Today, Google officially announced the extremely leaked Pixel 5. It's a lovely device with a very cool green colorway option, and as an unrepentant Google hardware fan, I'm struggling against the urge to buy it. Honestly, there's only one thing stopping me: the Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition, launching early next month, is the exact same price at $699. And on paper, it's a much better value.
Now, yes, the Pixel 5 will, without a doubt, take better photos than the S20 FE. But in my experience with the FE — I've been using it for about a week — it's no slouch. Plus, in addition to standard and ultrawide shooters, it's also got a telephoto lens, something Google opted not to include in the Pixel 5. And aside from that, pound for pound, Samsung's upper-mid-range contender is just more phone.
Both devices are 5G-capable, but the S20 FE's got Qualcomm's burly Snapdragon 865 where the Pixel 5 is packing the lesser Snapdragon 765G. Both phones have high-refresh rate 1080p displays, too, but Samsung's is much larger, not to mention faster at 120Hz (to the Pixel's 90). They've both got wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, IP68 water resistance — the list goes on. And as much as I love Google's funky color choice this year, Samsung's got it beat there, too.
To Google's credit, the Galaxy S20 FE's six gigabytes of RAM do rub me the wrong way in 2020 — the Pixel 5's got it licked fair and square on that front with eight gigs. But I haven't so much felt the limitation in practice as I dislike it in theory, and I think Samsung absolutely nailed the price-to-specs ratio here, especially for a mass-market device. Ask your mom how much RAM her phone has.
Pound for pound, the S20 FE is just more phone.
Of course, I haven't used the Pixel 5. I'd probably love it; small phones are my jam. And there's a dedicated cadre of fans, myself included, who adore Google for all its unique Googliness: the playful industrial design, the polished software, and the enviable unique features. Although the company has always had a hard time competing with more established OEMs in the high-end smartphone space, consumers flock to its more affordable options. In a year when so many people are facing financial uncertainty and the most premium phones you can buy cost $2,000, a well-crafted upper-mid-range device for $699 seems like a home run.
But in the S20 FE, Samsung had the same idea — and it executed it in a way that more people are likely to pay for. The S20 FE doesn't feel like a budget offering, it feels like a flagship with the fat trimmed to the bone. People will surely keep buying the (wholly excellent) Pixel 4a, but outside enthusiast circles, it looks like Google's got an uphill battle on its hands with the Pixel 5 — again.