2020 was an interesting year for Google. After releasing its first mid-ranger with the the Pixel 3a in 2019 the company eschewed the flagship segment altogether in 2020. The Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 all use Snapdragon 700 series chipsets and have a total of 8 cameras between them including the selfie snappers.
The shift from proper flagship hardware, meant Google doubled-down on software as the core of a great experience. A very “in-character” decision for the search giant, but Pixel traditionalists found it a bit hard to accept.
Loser: Google Pixel 4a
Going in chronological order here, we have to start with the Pixel 4a. The successor to the most popular Pixel phone of 2019 wasn’t bad on its own bringing an upgrade to a Snapdragon 730G chipset and twice the storage. The single camera on the back dates back to the Pixel 2, though, and the front one is actually slightly worse than what the 2017 flagship had.
Even so the Pixel 4a will have probably made great use of its stock Android experience and computational photography prowess to justify the €340 price tag. However, the key issue was the huge delay in its launch, hitting the shelves at the end of August compared to mid-May for the Pixel 3a. That put it in a much tougher position as it had to face the other makers’ H2 lineups instead of those from the first half of the year.
Winner: Google Pixel 4a 5G
If we had to choose a Pixel phone today, it would likely be the Pixel 4a 5G. It costs just a bit more than the Pixel 4a and yet it offers a bigger display, better chipset with 5G support, a dual camera setup and a bigger battery.
Sure, the Pixel 5 has a few extra bonuses, like a 90Hz HDR10+ display with Gorilla Glass 6, official IP68 rating and wireless charging. However, that comes at a €200 or so premium and with a smaller screen to boot.
Loser: Google Pixel 5
The Pixel 5 finds itself in an odd place. There was the whole screen gap fiasco, but it didn’t really prove to be a massive issue. The real reason why the Pixel 5 is a bit underwhelming on the 2020 scene is simply due to its underwhelming hardware and performance for the price tag, even by Google standards.
Coming from a Pixel 4 it’s a downgrade in terms of sheer performance and the front camera is worse off too. On the rear you get an ultrawide instead of a telephoto, leaving fans hoping to finally get a proper triple setup disappointed.
Again, its not a bad phone per se, we found it to deliver on many of the traditional Pixel promises. However it just doesn’t have what it takes to lead the Pixel lineup and show the kind of innovation its predecessors brought to the market.