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 modeled on the 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 U.S. and Japan from Aug. 26 and 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 phones have never risen beyond niche enthusiast status.
According to Google, the 5a’s screen checks in at 6.3 inches, marginally larger than the 6.2-inch 4a, and its extended battery mode can keep running for a total of 48 hours. It lacks support for mmWave 5G, which is a faster standard promoted by carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. The device’s market competitiveness will rely mainly on Google’s promises of delivering the best Android experience, security, and long-term support, allied with its mobile photography expertise.
This year, Google is consolidating its A-series devices, having previously offered a $349 Pixel 4a model without 5G. That model had a smaller 5.8-inch screen, a 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 a 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. According to Counterpoint Research, in the first half of 2021, Pixel's market share decreased 7% year over year.
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