Google dilutes Pixel 5 amid economic downturn

New budget handset will launch on 15 October with fewer features and a mid-range processor

Google has said that its new Pixel 5 smartphone has been built and priced with an economic downturn in mind.

The device was launched on Wednesday at a price of $699 (£599), considerably less than last year's $899 (£700) Pixel 4.

The drop in price is largely due to the device having far less processing power and fewer top end features. Instead, Google has focused on boosting other areas of the handset, such as the camera array, and pivoting the device towards the middle tier of the smartphone market.

This takes the Pixel away from the likes of the Samsung S20, the Huawei P40 and the next top end version of the iPhone that's due to launch soon.

Smartphone prices are often estimated early in development, allowing the manufacturer to account for the components it will need. In the case of the Pixel 5, that decision was taken before the pandemic took hold, but Google now believes that its original pricing model would be out of step with the current economic climate.

"What the world doesn't seem like it needs right now is another $1,000 phone," said Google's SVP of hardware Rick Osterloh. "Obviously nobody anticipated the pandemic, but we actually did think that the world was possibly headed for an economic downturn... and it only further emphasised our point of view that this is the right thing."

The Pixel 5 is fitted with the Snapdragon 765G, which is seen as a lower-end chipset compared to the Snapdragon 865 found in most of the rival handsets launched in 2020.

While the 865 gives a device a better overall performance, the 765G has an integrated modem that is better equipped for 5G tasks. It is also worth noting that most smartphones have more processing power than the average user needs and the presence of a lower-end chipset isn't necessarily going to be noticeable from a user perspective.

The Pixel 5 has also dialed back on newer technology, most notably Soli, the firm's motion sensor feature. In our review of the Pixel 4, we found very little use for Soli's gesture controls and found it no faster than using the phone's touchscreen.

The Pixel 5 is slated for release in the UK on 15 October and will come with 6in full HD 90Hz display, 12MP and 16MP cameras, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

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