Google’s latest entry-level 5G smartphone will offer a larger screen, water resistance and a bigger battery as the company tries to woo budget-minded shoppers and increase its modest market share.
The $449 Pixel 5a costs $50 less than last year’s Pixel 4a 5G with a limited update of features and a small downgrade in 5G standards support. It’s still modelled on idea of offering the flagship Pixel 5’s marquee features in a more affordable package. It inherits the dual-camera system, on-device security chip and Qualcomm Inc. processor of its pricier sibling and the 4a. The Alphabet Inc unit will sell the Pixel 5a directly in the US and Japan from August 26 as well as via SoftBank Corp.’s carrier stores.
Google previously previewed its planned Pixel 6 handsets for later in the year, which together with the 5a will form its latest push for respectability in the smartphone market. Though Google’s Android operating system is the globe’s dominant mobile software — used by Samsung Electronics Co., Xiaomi Corp. and other major manufacturers —the company’s own phones have never risen beyond niche enthusiast status.
The 5a’s screen checks in at 6.3 inches (16 centimeters), marginally larger than the 6.2-inch 4a, and its extended battery mode can keep running for a full 48 hours, according to Google. It lacks support for mmWave 5G, a faster standard promoted by some carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. The device’s market competitiveness will rely largely on Google’s promises of delivering the best Android experience, security and long-term support, allied with its mobile photography expertise.
Google is consolidating its A-series devices this year, having previously offered a $349 Pixel 4a model without 5G. That model had a smaller 5.8-inch screen, slower chip and an
inferior camera system.
This year’s version also omits markets such as Europe, Australia and most of Asia, narrowing what was already limited distribution for Google’s phones.
Pixel sales were lackluster for their first few years before increasing in 2019 when the company lavished more attention on lower-end handsets. But that growth sputtered. In the first half of 2021, Pixel market share decreased 7% year over year, according to Counterpoint Research. OnePlus, another small phone maker, saw sales increase over 400%. Lenovo Group Ltd.’s Motorola, Apple Inc., Nokia Oyj and Samsung also grew.