Editor's take: In ramping up the hype for its upcoming Pixel 6 flagship, Google quietly released the Pixel 5a with subtle improvements over last year's model. It's unfortunate to see the phone getting a limited release in the US and Japan only, thanks in part to the ongoing chip shortage. The 5a's affordable price tag and attractive hardware/software package would have given global rivals some needed competition in the midrange Android space.
Reviews of the Google Pixel 5a started surfacing recently. Although it looks barely distinguishable from the 4a 5G in its newer 'Mostly Black' color, Google has made several under the hood upgrades while bringing the price down.
Chief among them is a much bigger battery at 4,680mAh, which would have paired nicely with a faster 90Hz display, but sadly Google didn't improve upon the predecessor's 1080p OLED screen beyond a slight size increase. It also keeps the older phone's SD 765G chip, 6GB/128GB storage configuration, and other useful connectivity features like NFC and 3.5mm jack.
Like its current Pixel 5 flagship, Google went for a metal body construction for the 5a, albeit a lower IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. The latter is still a worthy addition, absent in the 4a/4a 5G, allowing the Pixel camera experience to shine on more occasions.
In fact, PCMag's Steven Winkelman found the 5a's camera performance to be on par or even better than the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Pixel 5a (left) produces better low-light images than the iPhone 12 (right)
Image credit: Steve Winkelman
Despite an under-the-radar launch, Google's Pixel 5a marks a few important milestones for the company. It's expected to be the last Google phone to feature a Qualcomm chip and include a bundled charger as the upcoming Tensor-powered Pixel 6 will ditch the power brick.
The 5a is also the first Pixel phone to drop Google's Photos unlimited perk, now counting towards users' free 15GB account storage as it began doing for non-Pixel users from June 1. As notified by the company last year, owners of future Pixel devices won't get any special treatment and will have to pay up for Google One subscription if they want to unlock more storage.