy headphones, plug it into something, or get an external speaker.
Q: What’s the digital zoom like on both? Which is better?
A: DAVID — Digital zoom should perform identically on all three Pixels this year. It’s very much inferior to the optical zoom on Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, but much better than the digital zoom you see on other smartphones. At 2-3X, photos are still quite usable. At 7X (the max zoom), they’re not so great.
Q: Is there a noticeable difference in display resolution and clarity compared to the Pixel 4?
A: DAVID — At this size, the Pixel 5 has plenty of PPI (432) to ensure crisp, clear text. I wouldn’t worry about this!
Q: Is the camera curse present? Any stuttering or losing of shots?
A: RYNE — Yes but it’s different. I noticed some zoomed-in shots I took ended up being taken sans zoom like once or twice. I don’t think any photos got eaten, though.
Q: Do they have the “Marvelous Marble” and/or “Your World” Earth Live Wallpapers?
A: DAVID — If you mean the various Living Universe set of wallpapers, then yes, they do!
Deal of the week: Three free months of YouTube Premium
Google has been hitting Chromebook perks pretty hard lately, offering things like a year of free Dropbox storage and three free months of Stadia. Now, new Chromebook customers in the US can get three months of YouTube Premium at no extra cost. Check out our full story for details.
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