Google Pixel 5a: Everything you need to know

Here’s everything we know so far.

Is the Pixel 5a cancelled?

No. But sort of yes, depending on where you live.

In April 2021 infamous (but not always reliable) leaker Jon Prosser made headlines by claiming that the Pixel 5a has been scrapped due to the ongoing global chip shortage, which has caused delays and production problems in everything from phones to games consoles over the last year. 

Within hours Google responded, issuing a statement to 9to5Google, denying that the 5a has been cancelled, but admitting that it might not launch in the usual range of markets:

“Pixel 5a 5G is not canceled. It will be available later this year in the US and Japan and announced in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”

So yes, the Pixel 5a (or 5a 5G to give it its apparently full name) is on the way, but it will only launch in the US and Japan. Whether it will also launch in other markets later in the year is yet to be seen, but a smaller launch than usual certainly seems likely.

When is the Pixel 5a release date?

Google’s statement above confirms that the 5a 5G will be announced “in line with when last year’s a-series phone was introduced.”

The Pixel 4a launched in August, so it seems likely that the 5a will follow in or around August 2021. Some had hoped it would turn up earlier at May’s Google’s I/O conference, when we saw Android 12 launch, but there was no such luck, so we’re still waiting.

Leaker Mark Gurman agrees with us, writing in Bloomberg that we should expect the 5a “to be announced and released in August.”

We’re expecting the Pixel 5a 5G to launch on its own, with other rumoured Pixel products like the Pixel 6, foldable Pixel phone, and Pixel Watch more likely to follow later in the year.

How much will the Pixel 5a cost?

It’s too early for any rumours, but we think Google will aim for something between the Pixel 4a price of US$349 and the 4a 5G’s $499 price tag.

Here are the prices of current and previous Pixel phones:

  • Pixel 3a – £399/$399
  • Pixel 4 – £669/$799
  • Pixel 4 XL – £829/$899
  • Pixel 4a – £349/$349
  • Pixel 4a 5G – £499/$499
  • Pixel 5 – £599/$699

What specs will the Pixel 5a have?

With a fairly radical design change for the 4a, we don’t think Google will do anything too drastic with the Pixel 5a.

And in fact, that’s exactly what we’ve seen in the first leaked renders of the phone from the usually reliable OnLeaks, which point to a phone that’s remarkably familiar – though is closer to the larger Pixel 4a 5G than the regular 4a. That makes sense now that we know this will be named the Pixel 5a 5G, positioning it more as a follow-up to that phone than the standard 4a.

OnLeaks Pixel 5a

OnLeaks Pixel 5a

At 156.2 x 73.2 x 8.8mm it’s a very similar size to the 4a 5G (it’s a touch taller and thicker, though narrower across the front). Once again it has a flat display – reportedly a 6.2in FHD+ OLED, the same as the 4a 5G, and with a similar bezel.

Once again there’s a single punch-hole selfie camera, with a two-camera array on the rear. We don’t know the specs of these cameras for sure, though Google itself may have leaked some key details.

In a blog post touting the Pixel phones’ HDR capabilities Google accidentally shared two images that may be from the Pixel 5a.

Pixel 5a camera sample

Pixel 5a camera sample

This city shot almost certainly is, as it actually contains EXIF data saying it was taken by a Pixel 5a. It’s clearly a shot from an ultrawide camera, and lists an aperture of f/2.2 – the same as the 4a 5G’s ultrawide. Even more damningly, Google has since removed that image from the blog post’s photo album (though not before it was grabbed by GSMArena), so the company clearly clocked its mistake.

Pixel 5a possible camera sample

Pixel 5a possible camera sample

This second shot is less certain – it’s still in the photo album, but it’s the only image in there to not include EXIF data on the device that captured it, and was taken on 16 February this year, so it’s at least possible that it’s from a Pixel 5a. 

The 5a might be remarkably similar to the 4a 5G on the inside too. 9to5Google dug into Android 12 Developer Preview 3 code and found multiple references to the 5a codename ‘barbet’ alongside ‘sm7250’ – the parts number for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip. That’s the same 5G chipset found in both the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, which makes us wonder what exactly will differentiate this year’s model from last year’s.

OnLeaks claims that the rear fingerprint sensor will also remain, as will a headphone jack and stereo speakers. The headphone jack has at least been confirmed by the phone’s appearance in FCC certification, which didn’t reveal much else except a few connectivity details: 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth LE, NFC, and sub-6GHz 5G.

Pixel 5a OnLeaks

Pixel 5a OnLeaks

If you don’t trust renders, then some leaked photos apparently showing the Pixel 5a have arrived on Slashleaks, but we think they’re unlikely to be real. They only show the front with a ‘5a’ wallpaper – which could easily be mocked up – and there’s no sign of the punch-hole camera, which on other recent Pixels is in the top-left corner for taking selfies.

We’re also taking these with a large pinch of salt as the poster, Slavakov, has a trust rating of just 30%. It’s also odd that the phone seems to have the codename ‘starfish’ rather than the expected ‘barbette’ and the serial number of ‘0123456789ABCDEF’ is, well, unusual.

Pixel 5a leaked photos

Pixel 5a leaked photos

Pixel 5a wish list

What we would like to see are additions like wireless charging and waterproofing as these would make a bigger difference to the user experience. The iPhone SE has them, albeit at a higher cost so perhaps one, but not both is a realistic outlook.

Although rumours point to Google re-using the Snapdragon 765G, we’d still hope for an upgrade to the Snapdragon 780G with decent RAM and storage as per the 4a. This would be good news for potential buyers, as the processor supports 5G, 120Hz refresh rates, 4K HDR recording and playback, plus a maximum of 12GB of RAM.

True, we don’t think the Pixel 5a will necessarily come with those features, but the processor would mean that any are possible if Google wants to bless their customers with some upgrades.

However, don’t expect Google to change its Apple-esque policy on expandable storage.

Camera tech will likely be one of the biggest lures for the Pixel 5a. Google has done a great job of offering a flagship camera at an affordable price. The big question is whether Google will add a secondary camera.

The Pixel 4 has a telephoto lens so that could be brought to the 5a if Google can make it work cost-wise.

The Tech Advisor team would prefer a wide-angle lens but we also wouldn’t be too surprised if Google sticks to a single lens to differentiate with its flagship phones.

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