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Opinion: The Google Pixel 5 can turn the smartphone world on its head

The Pixel 5 is about to drop out of the spec race. It’ll be a masterstroke that’ll change the way we think about smartphones. Here’s why.

By now, you’re either fed-up of hearing the words “when this is all over…” or desperately clinging to them. It’s a bit of both for us. However, when this is all over, the tech world will need to adjust just like every other facet of society.

A few months of self-sacrifice, living within our means and making do, will affect tech consumption. Millions will be impacted financially and likely tightening purse strings for months after the nation goes back to work.

I envision life being a bit like Jamie’s Keep Cooking and Carry On where we settle for something that ticks most of the boxes, minus the usual flair provided by luxury ingredients, which brings us neatly to the Pixel 5 and a massive change in tack from Google.

Reports suggest the next-gen Pixel will be powered by a mid-range, lower-cost Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, rather than the 2020 flagship Snapdragon 865. If accurate, it’s unlikely to be the only corner cut, and that could mean a much more affordable Pixel 5.

Related: Best phones 2020

It would, of course, be a decision that long predates the current crisis, but it could be a happy accident for a company that has struggled for traction in flagship smartphone sales.

We know sales aren’t brag-worthy. The company completely negated to mention Pixel 4’s performance during a February earnings call, despite specifically talking-up Pixel 3a sales in 2019. Google also offered super-attractive trade-in options and heavy Black Friday discounts on the Pixel 4, little more than a month after release.

Google remains well outside of the top ten global manufacturers, according to Counterpoint research. Statcounter reckons Google only had 1.4% of the UK market in March 2020. But the Pixel phones have all been well-reviewed and highly visible. Critically acclaimed, but a box-office flop? The Pixel range might be the Blade Runner 2049 of the smartphone world.

The Pixel 3a boosted Google’s year-on-year smartphone sales by 139%, so the issue isn’t necessarily a distrust of the firm’s hardware brand or the marketing of these handsets. The key to transferring this to the flagship Pixel 5 is honesty with a smartphone buying public that’ll be more open to a bargain than at any time in the last decade.

Settling vs Great value

We are all wowed by the newest innovations, the ongoing quest for an extra few percent offered by those bleeding edge specs. It’s why we at Trusted Reviews do what we do. However, the vast majority of the public do not need a Snapdragon 865 processor, more than 8GB of RAM, a 120Hz display, or half a dozen rear-facing cameras. Those things are all really nice to have, but not necessities, especially at a time like this.

But people don’t like to be seen for settling for a second-rate product either. Google’s job is to convince the public the Pixel 5 is the best Android phone for most people, and then price it accordingly.

Google can justifiably brag about the best and purest version of Android, with iOS-like immediate access to software and security updates. It’s something no other manufacturer can promise. It’s perhaps the Pixel range’s main selling point and doesn’t require a dime of hardware component spend.

The cameras are unquestionably flagship level, and the wider industry has copied software innovations like Night Sight. Now Google has fixed Face Unlock for the Pixel 4; the Pixel 5 will tick the major biometric security. Beef up the below-average battery life and Google will be in business.

Opportunity knocks

If the Pixel 5 comes in at below £549 (the probable price of the OnePlus 8), then it will become an entirely different proposition for many smartphone buyers. At half the price of a true flagship, it’ll seem like a bargain, rather second prize. It’ll be a tempter for users to switch from tried and tested Samsung or Apple phones, or an opportunity to guarantee the full Android suite that Huawei cannot.

The old guard is falling away. Sony, LG and HTC have rudderless smartphone strategies. Nokia and Motorola are drifting along, seemingly not putting a tent in Apple and Samsung’s hold over the public. Rightly or wrongly, there’s a lingering trust issue when it comes to many of the Chinese manufacturers filling the void. There’s an opportunity here for Google if the Pixel 5 can seize it.

For too long, people have spoken of what the Pixel range doesn’t have. By shifting tack with a more affordable sub-flagship smartphone, Google changes the conversation.

The Pixel 5 will be the ideal smartphone for changing times and perspectives; a great value phone that delivers everything consumers need and then some. It’ll be the smartphone story of 2020.

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