Google's Pixel 5a 5G Might Not Bring A Big Performance Leap This Year

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Last year, Google introduced two 5G-capable smartphones to hit the mid-range and "upper" mid-range markets. The Pixel 4a 5G launched at $499, while the Pixel 5 debuted at $699.

Google already confirmed that the Pixel 5a 5G is coming later this year, but it might not bring a significant hardware upgrade compared to its predecessor. According to some code sleuthing performed by 9to5Google, references to the Pixel 5a 5G appear in the newly released Android 12 Developer Preview 3. The smartphone is referenced by its codename, Barbet, and is paired with the model number sm7520. For those unfamiliar with Qualcomm's internal model numbers, sm7520 refers to the Snapdragon 765G SoC, which was very popular with OEMs in 2020 mid-range smartphones.

Surprisingly, however, the same chip graces the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5. That is an interesting turn of events, if true, as it would represent a virtual standstill concerning performance year-over-year for Google's mid-range smartphone.

It was presumed that the Pixel 5a 5G would adopt a newer Qualcomm SoC, perhaps the newly announced Snapdragon 780G destined for the mid-range market. The Snapdragon 780G is built on a newer 5nm process node and employs four Cortex-A78 cores and four Cortex-A155 cores. It also packs in a more performant Adreno 642 GPU.

At this point, there is only speculation as to why Google would use year-old chips. However, the popular opinion is that the ongoing chip shortage is limiting the number of next-gen SoCs available to OEMs. Another possibility is that Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 sales weren't as strong as expected, and the company has a surplus of Snapdragon 765G chips that it needs to unload.

That latter opinion seems likely, as Pixel sales have been relatively lackluster globally. In fact, Google confirmed that the Pixel 5a 5G would only be available in the United States and Japan when it launches in the fall.