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Google Pixel 5 price leak explained: it may have a slower chipset than Samsung's Galaxy S20

Google Pixel 4
(Image credit: Google)

If the recent Google Pixel 5 price leak made it seem dramatically cheap for a 2020 smartphone, there seems to be an explanation: it may use the slower Snapdragon 765 chipset, not the top-tier Snapdragon 865, according to a brand new leak.

In fact, no Google Pixel 5 phone released this year will have the Snapdragon 865 a source told Android Police's David Ruddock, who relayed the information in a tweet.

This seems to explain why we’ve seen rumors that claim the Pixel 5 price will be cheaper than the Google Pixel 4: instead of increasing the unit price to include a 2020’s best chipset, Google’s next flagship could be its most affordable in years. That's something Google's Nexus (pre-Pixel) smartphones were known for.

In Google’s bid to make its Pixel phones competitive with other flagship smartphones, it’s featured each year’s top chipset – but if the Pixel 5 doesn’t pack the Snapdragon 865, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be less competitive. So long as it doesn’t impair the Pixel’s prime selling points – camera capability and a pure Android experience – fans may not mind any lower performance.

That performance drop might not be too noticeable given how many smartphones have come out this year not packing the top-tier Snapdragon 865 – handsets like the Motorola Edge and Nokia 8.3, as well as upcoming phones like the OnePlus Z and LG Velvet, which are priced and specced above mid-range devices but below leading flagships.

Why cut chipset corners? One word: cost

We’ve been hearing for months that companies have hesitated to incorporate the new Snapdragon 865 for its high cost – and Google and LG were among the companies who planned to skip the chipset in favor of a cheaper one, according to an ArsTechnica report in March. 

In fact, we’ve been hearing about a Pixel phone running the Snapdragon 765 since January, but we weren’t sure if that would end up being the mid-range Google Pixel 4a or the Pixel 5. 

It’s not just price, either: the Snapdragon 865 has a built-in 5G modem, practically requiring phones packing it to connect to the next-gen 5G cell networks. That’s required phones to get bigger and run hotter to accommodate all that power. 

It’s possible that the Pixel 5 could run the recently-announced Snapdragon 768G chipset, which is a beefed-up version of the 765 built for 5G connectivity with an external modem that connects to both mmWave and sub-6 5G networks, so the Google Pixel 5 being a 5G phone isn't out of the question.

That would explain how the phone could work with some carriers who have mmWave 5G, like Verizon, but we’ll wait for further confirmation: in all the codebase leaks we’ve seen, the Pixel 5 has been connected to the Snapdragon 765. In fact, a follow-up tweet by Ruddock alleges the Pixel 5 phones released on Verizon will, indeed, have 5G, but he isn't certain whether they'll have mmWave.