Google’s newest budget phone doesn’t really fill a hole in the brand’s line-up, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s not for sale in the UK.
I’ve long been a fan of Google’s a-series of smartphones. While so many budget devices deliver excellent all-round performances, they often disappoint when it comes to the camera; with the Pixel 4a and its predecessors, the camera hits flagship standards, blowing its competitors out of the water and offering a truly great option for keen photographers of more limited means.
The announcement of the Google Pixel 5a, however, is not the great leap forward that myself and other fans might have been hoping for, but more of a slightly stumbling step up.
Very little has changed compared to the Google Pixel 4a 5G, with the famed camera hardware apparently remaining the same, and no changes whatsoever to the processor either. Yes, the device has finally been given an official water resistance rating (IP67) and the battery has been boosted up to 4,680mAh, but these minor improvements hardly justify the launch of a new device only around 9 months since the last one made waves.
Limiting sales to just the United States and Japan as Google has done, skipping the UK and the EU entirely, is somewhat of an admission that it will not hold wide appeal – so in that case, why release it at all?
I’d prefer if companies ditched the rigorous and unforgiving release schedule to which they all seem bound, and only launched new devices when there’s been a true improvement worthy of the name. If the screen had an enhanced refresh rate, or if Google had implemented a unique new processor as it plans to do for the Pixel 6, then it would generate far more enthusiasm (and sales) than the uninspired device we’ve got instead.
It’s not an admission of failure for a smartphone manufacturer to skip a generation and add another year or so onto the lifecycle of its devices; in fact it would help streamline an already crowded mid-range market to the consumer’s benefit. Google aims for simplicity in its versatile Android software, so it should try doing the same with its series of excellent smartphones too.