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Google’s latest Pixel 5a leak is the most disappointing one yet

Published Apr 26th, 2021 6:10PM EDT
Pixel 5a Specs Leak
Image: Google

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A few weeks ago, a leaker claimed that the current chip shortage had convinced Google to discontinue the Pixel 5a, which was expected to launch in late spring or early summer. In a surprising move, Google denied the rumor almost immediately, simultaneously confirming the phone’s existence. The company said the Pixel 5a is on track to launch this year, but mentioned only two markets for the new Pixel family member: The US and Japan.

Fast forward to Friday, and Google released a new blog post on its AI blog about photography. The company used various photos to demo the “HDR+ with Bracketing on Pixel Phones,” including camera samples from the unreleased Pixel 5a. Those images were quickly deleted, but not before someone discovered their origin and saved them.

Google kept in place EXIF data from the images it used in the AI blog, presumably to show they have not been altered. Information for the sample taken with the Pixel 5a teases the phone’s actual camera specifications.

The Pixel 5a photo has a 12.2-megapixel resolution, coming from a rear ultra-wide camera with an f/2.2 aperture. These findings indicate the Pixel 5a will have two rear cameras. This is similar to Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 camera hardware, which indicates that Google might recycle some parts from last year’s phones. If that’s the case, the ultra-wide lens will be a 16-megapixel camera.

Previous reports said the Pixel 5a would feature the same Snapdragon 765G processor that powers the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5. Design leaks indicated the phone would have a 6.2-inch OLED hole-punch panel, similar to last fall’s Pixel 4a 5G. Combined, all these leaks suggest that Google will reshuffle some of the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 hardware into a device that will be sold as the Pixel 5a. The leaked photo data also tells us the picture was taken on October 1st, 2020, further indicating the phone likely uses last year’s hardware.

We already told you that the Pixel 4a 5G is a better choice than the Pixel 5. The flagship is already a compromise when it comes to performance. Choosing the Pixel 4a 5G over the Pixel 5 would make more sense for a disappointing Pixel year in an overall disappointing year. The Pixel 4a 5G would be the cheaper option.

The Pixel 5a seems to be a marketing gimmick at this point — a repackaged Pixel 4a 5G/Pixel 5 variation that could be even cheaper than the last fall’s Pixel 5 series phone. A better choice might be cutting the price of both the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. After all, there won’t be any reason to buy the two phones in a world where phones like the iPhone 12, Galaxy S21, and OnePlus 9 exist. Not even the camera experience is worth the long-term sacrifice. The Pixel 5 phones aren’t as future-proof as their competitors.

It’s unclear when Google will unveil the Pixel 5a or how much it will cost. Google I/O is back this year, and that might be the best place to announce a phone like the Pixel 5a.

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.

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