Right now is an exciting time for Google’s Pixel family. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are still good for eight months after their release – and have only gotten better thanks to frequent software updates. the middle class Pixel 6a is around the corner, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro will be here this fall, and the mysterious Pixel tablet is set to launch in 2023.
But for most of this year, I haven’t thought about Google’s current product line or what’s in the pipeline. Instead I’m smitten with Pixel 5. of 2020† It is not a perfect smartphone these days. The Snapdragon 765G chipset takes an extra hit to load some apps, certain animations are a bit jerky, and my earphones inexplicably stop working for stereo sound. But even with those signs of age, I get a fuzzy feeling every time I pick up the Pixel 5. It’s comfortable, familiar, and my favorite Pixel over the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro sitting in my office drawer.
Why am I subjecting myself to a device nearly two years old when its objectively better siblings are at my disposal? I have my reasons.
Small phones are a dying breed in our current market. Apple tested the waters with the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 13 mini in recent years, but that experiment seemingly failed. After numerous reports of disappointing sales for the mini iPhone, all signs point to Apple scrapping it this year in favor of a super-sized iPhone 14 Max† This is also evident throughout the Android space. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have 6.4-inch and 6.7-inch screens, the OnePlus 10 Pro clocks in with a 6.7-inch display, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a massive 6.8-inch canvas. Big phones are in, and there’s no evidence that that’s going to change anytime soon.
The Pixel 5 is a wonderful exception to that rule. The 6-inch display may not sound small on paper, but the phone’s overall dimensions make it minuscule compared to more recent flagships. The Pixel 5 is 144.7mm high and 70.4mm wide. The Galaxy S22 Ultra? It is 163.3mm high and x 77.9mm wide.
Is the Pixel 5 the smallest phone I’ve ever seen? Not at all. But I think it strikes an incredible balance between providing ample screen space while still being practical for everyday life. I have enough space to watch a YouTube video or play a round Call of Duty: Mobilebut the Pixel 5 is also compact enough that I can pack it into a small pocket without fear of it crawling over the top.
Equally important is the weight of the Pixel 5. Not only is it a compact smartphone, but it’s also feather-light. Weighing in at 155 grams, the Pixel 5 weighs just a fraction of its more recent Android counterparts. The Pixel 6 weighs 207g, the Pixel 6 Pro is 210g and the Galaxy S22 Ultra is a hefty 228g. Not only have phones gotten bigger, but they’ve gotten heavier.
This isn’t something I paid much attention to when I first got the Pixel 5. But fast forward to 2022 with daily use of the iPhone 13 Pro, and it has quickly become one of the main reasons I love using the Pixel 5 so much. Weighing in at 204g, thanks to the glass back and stainless steel frame, it doesn’t take long for my iPhone 13 Pro to feel uncomfortably in the hand. It’s not that it’s impossible to hold or even the heaviest smartphone out there, but it’s undeniably a heavy device. Call it “premium feeling” if you like, but I find it annoyingly hefty. This includes the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and any other modern handset clocked in at over 200g.
In comparison, the Pixel 5 is significantly more comfortable. I can easily hold it in one hand without having to prop it up on my little finger for extra support. I can use it in the morning while laying in bed and don’t worry about it falling on my face. Being ~50g lighter than other smartphones might not sound like a big deal, but – coupled with the Pixel 5’s compact body – it makes the Pixel 5 a phone I enjoy using more than anything else. That’s not a factor we often consider when reviewing smartphones, but in everyday use I’d say it’s one of the most important.
The Pixel 5’s size and weight are the easiest things to mention. But there are plenty of smaller details that I love just as much. Take the material from the back of the phone. Although technically it has an aluminum unibody, the whole is covered with a special “bio-resin coating” which makes it soft and smooth to the touch. It also gives the Pixel 5 a subtle speckled pattern on the back, which looks especially nice with the Sage Green color. The giant camera bar in the Pixel 6 lineup is interesting to look at, but when you hold it in your hand, the glass back feels like any other flagship from years past. Nearly two years later, the feel in the hand of the Pixel 5 remains truly special.
Another thing Google never got enough credit for was the Pixel 5’s unified bezels around the entire screen — something it left with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The top, bottom, left and right sides of the screen all have perfectly symmetrical edges. It is a terribly small detail to point out, but it’s one that shows how much work has gone into designing the phone. And with regular use, that symmetry allows me to ignore the edges and focus only on the screen, more so than on phones with different bezel sizes.
And, of course, there’s the proven Pixel Imprint fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. Unlike the on-screen sensor on the Pixel 6it is fast, reliable and works exactly as i would expect.
Not only did Google nail the functionality, but it also doubled the fingerprint sensor as one of the best smartphone gestures ever. Swipe down to see your notifications, swipe down again to see your Quick Settings, and swipe up to hide them. It was magic then, it still is magic today, and I miss it immensely when using the Pixel 6.
Are the things I mentioned above game-changers that have taken the industry by storm? Not at all! If anything, the Pixel 5 was a dud for Google. It had an awkward launch, was not clearly marketed as a flagship or mid-range device, and was handily sold out by the Pixel 6†
But those things are not important to me. All I care about is how it feels to use the Pixel 5. And in that regard, the phone still feels quite magical. The small design, lightweight body, soft back, unified edges and nice fingerprint sensor all come together to create a phone that can best be described as ‘comfortable’. Where the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro feel like they’re chasing the usual flagship formula, the Pixel 5 has ditched it to try something different. That strategy may not have been a commercial success for Google, but it produced an Android phone I can’t pry myself out of.
As much as I’d love to use the Pixel 5 in 2022, it’s not a phone I can really recommend buying if you don’t already have one. Google discontinued it last year with the launch of the Pixel 6, and by all accounts, the Pixel 6 is a better product. It has a more capable chipset, better cameras, extra software features, and will continue to receive updates for longer than the Pixel 5. There’s a reason we think the Pixel 6 is one of the best. best phones for 2022 — even if it lost something of what made the Pixel 5 great. I can’t imagine Google ever releasing a phone very much like the Pixel 5, but if I could do my greedy way with things, I sure would wish it.