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Pixel 5 will almost certainly disappoint fans

Published May 20th, 2020 7:31AM EDT
Pixel 5 Leaks
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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  • New reports say that Google’s upcoming flagship phone will not run on the same flagship processor as other premium Android handsets.
  • Pixel 5 specs will be inferior to OnePlus 8 and Galaxy S20, as Google has chosen the Snapdragon 765 instead of the 865 chip for the phone.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The Pixel 5 will mark the first year in Google’s history of making smartphones when the new phone doesn’t rock the best possible processor. We’ve told you time and again that the Pixel 5 won’t run on the best possible mobile processor for Android phones, as several reports suggested that Google is looking at a cheaper alternative from Qualcomm. Pixel rumors are more often right than wrong, even the early ones. And we have more reports that say the same thing. Pixel 5 will not be a flagship device that could match any of its Android rivals, and that will be a huge disappointment.

From the start, Nexus phones were something that Google needed to showcase the latest Android developments. The way Google built Android, forced it to come up with its own phone that would receive timely Android upgrades, so that users, developers, and smartphone makers would have quick access to the latest Android release. Imagine a world where Google releases a major Android update, but users get it several months later. Nexus fixed that problem, just as Google worked on plans that would help other Android makers deploy updates faster than before.

Google then killed the Nexus line and replaced it with the high-end Pixel phone, which was always supposed to be a premium device. That policy changed last year when the Pixel 3a launched. It turns out that Google wasn’t selling that many Pixel phones and the cheap Pixel 3a helped it fix the problem to a certain extent. Mind you, Pixel 3a sales weren’t extraordinary either.

An even cheaper Pixel 4a is due in the next few weeks, a phone that’s already a tough sell considering what Apple just did. But Pixel fans who are waiting for the Pixel 5 to upgrade will surely not like Google’s compromise.

A new report from xda-developers says that code in Android 11 Developer Preview 4 includes references to a modem that is in line with one of the mid-range Snapdragon processors. It could be the Snapdragon 765, 765G, or the newer 768G version that comes with better graphics and a slightly faster clock. Whatever the case, it’s not the Snapdragon 865.

Separately, David Ruddock says he learned that the Pixel 5 will be based on the Snapdragon 765 and that Google will not have a phone with a top tier CPU this year.

Finally, Google’s survey that asked some users whether they’d pay $699 for a premium phone is also indicative of the processor downgrade. By the way, the OnePlus 8, running on a Snapdragon 865 chip, will be a much better option than the Pixel 5 for overall performance.

Costs and design considerations may have forced Google to skip the Snapdragon 865 processor this year, but that’s still a significant marketing error, considering the massive competition in the mobile landscape and the increased pressure from iPhone.

There’s no way to offer a reasonable explanation for this decision to Android fans who have always touted Android’s specs supremacy over the iPhone, at least on paper. To put it differently, the iPhone never matched Android when it comes to RAM, but it never needed to do it because it was always the faster phone. And Apple never talks RAM during any iPhone presentation. The processor is something else entirely, and performance is something Google can’t avoid explaining.

While the Pixel 5 won’t measure up to the iPhone 12, OnePlus 8, or Galaxy S20 when it comes to performance, it’ll at least deliver brand new camera features and fast Android updates. The question is, will hardcore Android users go for the compromise?

That said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel if rumors are to be believed. Google is working on its own processor for future Pixel phones.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.