Every once in a while I’ll pick up a random device on the Edge examine the closet and spend a week or two with it. It’s mostly out of random curiosity and for the purpose of comparing “old” products to the latest and greatest. More recently, I was drawn to Google’s Pixel 5. So I gave it a factory reset, updated the phone to Android 12 and have been using it as my daily driver for several days.
The experience was fantastic. I have really big hands – an iPhone 13 Pro Max doesn’t look out of place in them – and I prefer big screens, so I don’t think I can fully upgrade to the Pixel 5. But it’s so good” small ” phone (by 2022 standards) that I was certainly tempted. The Pixel 5 makes it easy to do everything I need with just one hand. Its mid-range processor runs better than ever on Android 12, and this phone still looks unique next to the competition.
Google ditched the Pixel 5’s design and size too soon. I’ve been using one for a week. It’s now even smoother on Android 12. The look and feel is still unique.
It should be the Pixel version of the iPhone SE and be updated every two years. pic.twitter.com/UXLfrms4p0
— Chris Welch (@chriswelch) June 20, 2022
Above all, I came away disappointed that Google ditched the Pixel 5’s style and size after just a year. The smallest phone in the company’s lineup is currently the Pixel 5a, which has a 6.3-inch display. To its credit, Google is scaling things back slightly with the upcoming 6A. But with the A-series models, you give up niceties like the 90Hz display and wireless charging. In this way, the Pixel 5 could be the last of its kind in Google’s lineup. So much for pair glasses too.
I now find myself wishing that Google would keep the 5 as an “iPhone SE” style product that gets upgraded with hardware upgrades every two years – without losing what makes it good. Let’s cover some of the highlights of the Pixel 5.
Design and materials: The Pixel 5’s 6-inch OLED display is surrounded by thin, symmetrical bezels that go a long way to making the phone comfortable and usable with one hand. And the textured “Bio Resin” coating on the 5’s body provides a unique feel and reassuring grip when you hold it throughout the day. The volume rocker shares this texture, while the power button is shiny metal, making it easy to tell the two apart by touch. Due to its feel and palmable size, the Pixel 5 is one of those phones that can go caseless without causing much consternation.
Before Google embarked on the common “glass sandwich” design with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, previous models in the series often used distinctive materials and textures that helped the phones stand out. With the Pixel 2, it was the almost chunky back cover of the black model. The Pixel 4 had grippy side rails. But after the 5’s bio resin – I’m still a big fan of the Sorta Sage green colorway with this finish – Google went for a more basic grip feel with last year’s flagships.
A better screen: The Pixel 6’s OLED panel may look perfectly fine based on first impressions. But in all honesty, it’s mediocre. Many threads on Reddit complain about uniformity issues, an unsightly green tint at lower brightness levels, and other imperfections. The Pixel 6 Pro’s gorgeous LPTO panel has none of these issues, so it’s clear that Google settled for less to hit the 6’s $599 price tag.
Even the Pixel 5’s screen seems slightly higher quality to me than the 6 that replaced it. They’re both 90Hz displays, but the 5’s white point, uniformity, and overall image are just a little nicer to my eyes. It can sometimes come down to variance between individual units, but I hope to see better with the Pixel 7.
Pixel Imprint rear fingerprint sensor: I’m still disappointed that phone makers have decided in unison to move the fingerprint reader from the back of the phone, where your index finger often rests naturally while holding it, below the screen. Google’s Pixel Imprint scanners were perhaps the fastest and most consistent in the entire Android ecosystem, and, well, let’s just say the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s in-screen sensor never matched it. , even after Google improved performance through software updates. .
Consistent camera performance: Google spent several years optimizing its computational photography for the main 12-megapixel camera shared by the Pixel 5 and its predecessors. And while it doesn’t have the dynamic range of the Pixel 6/6 Pro and doesn’t offer features like Real Tone or Magic Eraser, the Pixel 5 is a consistent shooter. You know what you’re going to get, which can’t always be said of the Pixel 6 lineup. I don’t like the nasty background blur you sometimes get from the 6’s larger sensor, but that’s something that Google will undoubtedly improve.
The Pixel 5 isn’t perfect
While I’m mostly happy with the smooth performance and overall responsiveness of the Pixel 5 on Android 12, there are still occasions where the mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor hits a wall and gets bogged down. Take a photo and the frustrating delay while the phone processes the shot remains present. The 5 can also be blocked if you get too ambitious with multitasking.
While I’m sold on the Pixel 5’s look and feel, Google’s hardware quality assurance isn’t always the best. Many units have a slight gap between the screen and the body. After the phone was released, the company said there was no need to worry about the gap, but that’s exactly the kind of minor detail that I find annoying.
And then there is that horrible under screen speaker, which still sounds tinny in most cases, even after Google tried to improve it with an “adaptive sound” setting. These symmetrical glasses didn’t come without compromise.
But even with these drawbacks taken into account, there is still something special about this phone. I’m about to buy one from Woot, which sells new, unopened Pixel 5s for $450. Apparently Google must have stumbled upon some extra inventory in a warehouse somewhere. With Apple’s iPhone mini rumored to be cut from the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, it looks like small phones are (again) dying out. This makes it a tempting time to buy. The only asterisk to consider in Google’s case is that software support for the Pixel 5 will end in October 2023.
But maybe by then Google will reintroduce a small Pixel that doesn’t skimp on hardware features and doesn’t so stupidly take after its bigger siblings.