The Pixel line is Google’s series of in-house Android phones. There’s been at least one new model released annually since 2016, but what are the newest phones that have been released in the line, and how has the Pixel brand changed over time? We’ll take a look at all of that and more.
The Pixel Line Has Humble Origins
Before we get into the modern-day stuff, let’s see how the Pixel line got to where it is today. While the first Pixel was announced back in 2016, the Google Nexus phones are a also key part of the history to look at, as they were Google’s original line of Android phones.
This line started in 2010 as a developer platform with the Nexus One and continued with that trend until 2015 with the Nexus 6P. Despite originally being designed as a platform for developers to build Android apps, the Nexus line was well regarded among reviewers and well remembered as some of the best Android phones on the market by enthusiasts. This is no small part due to the low entry price for the phones, at least until the Nexus 6 when the price jumped significantly over the preceding models.
Here are all the phones Google released under the Nexus name:
- Nexus One (2010)
- Nexus S (2010)
- Galaxy Nexus (2011)
- Nexus 4 (2012)
- Nexus 5 (2013)
- Nexus 6 (2014)
- Nexus 5X (2015)
- Nexus 6P (2015)
The important thing to note about the Nexus line is all the phones were either co-developed or manufactured by other companies, such as HTC, LG, and Samsung. This is why when the first Pixel phone was announced in 2016, it was a big deal that it would be handled entirely in-house by Google.
The Pixel phones have been mostly well regarded but not without issues. Hardware problems in both quality control and things like battery life plagued most Pixel phones, holding back their excellent software and cameras. There’s plenty to love about the line, but it doesn’t manage to stick the landing consistently. More recent Pixel phones have corrected many of the issues that plagued previous models, making the current generation of Pixels the best yet.
2019 saw the release of a new line of Pixel phone with the “a” series. The $400 Pixel 3a came with the same great camera and software as 2018’s Pixel 3, but in a cheaper package. While the price led to some obvious performance and hardware downgrades, those were understandable, and the phone was extremely well received. The 3a allowed Google to stake a name for itself in the budget phone market, with the “a” series continuing to be some of the best phones for the money.
Here are all of the Pixel phones that have been released to date:
- Google Pixel (2016)
- Google Pixel XL (2016)
- Google Pixel 2 (2017)
- Google Pixel 2 XL (2017)
- Google Pixel 3 (2018)
- Google Pixel 3 XL (2018)
- Google Pixel 3a (2019)
- Google Pixel 4 (2019)
- Google Pixel 4 XL (2019)
- Google Pixel 4a (2020)
- Google Pixel 4a 5G (2020)
- Google Pixel 5 (2020)
The Newest Flagship Phone is the Pixel 5
The Pixel 5 continues the main flagship line of Pixel phones, though it’s not a tangential upgrade from the Pixel 4. The rear camera array is largely the same (though it loses the Pixel 4’s telephoto lens for an ultrawide camera), but it has a better battery, better software, and it even manages a lower starting price than the Pixel 4, coming in at $699. It loses Face Unlock and goes back to a fingerprint sensor, which was polarizing for many users. It also uses a slightly slower Snapdragon 765g processor.
It does, however, keep wireless charging and water resistance, which are both features expected on a flagship device. The 90hz refresh rate is along for the ride here, as are the other Pixel features that users have come to love, like Night Sight and Portrait Mode. So while the phone may not compete with the top of the line, $1000+ phones out there, it absolutely dominates the upper midrange and is one of the best Android phones on the market.
Unlike previous years, there is no XL version of the 5 available, which makes the standard model an easy choice if you’re looking for an Android phone. Google has seemingly learned a lot from the previous Pixel phones and was able to fix a lot of mistakes with the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5
One of the best Android phones on the market and the latest entry in the Pixel line.
Budget Tier: Pixel 4a and 4a 5G
While the 5 is great, the 4a and 4a 5G have caught many people’s eyes as well. Both of these are impressive phones for the price ($349 and $499 respectively) and have a couple of noteworthy differences you should know about.
The 4a is arguably the best budget phone you can buy today. It’s got the same great software and camera from the Pixel 4. The specs, while not mindblowing, keep up with the current version of Android well. It’s hard to think of a better phone in the price bracket and is an excellent option for any Android user looking for a phone on a budget.
But what about the 4a 5G? Obviously, the 4a 5G supports 5G wireless, but it provides a couple of other upgrades compared to the Pixel 4a. Most notably, the slightly larger screen (6.2 inches versus the 4a’s 5.8 inches), a bigger battery, and better performance thanks to a faster processor (it has the same chip as the Pixel 5). For $150 extra, it’s worth the upgrade for many people.
Google Pixel 4a 5G
An upgraded version of the standard 4a with better performance and 5G wireless.