Pixel 5 Follow-Up

A picture of my Pixel 5.

John ScalziI’ve had a number of people ping me to ask me if I had any further thoughts on the Pixel 5 since I did my first impressions review a couple weeks back; apparently a lot of folks are in the market for a phone right about now. The answer is, yes, I do, and they are mostly: I really like this phone.

Some bullet points to expand on this:

* To begin, the battery life is, for me at least, phenomenal. For the first time that I’ve owned a cell phone, I’m not experiencing battery anxiety; I can use the phone like I usually do all day and still have a significant amount of battery left at the end of the day, when I set it back on the charger. I honestly don’t know what to do with myself; I keep checking my battery levels in the middle of the day, expecting them to be something like 30%, and then the Pixel 5 tells me it’s at, like, 85% and looks at me judgingly. Eventually over the lifespan of the phone the battery life will decrease, as this is the way of all things, but even when it does, it’s likely to get to the sort of battery level I had on the Pixel 4 when it was new. That’s acceptable to me. I can enthusiastically recommend the Pixel 5 simply on the battery experience alone.

* But the rest of the Pixel 5 experience is quite pleasant too! As noted before, the pictures out of the phone are as good as they ever are out of the Pixel line, the Pixel-specific phone features continue to be lovely, and if there’s any slowdown in the daily function of the phone because it’s using the 765 Snapdragon chip (save for a slight lag in photo-processing when you ask it to do portrait mode), I haven’t noticed it. The phone continues to be a delight to hold; the “bio-resin” coating on the aluminum back is not slippery and doesn’t attract fingerprints, and I can use it with a single hand.

If I have any complaint at all, it is that the fingerprint scanner on the back is slightly too sensitive and it accidentally drops down my notification drawer from time to time. But I think that’s at least partly due to me being out of the habit of positioning my finger on the back, thanks to the Pixel 4 using face unlock. I suspect the muscle memory will return.

But by and large, the Pixel 5, as a piece of technology, is transparent to me, which is to say that I don’t have to think about it as hardware, in order to access the things I use it for. It’s really well-designed as an everyday tool.

(Oh, and, I finally saw 5G on my phone the other day! It’s fine, it runs a little faster than 4G here in the boonies, but not enough so that I’m going to spend any amount of time thinking about it.)

* I was forwarded an Ars Technica review of the Pixel 5 today, which effectively said “why pay for the Pixel 5 when the Pixel 4a is almost as good for half as much?” For me, the answer is: Better camera, better screen, better build quality and better battery (also better processor and RAM, but I’m sure the 4a’s processor and RAM are fine). The way the review sort of elides all of that is a bit, well, sloppy. But honestly, if the 4a fits your lifestyle better, I’m sure Google, who makes both, would be happy to take your money either way!

It’s about use cases. In my use case, the Pixel 4a wouldn’t be enough, while the Pixel 5 is perfect. If you really like the feature set of the Pixel 5 but are kinda on the fence on the cost, you might check out the Pixel 4a 5G phone (No, Google is not helping with these too similar phone labels). The 4a 5G has the same camera and processor as the 5, but the build quality is slightly less robust, and it doesn’t have as much RAM. But it’s $200 cheaper! So, again, it’s about what you want out of a phone.

As it happens, I think the price of the Pixel 5 is perfectly reasonable for what you get, and also (and again, as noted in my previous writeup), the price is going to go down real soon anyway as the holiday sales get fired up. So if you want the phone but are price sensitive, wait a couple more weeks and you’ll see some price drops.

* So, yes. To repeat: I really like the Pixel 5; it sort of perfectly fits how I use a phone here in 2020, and I suspect that it will be a solid fit for a lot of other people. To borrow a phrase from one Google’s competitors in the phone arena, “it just works.” I like it just working.

— JS


8 Comments on “Pixel 5 Follow-Up”

  1. Glad to hear this positive follow-up coming from you after all the middling ones more recently from Ars and a few other tech outlets. I have this on order now and came to the same conclusion about why I went with the 5 over the 4a or the 4a 5g models. (also i REALLY like wireless charging)

    I was thinking of going to try the OnePlus devices but the screen sizes kinda put me off (smaller hands) and honestly I really like how Google does their photo post-processing over OnePlus or Samsung (and even apple for that matter). I also don’t really trust OnePlus, or to an even lesser extent Samsung, to update their phone past a year of updates. While not a problem for some people, I TRY to get 3 years out of a device before switching assuming the battery life doesn’t drive me nuts and it is nice to know that there will at least be major OS updates for that time.

  2. Thanks for this additional review post. I’ve had (and loved) my Pixel 3 for nearly two years and I’m reluctant to part with it. But the battery life has decreased dramatically over the past several months; if it’s a specific or new app that’s responsible for the drain, I’ve not been able to identify it. The phone is also getting a little glitchy—toggling to silent mode for no reason, when audio is active; quitting out of apps unexpectedly; and so forth. It looks like I may be headed for a Pixel 5 in the near future . . .

  3. I keep seeing speed being pushed without having a clue on how a faster phone or faster Internet would help my phone experience. I suppose it is because all my downloading is done on a real computer. Now if they used that bandwidth to make hi-def sound in my phone calls, that would be great!

  4. Do you ever use the “swipe” feature on the fingerprint pad intentionally? I got frustrated with the accidental notification bar drop-downs and ended up turning that feature off.

  5. The main reason I went for the Pixel 5 over the 4a was the waterproofing, its one of those things that once you get used to it you just can’t go back. I also agree 100% on the battery life.

  6. If I may suggest, given that the runtime of the phone is good (so is my Pixel 5) it may be worth your trying an app called Accubatt which can be set to give an audible warning when the charge reaches a level that you set, less than 100%.

    Lithium cells, which I have designed into a number of products, last much longer if the charge level is not regularly taken over its maximum range, specially at the high end. I find that a charge to 70% is enough for me, which causes *very little* wear on the cell. The default in Accubatt is 80%, but even if you find you need 90% to last as long as you need, that will still reduce wearout by a lot compared with charging to (nominally) 100%. Of course, you can’t strictly reach 100% because as the cell approaches full charge the charge current falls, but at some stage the charge controller switches off to avoid stupid amounts of wearout, and that level, which may be as high as 98%, is designated full.

    FWIW, to minimise field failures, I rarely design anything to charge above 95%, sometimes only just over 90%, and specify the run time accordingly.

  7. FWIW, *for me* there is only one aspect of the Pixel 5 that is not completely ideal, and that is that the stereo sound is not great (but I often use earphones). The Pixel 2 which I used before lacked only wireless charging to be almost ideal, but now was time to upgrade to the even better camera on the Pixel 5.

  8. Just upgraded my Pixel 2 to the Pixel 5. It was expensive but I agree it’s worth it, and I agree with all of your points. After ten hours at work and moderate usage (web, some YouTube, persistent checking the news, etc…), my battery was at 86%. After fourteen hours at home on WiFi it was at 76%. If only batteries could stay this good.