Why it’s OK that Google didn’t announce a Pixel 4 phone with 5G

Google has announced the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, but a 5G version was absent from its otherwise-packed Made by Google event. If you’re questioning why Google hasn’t made a 5G Pixel 4, then you should ask yourself a question: If it had, would you have spent the extra money to get one this year? The answer for a very large percentage of prospective Pixel 4 owners will be no, because a minimum of $800 will be enough to spend on a great phone, without paying more for a feature most won’t be able to use yet.

Google’s following Apple’s lead on this, and it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

What would you do with it?

You want a 5G phone, right? Of course! What self-respecting tech fan doesn’t want to try out what’s definitely the future of mobile connectivity? The thing is, it’s still firmly a future piece of tech. Right now, only a few cities have even a degree of 5G coverage, and what’s there is hyper-localized, and not always reliable. If you live right next to a 5G tower, great. If you don’t, then you’ll mostly enjoy the same 4G connection you’ve had for the last few years.

google pixel 4 xl features price specs release date hands on 2019 event
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Eventually, 5G will make many things possible on a mobile device and through the internet of things (IoT), but at the moment, it’s all about faster download speeds and lower latency connections while on the move. It’s very impressive, but not really all that important just yet. We’ve got to wait for the rest of the tech world to catch up and introduce features and services that we want to use for 5G to become more widespread and be considered a must-have.

Then there’s the price, and the impact on the hardware itself. There’s no doubt that 5G will be an extra cost, and any Pixel 4 with 5G would be expensive. It may also have a detrimental effect on the battery life — whether it’s connected to a 5G signal or not — and that’s not really something the already battery-hungry Pixel needs at all. Don’t worry that the Pixel 4 doesn’t have 5G, you’re really not missing out just yet.

What about future-proofing?

This is the most compelling argument about the lack of 5G on the Pixel 4, but it’s still not relevant to most people. Yes, if you buy a Pixel 4 as it is, then you won’t be able to connect to a 5G network at all, ever. You will have to change your phone to do so. What an awful prospect. Updating our smartphone in the future to get a new feature, how ever will we manage?

By the time 5G is worth using — by which I mean there is sufficient coverage that it’s the default connection speed over 4G LTE — at least a year will have passed, and those pining for 5G capability will be in a position to change their phone anyway. In the meantime, they will have spent 12 months with the latest and greatest Pixel phone connected to a perfectly adequate 4G signal. Doesn’t sound so bad.

Google could release a 5G Pixel at any time

Rumors prior to the Made by Google launch event hinted that a 5G Pixel 4 was being tested, and that if it wasn’t deemed ready, Google may wait until Google I/O next year to release it. With a 5G Pixel 4 absent from the October event, this may still come true, and if so, mid-2020 could be a far better time to do it. We’ve already said 5G isn’t ready for most people yet, but this will change on a monthly basis, and in 2020, growth will accelerate far faster than is happening now.

Google could have a small win on its hands if it does decide to launch a 5G Pixel 4 around May next year. It’s going to irritate those who buy a 4G Pixel 4 right now, but it will get the jump on Apple, which is beholden to its own phone release schedule that dictates new iPhone models come out around September or October. Apple has plenty of other 5G-related issues to solve before it can bring a 5G iPhone out too. Google has no such issues, as it can adopt Qualcomm’s 5G platform at any time, and doesn’t always adhere to strict product release schedules.

What if you really, really want 5G?

If 5G is at the very top of your wish list, and you simply must have it, then you shouldn’t buy a Pixel 4. If you want 5G, then you have to turn to Samsung, OnePlus, LG, Huawei, Oppo, or Xiaomi. Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G, tGalaxy A90 5G, or Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G are great, and the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G is still part of the brand’s 2019 lineup, despite the introduction of the OnePlus 7T Pro. The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G is competitively priced for those outside the U.S., as is the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom 5G.

There’s plenty of choice if you really want to be an early adopter and own a 5G phone today. Buy one of these phones, along with a 5G plan from your carrier of choice, and provided you’re standing in the right geographical area, each will give you the 5G experience you crave.

Just enjoy the Pixel 4

Our advice is not to worry about 5G at the moment. It’s technology you should be watching and looking forward to, but there’s not really any killer feature that makes it a must-have on your phone at the moment. Next year, it’s extremely likely this will change, and the chance there will be a Pixel 5 5G is considerably higher than that of a Pixel 4 5G any time soon. For now, buy the Pixel 4 and enjoy the camera experience, Motion Sense gesture controls, and everything else, just at good, old reliable 4G speeds.

This time next year, if the 5G fortune tellers are correct and the network has grown substantially in usefulness and ubiquity, it will be a very different story. Until then, don’t lament the lack of a 5G Pixel 4.

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