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Phones from and by Google: History of Pixels

The Pixel aims to bring out the best of Android and invite manufacturers and consumers to see what Google’s operating system could look like.

After all, the iPhone’s always been known for its consistent interface and cohesive ecosystem across Apple’s devices.

At the same time, Android phones have long suffered from fragmentation leading to significant differences in how the OS felt across manufacturers.

Google’s strategy is to push out devices that it sees as the perfect form of Android. It is a feat deserving of recognition, regardless of its runaway success amongst consumers.

Pixel 6A (2022)

Pixel 6A uses last year’s 12MP sensor. The phone is a little smaller than the 6, with a 6.1-inch screen, and it only has a 60Hz refresh rate. There’s no wireless charging and less RAM, and Google removed the headphone jack that came with every A-line phone. Like the Pixel 6, the 6A has the new camera bar design and under-display fingerprint sensor, though it uses plastic instead of glass on the rear.

Pixel 6 and 6 Pro (2021)

The company debuted its custom Tensor chip, which powers AI and Machine Learning on the Pixel 6, and it has new camera sensors for the first time in years. Both have wide and ultrawide cameras, but the Pro has a telephoto and a broader and better 11MP front-facing camera. They’re huge compared to the 5: the Pixel 6 has a 90Hz 6.4-inch screen, and the Pro has a 6.7-inch 120Hz one with curved edges. The Pixel 6 supports Sub-6GHz 5G and mmWave, though the latter is not on the unlocked model. The Pixel 6 Pro has both 5G options no matter what model and has 12GB of RAM vs. the regular 6’s 8GB.

Pixel 5A (2021)

The Pixel 5A did midrange. For $449, you got a bigger-than-ever 6.3-inch display, excellent battery life, IP67 waterproofing, a headphone jack, 128GB of storage, a metal body, and the same Snapdragon 765G from the Pixel 5. There’s no wireless charging, though, and even though the 5A had 5G, it didn’t have support for mmWave like some 4A 5G models, plus it lacked C-band 5G despite Google admitting the hardware is there.

Pixel 5 (2020)

The Pixel 5 was announced on the same day as the 4A 5G, but the latter shipped a month later. Both phones shared the same Snapdragon 765G processor and wide and ultrawide cameras. The Pixel 5 at $649 was $200 more than the 4A 5G, though, but you got IP68 waterproofing, 8GB of RAM compared to 6GB, a premium aluminum design, wireless charging, and a 6-inch 90Hz OLED screen compared to an only slightly bigger 6.2-inch at 60Hz on the 4A 5G.

Pixel 4A and Pixel 4A 5G (2020)

The Pixel 4A was released about two months before the 4A 5G, and the Pixel 5 was released between the two. The 4A was the most affordable Pixel yet at $349 and came with a sizable 5.8-inch screen with a hole-punched front camera that finally gave the Pixel thinner bezels. The 4A 5G had a bigger 6.2-inch screen and included an ultrawide camera that took the place of the Pixel 4’s telephoto. Google did save some money by not adding water resistance ratings and wireless charging to the 4A pair, but in exchange, you got the headphone jack again.

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (2019)

Combined with a new infrared sensor for face unlock, the Pixel 4 pair had to be designed with a magnificent forehead and still had a bit of a chin on the bottom. However, you did get a nice 90Hz screen, and Google added a telephoto camera as well though an ultrawide would probably have been more welcome. On the software side, the phones shipped with Android 10 and had a useful Live Transcribe feature.

Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL (2019)

The screens were OLED and sized at 5.6 inches and 6 inches, respectively, but the processor was downgraded to a Snapdragon 670. They also lacked a dedicated image processor, but the quality of the camera remained legendary, and the devices sport excellent battery life. You can’t quickly tell that the bodies are made of cheaper plastics than the more expensive Pixel 3 phones, but there are other compromises like no wireless charging and no waterproof rating.