The camera systems are a match, too. A 12-megapixel main camera is paired with a 16-megapixel ultrawide, as well as an 8-megapixel selfie shooter. What’s distinct from last year’s Pixel 4 is the lack of a 2x zoom lens; the ultrawide lens has replaced it, but Google says you can still get high-quality close-ups thanks to Super Res Zoom, a computational photography feature it introduced on the Pixel 3 that enhances anything you zoom in on. The image sensors on both are the same from the Pixel 4, but Google says it’s using a “brighter, sharper, more reliable lens that’s less prone to bad lens flares.”
Google says it’s also made improvements to HDR+, so the phones will fare even better in high-contrast scenes, with a new feature called HDR+ Bracketing. It means the phone will take multiple photos with different settings per image to nail a well-balanced shot. Portrait Mode now works with Night Sight so you can get better bokeh effects in low light, and there’s also a “Portrait Relighting” effect you can use to change the lighting on your face. It’s similar to the Portrait Lighting feature Apple introduced a few years ago on the iPhone. Google says a redesigned Google Photos editor will let you use this effect on previously snapped photos, too.
The video side of things hasn’t been ignored. You can finally shoot at 4K 60 frames per second, and Google added three new stabilization modes so your footage looks smoother: Locked, Active, and Cinematic Pan. The latter slows down all motion by 2x for a Hollywood-movie effect.
Outside of the camera, other new software features include Hold for Me, which has Google Assistant monitor a phone call and send an alert when you’ve been taken off hold (no need to listen to elevator music again). And there’s Extreme Battery Saver, which limits the phone’s features to keep the lights running for more than 48 hours. These two features will come to older Pixel devices at a later date. Google says to expect more as a part of its “Feature Drops,” a relatively new initiative that brings new features over a Pixel phone’s lifespan.
The two phones look alike as well, continuing the squircle redesign Google ushered with the Pixel 4. On the front, however, they’re closer to the newer Pixel 4A (our favorite Android phone), which has the same “hole-punch” cutout for the selfie camera and slim edges around the screen. All three models have fingerprint sensors on the rear, a dramatic shift away from the Pixel 4’s facial recognition tech, and you also get 128 gigabytes of internal storage. That’s where the similarities end.
Google’s Pixel 5, which comes in green or black and costs $699, is smaller with a 6-inch OLED screen (OLED has darker blacks) and an extra smooth 90-Hz screen refresh rate like its predecessor. Its body is made of 100 percent recycled aluminum, and it fits a 4,080 mAh battery inside (a step up from the Pixel 4, of which battery life is a sore point).
It’s also IP68 water resistant, supports wireless charging, and adds reverse wireless charging so you can charge other devices with your phone, like the cases for wireless earbuds. Wireless charging usually doesn’t work well with metal, but Google says it manufactured a hole in the back for the wireless charging antenna, which is covered with a thin layer of plastic.
The $500 Pixel 4A 5G is made of plastic, like the 4A ($350). It has a slightly larger 6.2-inch OLED screen, paired with a larger 3,885-mAh battery capacity. It only comes in black, and there are no other perks like wireless charging or water resistance, though it does have a headphone jack. In essence, the $150 markup over the Pixel 4A gets you 5G, a snappier Snapdragon 765G processor, possibly a bit more battery life, an ultrawide camera with some other imaging enhancements, plus a bigger screen.