Way back in February, we started tracking a few Pixel codenames (as we do), and it wasn’t until today — in early July — that we had some sense of what these phones actually are. Google put their retail names in the Google app, and for those of us who have followed the Pixel series for several years, they might seem like a bit of a curveball. Google’s definitely switching things up this year — but here’s how you can start to make sense of the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5…

Pixel 4a (sunfish)

First off, the Pixel 4a. This is, well, the Pixel 4a. It has already extensively leaked, and we know just about everything there is to know about it.

It’s a true successor to the 3a in that it’s going to launch at an affordable price (somewhere in the $300 to $400 range), it has a lower-end Snapdragon 730 system-on-a-chip, and it has lesser specs in general — a plastic body, a single camera, a smallish battery, and a smallish screen.

There’s really no mystery here — there’s a phone that was probably going to launch at Google I/O 2020 as a natural sequence in the pattern Google established at Google I/O 2019 with the launch of the Google Pixel 3a. As you know, that didn’t happen, which leaves the phone set to launch in the second half of the year.

Pixel 4a hands-on video

Where things get interesting — or confusing, if you haven’t been following as closely as we have — is how these new so-called “Pixel 4a 5G and “Pixel 5” phones fit into the lineup. Here’s what we think is happening.

Pixel 4a 5G (bramble)

The Pixel 4a 5G, assuming Google’s leak of these product names is real (let’s be honest, this is Google, it’s probably real), tells you a lot about itself just by the name. It clearly shares some fundamental things with the Pixel 4a, but it also has 5G. That means, among other minor things, the biggest differentiator is going to be its system-on-a-chip. The Pixel 4a has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730, which doesn’t support 5G. The only sensible chip this phone could have is the Snapdragon 765G.

But recently a couple of “Pixel 5” renders surfaced. Remember that “Pixel 5 XL” leak? After today’s Google app info dump, we’re pretty confident that that phone is actually the Pixel 4a 5G, and we think the physical size of the device (which is what led xleaks7 to think that this was a “Pixel 5 XL”) will be one of a few of differentiators between the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G. There’s a few reasons to think this, but perhaps the most obvious is that what “xleaks7” called the Pixel 5 XL has a headphone jack.

Here’s the leak from xleaks7 and last week — the phone they called the Pixel 5 XL which we believe is the Pixel 4a 5G.

The headphone jack is a key sign of a phone on the lower end of the spectrum, but more importantly, if there have been three CAD drawings that have leaked in the form of renders (there have: presumably 4a, 4a 5G, and 5), and they’re real (which we think they probably are — Google can’t keep secrets), and one of them happens to not have a headphone jack, it’s almost certain that that phone is the Pixel 5 — the phone we assume will try to differentiate itself in as many ways as possible from the 4a and 4a 5G.

In summary: That means the Pixel 4a 5G is going to be a Pixel 4a with a larger physical body, a larger (but similar style) screen, a Snapdragon 765G chip (and the 5G and speed benefits that come with that), a presumably larger battery, and a second camera (if the leaked CAD renders are to be believed).

Pretty much everything else about the phone will likely be the same as the 4a, which as I mentioned, we already know everything about. Voila, you now know what the Pixel 4a 5G is.

Pixel 5 (redfin)

That leaves us with the Pixel 5. We also believe that last week’s leak of the Pixel 5 in CAD drawings was real (surprisingly, we’ll admit we didn’t cover these leaks originally because we thought they were too unclear, which it turns out they were). As was noted by the leakster themselves, that phone does not have a headphone jack.

The phone is physically smaller than the Pixel 4a 5G (which xleaks7 called the Pixel 5 XL), but it’s likely to have a handful of features to make it clearly the most “flagship” of the three phones this year. Will it be a true flagship going toe-to-toe with the iPhone “Pro” series or the Galaxy Note20? Nope. But it will likely go right up against the standard iPhone 12 or standard Galaxy SXe-series phones, and to do so, it needs to have a far higher quality external build than the 4a (and presumably, the 4a 5G).

Here’s the leak from xleaks7 last week — which we believe accurately depicts the Pixel 5.

We can make lots of educated guesses about what will set the Pixel 5 apart from the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G. We’d expect that it will have a more premium build than the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G, wireless Qi charging (in fact, our deeper look at Android 11 DP1 showed a ‘Battery Share’ feature that suggests a Pixel 5 (redfin!) exists w/ reverse wireless charging).

It may not have been a Pixel 4a, but it sure looks like it’s the Pixel 5

As for the things it will share, it’s obvious that the Pixel 5, as we detailed in previous diggings through AOSP, will actually have the same system-on-a-chip as the Pixel 4a 5G. And if our theory is correct, that means the Pixel 4a 5G will actually have a larger display than the Pixel 5.

In summary: If the pieces we’ve put together are correct, the third Pixel for 2020 will be a Pixel 5 that’s between the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G in size, with the Snapdragon 765G, and probably a handful of other features — like improved build quality and wireless charging — to make it stand out as higher end. If the CADs are to be believed, it will have the same camera setup (at least on the outside) as the 4a 5G.

Also, if the CADS are to be believed and our theory is correct, all three phones will leave behind Face authentication (and Soli) in favor of fingerprint sensors (also known as Pixel Imprint).

What about the Pixel 5 XL or Pixel 5 Ultra?

Long story short, there’s no evidence that either the Pixel 5 XL or Pixel 5 Ultra exist. Google is hyper-leaky, as we saw both earlier this year with the original leak of the codenames and today with the leak of their associated product names, so we’re gonna roll with that. Don’t expect Google to come out of nowhere later this year and launch a true successor to the Pixel 4. We don’t think it’s happening.

If we’re right, what do you think about Google’s Pixel lineup this year? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author

Stephen Hall

Stephen is Growth Director at 9to5. If you want to get in touch, follow me on Twitter. Or, email at stephen (at) 9to5mac (dot) com, or an encrypted email at hallstephenj (at) protonmail (dot) com.