I just got the new Pixel 5 from Google in to review, and I’ve spent the last few days moving in. That essentially means I’m nowhere near ready to tell you what I think about the device. But after learning about the phone from other reviewers and getting to play around with it for the first time, it’s become evident to me that Google has a golden opportunity to finally deliver a Pixel Ultra.
If you’re a tech head, you’ve heard the rumors before. Google, for some time now, has been reported as working on a super high-end version of its Pixel phone. The “Pixel Ultra,” as its commonly referred to, would come with the most powerful processor available, probably a nice amount of RAM, plenty of cameras, tons of storage, a big battery, wireless charging – you get the gist. It would be just about everything Google could fit in a phone, and a large part of the Android community has expressed interest in such a product.
Only, that’s not exactly what Google’s goal with the Pixel has been. Yes, over the years, the specs under the hood of each Pixel have improved, but the company’s never gone buck wild with them. The Pixel 4 from last year stuck with the Snapdragon 855 instead of the 855 Plus and only came with 6GB of RAM and up to 128GB of storage. There were two cameras (no ultra-wide lens), small-ish batteries (maxing out at 3,700mAh on the XL), and high price tags. And while I enjoyed the Pixel 4 XL for what it was, that’s not exactly a recipe for success.
The Pixel 5 strays even father away from the idea of an Ultra Pixel by including a Snapdragon 765G processor, the mid-range alternative to the 865. It also drops Motion Sense from the Pixel 4 which gave the device facial recognition. It’s pretty barebones overall, which is why it costs $699.
That being said, because Google’s 2020 flagship doesn’t cost $1,000 or more, there’s room in their portfolio for what could be a Pixel 5 Ultra.
Think about it. Google wants to sell phones, but they can’t capture the crowd of people who want the best of the best because of the lower-end parts inside the Pixel 5. Instead, they could offer another phone for $300 more which comes with the Snapdragon 865 (or whatever the 2021 flagship Snapdragon chipset is), a triple rear camera system, a big battery, a large 120Hz Quad HD display, plenty of RAM, wireless charging, water resistance, and a modern design. Maybe Motion Sense makes a return, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, just stick with a fingerprint reader and get rid of any screen bezels.
Something tells me a phone like that would sell like hot cakes, and that’s probably the reason Google hasn’t put one out yet. They’ve wanted to do a go-to option for people who didn’t want an iPhone, and that’s the type of device they’ve been churning out for the past four years. But now that that phone is in the sub-$700 category, I can’t help but think they could offer a model with a ton of powerful specs and compete with the S20 Ultras and iPhone 12 Pros of the world.
This may be just a pipe dream, but I can’t prove that. With Google’s flighty reputation in the hardware business, it’s difficult to pinpoint what the company will do next. Will they put out a budget phone next May called the 5a? Could they launch an unexpected Pixel 5 Ultra in early 2021? Will the Pixel line remain below $700 from now on?
There are plenty of questions to be asked and not enough answers. But if you ask me, the stars are aligning for a Pixel Ultra to finally arrive, and we may not have to wait much longer.
This editorial is from the Wiretapped newsletter. Want to get tech columns like this in your inbox every week? Subscribe below!