It takes much these days to make a new smartphone exciting. These devices that we all carry and hold for hours on end may look different, but in most cases they all work the same. Even the two major app eco and operating systems are more similar than ever and, for the most part, all phones offer essentially the same app services: You need Grailed, StockX or GOAT? They all offer apps for both Android and iOS.
Where the differences begin to appear are in three categories: price, camera and network speed. Google’s new Pixel 5 smartphone looks to fill a sweet spot in the mobile phone game. Coming in at $699, the Pixel 5 has features found in more expensive phones: a 6in 90HZ OLED display, a very strong new ultra-wide camera with stabilization options and Night Sight that performs as it should. It feels great in your hand and while other smart phones may feel more glassy, sleek or smoother when held, do not assume that makes the Pixel 5 any less premium. I, for one, am testing and using the Pixel 5 as a response to more expensive smartphones that feel precious when held; here, the Pixel 5 excels as feeling like a work object, and less so an object or art piece. But we should talk about 5G, as this is where anyone will feel a dramatic difference in usage, when on the right network.
The Google Pixel 5 and its younger cousin, the Pixel 4A 5G are built to run fast. With essentially all major carriers in Asia, Europe and North America having launched or tout their plans for 5G networks, you’ll likely just have to swap SIM cards to feel the speed.
I’ve been testing the Google Pixel 5 on the AT&T here in North America, and had to notify them of my SIM swap as they’re backend handles Apple devices and Android devices differently - no idea why. Once the Pixel 5 was on file, things turned up: Youtube and Netflix were noticeably more responsive - maybe not lightning fast but certainly speedier. They say usage of 5G phones in crowded places will perform better than current 4G LTE devices, but I’ll let you know once the stadiums open again. But take it for what it is: 5G feels really different.
As mentioned, the handfeel on the Google Pixel 5 is appealing. While some “early looks” at the device found the “Sorta Sage” colorway I was using “uninspiring,” and it’s new flat matte back as feeling like cardboard, this is the feature I enjoy about the Pixel 5 over say a glass-back Apple iPhone. Call me crazy, but I like to use phones caseless: they add bulk to smartphones and take away from the sleek feel when holding them. Keep it simple.
Let’s get back to ecosystem for a moment. One real world consideration when choosing an Android device over an Apple device is your friends and family. Yes, more than specs (and certainly the Pixel 5 is a strong contender in the Android phone playing field), what messaging app you use plays into your decision. If your crew is used to “blue bubble” over “green bubble,” there is the occasional fear that you’re missing out on something. FOMO is a real thing with group messages - seriously.
For those already active on chat apps like Whatsapp, Telegram or Wechat, your friends and network are already coming together under a shared platform that works across multiple devices and operating systems. If you’re used to the blue iMessage group chats, it may take you a moment to lose the FOMO and embrace that you’ll be a “green bubble” on Apple devices. (There is certainly nothing wrong with iMessage: it’s powerful and feature rich, but in many parts of the world, it’s not the standard; the trifecta of chat apps mentioned above run the show).
The reality in a world that is about to standardize to 5G network speeds is that you can do it on any enabled device you want. The differences between deciding between a powerful Android phone like the Pixel 5 or an iOS smartphone are getting less and less feature wise.
At $699, the Pixel 5 comes with a 6.0-inch 90Hz FHD+ Flexible OLED display, wireless and reverse wireless charging through Battery Share that let’s you juice up compatible earbuds when they go low. The Pixel 5’s IP68 dust and water resistance is the same as both the iPhone 11Pro and 12Pro: that’s 30 minutes in 4 meter deep water, safe enough for the occasional drop in a swimming pool, but we certainly don’t recommend it.
But, things happen and it’s good to know this won’t sink like a brick. Smartphones are meant to be used and worked and the Google Pixel 5 fits that well.