Gadgets for humans

The leaked Pixel 5 price must be right, Google has no other choice

The Big G can't compete unless it drops the price

google, pixel, photography, street

It seems Google has finally come to its senses about the price of its flagship Pixel handset.

The Pixel 5 is purportedly going to retail at €629 in Germany, according to a leak from local outlet Technik News. Although the price tag hasn’t been confirmed by Google, the outlet has correctly predicted the pricing of Samsung devices in the past. It’s also a forecast that’s consistent with the device’s rumored specs, which aren’t exactly top-of-the-line.

[Read: We asked 3 CEOs what tech trends will dominate post-COVID]

The Pixel 5, which is slated to debut by the end of September, will reportedly sport a 6-inch, 90Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 765G, 8GB of RAM, an ultra-wide camera module, and 128GB of storage. The worst bit? It’ll likely be slower than its predecessor and ship with the same camera sensor powering the Pixel 2.

With that in mind, €629 is a feasible prediction — if Google hasn’t absolutely lost its mind, that is. It’s not clear at what price the device will launch in the US, but industry insiders speculate it’ll be around $650.

As much as I loved the Pixel 4, at $799 for the base model, it was truly unreasonably priced. It was the most expensive Pixel device to date, topping even the iPhone in that department, which isn’t an easy feat to accomplish.

Despite its premium price, the handset came with some serious shortcomings including a relatively poor battery life and a gimmicky Motion Sense feature that added little to the overall Pixel experience — and lots to its retail price.

It also had no fingerprint scanner (which is arguably a personal preference) and no ultra-wide camera module (an absence I can personally overlook since those never perform as well as the main sensor).

Its only saving graces were its wonderfully clean Android experience, snappy perceived performance, and excellent camera, which unfortunately didn’t feature a dedicated Pro mode.

Unfortunately for Google, though, the Pixel 4 didn’t exist in a vacuum.

Phone makers were putting out higher-specced devices at more reasonable prices, and the launch of Apple’s affordable iPhone SE, which gave much more expensive Android flagships a run for their money, made it impossible for the Pixel to compete. The arrival of the Pixel 4a, which packed less oomph but the same camera at $350, didn’t help either.

It’s no surprise Google eventually conceded defeat and discontinued the Pixel 4 in August 2020, less than a year after its launch last October.

Factoring in reports that the Pixel series has struggled with dwindling sales year after year, it seems Google has finally realized its best bet of giving its flagship handset a fighting chance is to kill the pricing criticism altogether and shift consumer attention to the smooth software experience.

While certain power users will always seek premium specs and performance, most people simply need a phone with a good camera that’s also pleasant to use and look at. The Pixel 4 arguably delivered on that front, but its exorbitant price was a tough pill to swallow and a distraction that made it difficult to enjoy its strong suits.

At $650, though, the Pixel 5 might just be cheap enough to overlook its shortcomings and love it for what it is — a great pocket camera and an exemplary software ride.

Did you know we have a newsletter all about consumer tech? It’s called Plugged In – and you can subscribe to it right here.

Published September 4, 2020 — 11:21 UTC