Google's Pixel lineup is always somewhat confusing. From launching at the end of the year, with what is about to be old silicon, to purposely nerfing the specs inside the device, the Pixel lineup has always been pretty weird. And definitely made for a niche audience.
But in 2020, the Pixel lineup is a lot more confusing than usual. From a very delayed Pixel 4a, to the absence of a premium Pixel device, it's going to be a weird year for Pixel fans.
Here's what Pixels we're expecting in 2020
There are three Pixels that we are expecting in 2020. There is the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5.
And there have been very few leaks of the Pixel 5 so far, and it's now July. This time last year, Google itself released a photo of the Pixel 4, after the many leaks.
The Pixel 4a is going to sport a Snapdragon 730 chipset, while Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 are going to sport the Snapdragon 765G chipset, so that they can offer 5G connectivity. But that also is going to make one Pixel 4a model faster than the other. Since they are different chipsets, and have different clockspeeds. Making for a confusing lineup, just within the Pixel 4a.
Don't expect a Pixel 5 XL
Not only is Google not offering a premium Pixel smartphone this year, it's not even going to offer a larger Pixel 5 smartphone. According to code we've seen, there is only a single Pixel 5 coming this year. Now it's unclear whether this is going to be a smaller or larger phone. Given the fact that there's only one, Google could try to satisfy both crowds and give us something in the middle.
I'd imagine that Google looked at sales from the first four generations of Pixels and saw that the smaller Pixel doesn't really sell that well. Most people gravitate towards the larger Pixel XL model. Though that is not always because it's larger. Usually because it has a larger battery, which is always a problem with Google phones.
This could also be a mandate from the carriers, since all four carriers now carry the Pixel. Where one outsells the other, likely pretty dramatically, carriers don't want to carry two phones, with multiple SKUs. So bringing that down to a single SKU (or even two SKUs if there are different storage variants) will make things easier for the carriers. And likely cheaper for Google to manufacture the Pixel.
Blame 5G for this confusing product line
Google could have followed Samsung's lead and went all-in with 5G this year. But Google did the (likely) smart thing here, and is still offering a 4G smartphone.
Carriers are pushing manufacturers to adopt 5G, so they can get more customers on their 5G networks, even though most 5G networks are pretty impossible to find. Sure, you can connect to T-Mobile's 5G network, but it's not much faster than its 4G LTE network. Not to mention the fact that 5G smartphones cost more.
So Google opting to offer a 4G Pixel 4a and then a 5G model, is a good thing. This way Google can offer something that's pretty inexpensive – we've seen rumors of it being around $349. And it'll keep most people happy. And then those that want a faster phone, when they can find some good ol 5G, then there is the Pixel 4a 5G.
5G is really complicating things, not just for Google though. Particularly when it comes to Verizon. As some manufacturers are needing to make special versions of their phones for Verizon, since they decided to do mmWave 5G first, instead of Sub-6 5G, like the rest of the world. And since supporting both requires a lot of space inside the phone, a lot of them are not supporting both. We've all heard about the Verizon Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 5G and how there are changes internally, right? Yeah, that's thanks to 5G.
Snapdragon 765G is being used to keep costs down and support 5G
The Snapdragon 765G is a slightly slower version of the Snapdragon 865 and also supports 5G. It's also a cheaper chipset to put into a phone, which is probably the key to why Google is using it.
5G is more costly for a number of reasons, and to try and keep costs down, Google is likely going with the Snapdragon 765G. However, this is a double-edged sword for Google. As it can't expect to sell a Snapdragon 765G smartphone for the same price as a Snapdragon 855 Pixel 4. However, Google did send out a survey to those using the Opinion Rewards app, a few months ago. Which talked about a "best flagship Google phone" for only $699 per month. So it's possible that Google could try to sell the Pixel 5, with the Snapdragon 765G inside for only $699.
That would be a $200 price drop from the Pixel 4. And that would likely get people on-board the Pixel 5 hype train. Especially with most other smartphones coming in at close to $999 right now.
The LG Velvet, which is also running the Snapdragon 765G is selling for around $700-$750 in South Korea right now (that's at the current exchange rate). So this is possible.
One of the biggest issues with the Pixel is the pricing. $899 for a phone that is definitely inferior to the Galaxy S10, Note 10, S20 and even the OnePlus 8, which are all around the same price.
Google would have a Pixel at excellent price points, though
Jumping onto the other side of the argument, Google would have a few more price points for the Pixel.
So if the Pixel 4a is $349 and the Pixel 5 is $699, the Pixel 4a 5G could be around $500-$549. Putting it right in the middle of the two. Giving a price point for everyone here. Though Google is going to need to do a bit more to really differentiate the three smartphones. Currently, the only major difference we know about the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G is the different chipset inside, along with 5G connectivity. But it wouldn't be surprising to see Google make the Pixel 4a 5G bigger. It could actually be the Pixel 4a XL, but Google is using the "5G" term instead of "XL" here. Remember, 5G phones need more space for antennas, so it's pretty logical.
While the Pixel lineup is due to be very confusing this year, it could turn out to be a pretty compelling line of smartphones from Google. Particularly for those that want to jump onto the 5G bandwagon without spending nearly a grand on a new phone.
The next few months are bound to be pretty interesting.