The idea that Google may ditch the newest high-end Qualcomm chipset in its upcoming Pixel 5, thus pushing the phone out of the flagship or top-tier category of phones, initially had my mind running in a variety of directions. But now that I’ve marinated on it some, assuming they do indeed decide to exit at arena filled with Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPhones, I guess my general reaction is, “Why not?”
To back up for a second, the current thought here is that Google may use the Snapdragon 765G in their Pixel 5 and Pixel 5 XL. We think that because rumored codenames have now been attached to possible future Pixel phones in a pretty substantial way. Those names are bramble and redfin, and previous reports we’ve done link those to both the 765G and the Pixel 5 line.
Since the Snapdragon 765G is a 700-series chip, it falls below the Snapdragon 865 in terms of overall performance. All other major flagship phones of each year use Qualcomm’s 800-series, including past Pixel phones, so this would be a change. The 765G is by no means a low-end chip, though, understand that. It’s closer to high-end than not and includes integrated 5G, unlike the 865. It’s probably a more put-together future chip than any of Qualcomm’s.
Should Google go forward without the 865, it could signal a shift in focus for Google with smartphones. While they previously tried to go head-to-head with the biggest in the industry by selling $1,000 phones, it clearly has not worked out. I’m not sure we can point to any Pixel phones as giant success stories. Sure, there was a time where the Pixel 3a sold well, but we know the Pixel 3 did not and there is no indication that the Pixel 4 didn’t massively flop, even with wide distribution on all carriers. Since launch, it has seen several large discounts to try and move units.
So yeah, Google might as well change it up. We’re four years into the Pixel family of phones and I’d be shocked if Google told us they had seen significant adoption. Even with the Pixel 3, we were still giving them time under the guise of the Pixel line being new. But here we are four flagship versions in with a mid-range (Pixel 3a) there too. Google has made five different Pixel phones and no longer gets to act like this is a new segment of hardware for them to play in. They should have showed us that this is a winnable venture and I’m not sure they have.
Choosing to go with a slightly lesser-equipped Snapdragon 765G processor might take some pressure off of Google. For one, it could help dramatically with price. With Qualcomm forcing 5G into the Snapdragon 865, we’ve seen a big price jump on the first round of 865 phones. We may be at a point where consumers aren’t going want to spend that kind of money and could look elsewhere for more affordable options. What if the 765G allows Google to price the Pixel 5 at $700? I’m not sure anyone knows if it’ll allow that, but should it help them keep Pixel 5 priced hundreds lower than everyone else, they might find an area of the smartphone world that most have exited and is now only occupied by OnePlus.
Switching it up also might let Google just be weird. They don’t have to conform to the 800-series profile of packing every single spec into a phone that is available. When the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL arrived, most picked them apart for not having enough storage or RAM or the right battery size. We all thought the value wasn’t where it needed to be, because at their prices, you could get more. We said specifically in our Pixel 4 XL review that it wasn’t a $900 phone.
By dropping expectations a notch, tossing in objects like a gimmicky radar system are less offensive when other items are missing. For example, the Pixel 4 is a pretty decent buy at $550, just not so much at $800 or $900.
We all know that Google will continue to excel in the camera department while pushing out software features and updates on a regular basis. Should they keep those focuses while finding areas to reduce prices without stepping into Pixel 4a territory, it could be an opportunity for Google to stand out again. At the very least, they’ll stop having to compete where they can’t.