Google just unveiled its next major smartphone, the Pixel 5, a $700 5G phone

  • Google unveiled the Pixel 5 on Wednesday, it's next flagship smartphone and competitor to the iPhone.
  • The announcement comes after Google revealed the name of the device back in August.
  • Google's Pixel phones don't have as big of a presence in the market as rivals like Samsung, Apple, and Huawei, but the company often uses them to introduce new Android features.
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Google on Wednesday introduced the Pixel 5, its newest high-end smartphone meant to go head-to-head with the upcoming iPhone 12 and Samsung's Galaxy S20 phones.

The phone will be among Google's first 5G smartphones, starting at $699 alongside the cheaper $500 Pixel 4a 5G. Google is also tailoring some of its apps and services to take advantage of 5G networks.

For example, the company's Duo video chatting app will now support a feature that makes it possible to share your screen with the recipient of the call and watch videos together. Google also said it will optimize video and photo streaming in YouTube and its Photos app for 5G.

Google's Pixel phones have focused on their camera quality in years past, and that's continuing with the Pixel 5. Google is adding an ultrawide camera lens to the Pixel 5, a critical feature that lets phones take images with a wider perspective that the Pixel 4 was lacking.

Google is also improving portrait mode, the feature that lets you snap a photo of a sharp subject against a blurred background, to work with Night Sight. That's the shooting mode Google announced two years ago that enables its phones to take better photos in low-light conditions.

The Pixel 5 is also getting a boost when it comes to power efficiency. A new "extreme battery saver" setting will let users extend the battery life of their Pixel 5 by up to 48 hours by only choosing to enable essential apps, the company claims.

Google also announced a new Google Assistant feature that enables the digital helper to wait on hold for you and alert you when a person joins the line. 

The announcement comes after Google unveiled the name of the phone in August. Multiple leaks have also surfaced showing the Pixel 5's design and features ahead of its official unveil. 

Google has made a name for its Pixel smartphone lineup by outfitting its phones with standout camera capabilities. The Pixel 3 from 2018, for example, stood out for its Night Sight feature that enables it to take clearer photos in the dark. Apple has since introduced a similar feature to the iPhone.

But although Google's Pixels have earned praise from reviewers in the past, the global smartphone market is still largely dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huawei.

Chinese smartphone giant Huawei accounted for 20% of global smartphone shipments as of the second quarter of 2020, according to figures from the International Data Corporation. Samsung, meanwhile, placed in second with 19.5% of the market while Apple landed in third with a market share of 13.5%. Google was not named as one of the top five smartphone vendors.

Google's Pixel division has also undergone a shakeup over the past year, with key camera executive Marc Levoy and Mario Queiroz, Google's previous Pixel leader, departing the company. 

Google may not make up a notable slice of the smartphone market, but its Pixel phones provide an avenue for the company to introduce exclusive new Android features and potentially provide a blueprint for other Android phone makers to follow. For example, some features in Android 11 — like the ability for your phone to recommend apps based on your daily routine — launched on Pixel phones first. 

The Pixel 5 is debuting just before Apple is expected to unveil its next-generation iPhone this month. The phone, rumored to be called the iPhone 12, is expected to be the company's first 5G iPhone, coming after many Android device makers like Samsung have launched several 5G phones.

Apple typically launches its new iPhones in September ahead of Google's Pixel launch, but the company said in July that it expected supply of the new phones to arrive later this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Google, meanwhile, is launching its Pixel flagship slightly earlier than usual, getting ahead of Apple's iPhone announcement. The company has introduced new Pixel phones in October in years past.

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