Google Unveils 5G Pixel Phones, Nest Audio Speaker, New Chromecast
Google is the latest company to move its annual product launch online — the company just unveiled all its long-rumored 2020 products including two new phones, a smart speaker, and a new Chromecast. The speaker and Chromecast have gotten much more powerful, but the phones are a modest follow-up to last year’s flagship Pixel phones.
Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G
The nest Pixel phones are also Google’s first-ever 5G devices — only sub-6GHz 5G for the 4a, though. Faster but less stable mmWave is only supported on the Pixel 5. The Pixel 4a 5G is the more affordable of the two, clocking in at $499. The Pixel 5 is a bit more expensive at $699, and there is no Pixel 5 XL this year. In both cases, these phones are much less expensive than past Pixel phones.
Despite having different numerical branding, the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G are very similar devices. Both run on the Snapdragon 765G chip with built-in 5G and have a dual-camera setup on the back. Sadly, Google ditched the zoom camera from last year, opting instead for a regular wide-angle sensor (12MP) and an ultrawide (16MP). Google says it has enhanced image processing, particularly when it comes to portrait mode photography. Video recording, which has long been a weakness of Pixels, is getting a new Cinematic Pan feature to smooth out motion.
The 4a 5G has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage like the cheaper Pixel 4a, but it has a larger 6.2-inch 1080p OLED panel. It retains the headphone jack from its cheaper sibling, but the Pixel 5 does not. However, the Pixel 5 adds water resistance, wireless charging, 8GB of RAM, and a slightly larger battery. The Pixel 5 has a slightly smaller screen than the 4a 5G at 6-inches—it has a 90Hz refresh, but it’s the same 1080p resolution.
The new Pixels come with an “extreme battery saver mode” that lets you turn off all but a few apps to extend your battery life by two days when you need it. Assistant can also wait on hold for you on the new Pixels with a feature called Hold For Me. Just tap the button, set the phone down, and Assistant will let you know when a person is back on the line. These features will come to older Pixel phones in an update at some point soon-ish.
The Pixel 5 loses some features that made the Pixel 4 stand out, for better or worse. There’s no Soli radar module, so Motion Sense gestures are out. Google has also gone back to the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. There’s no fancy IR face unlock on the new Pixels. The 4a 5G has the same setup, but we didn’t expect those fancy sensors on an A-series Pixel.
Like all Pixel phones, they come with three years of guaranteed software updates. The Pixel 5 will launch toward the end of next month unlocked and on Verizon. The Pixel 4a won’t launch until November 19th in the US.
The phones aren’t all that’s new in Google-land. There’s a new smart speaker that fully embraced the Nest branding. Of course, it still has Assistant inside, allowing you to access account data like your calendar and control smart home devices by voice. It also has enhanced on-device AI like the Nest Mini, which should make Assistant about twice as fast to respond compared with the original Home.
The new Nest Audio costs $99 and comes in five different colors to better match your style. Google also notes the enclosure is 70 percent recycled plastic. Packing a 75mm subwoofer and a 19mm tweeter, Google says the Nest Audio has 75 percent more volume and 50 percent more bass compared with the original Google Home. It also has the room adaptation features from the more expensive Home Max. So, your music should sound much better if you replace an OG Home.
The Nest Audio ship from the Google Store in the next few days, but the official launch date is October 5th. It will be available from other retailers on October 15th.
Chromecast with Google TV
The Chromecast is one of Google’s most successful products, and there’s a new version today. The branding is a bit confusing, though. The “Chromecast with Google TV” is a new 4K-capable Chromecast, but it’s only $50. That’s $20 less than the now-obsolete Chromecast Ultra. Google TV is a whole different can of worms, though.
This device works like a Chromecast — you find video on your phone and cast it to the device. There’s a remote, finally, that lets you control playback without using your phone. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from a new Chromecast, but this dongle has much more with Google TV. This is not the same Google TV we had years ago — it’s based on Android, but Google says it’s distinct from Android TV. Google TV will be Google’s TV platform going forward, but for now, it’s limited to the Chromecast.
Google TV plugs into all your streaming apps to surface content on its redesigned home screen. The “For You” section only shows you things you can watch without paying extra (via your subscribed apps), but the other tabs offer a wider selection that includes purchases and rentals. There’s also live TV integration, but that’s limited to YouTube TV for now. If you don’t have a YouTube TV subscription, the “Live” tab won’t show up. Bizarrely, Stadia game streaming won’t work on the new Chromecast at all until early next year.
This rounds out Google’s product lineup for 2020. Everything mentioned here is available for pre-order or waitlisting on the Google Store.