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Google could have launched a $599 Pixel 5 in the U.S. — but it didn't

Google added mmWave 5G to the unlocked Pixel 5 in the U.S., increasing the cost of the phone by $100.

What you need to know

  • The unlocked Pixel 5 in the U.S. comes with both Sub-6 and mmWave 5G connectivity.
  • There's a $100 difference between the Pixel 4a 5G with Sub-6 and the Verizon model with Sub-6 and mmWave.
  • Google sells a Pixel 5 that's limited to Sub-6 5G in the UK, and that variant could have potentially retailed for $599 in the U.S.

The Google Pixel 5 is now official, and you can pre-order the phone for $699 from Amazon. Google revealed that it made a few concessions with the Pixel 5 to be able to hit the $699 retail figure — including using a Snapdragon 765G chipset instead of the Snapdragon 865 — but it now looks like Google could have easily sold the phone for $599 in the U.S.

The Pixel 5 that's sold in the U.S. comes with 5G connectivity over both Sub-6 and mmWave bands, with the mmWave module in itself estimated to add $100 to the retail price of the device. Google also introduced the Pixel 4a 5G alongside the Pixel 5, and that device comes in two models in the U.S.: an unlocked variant with model number G025E that retails for $499, and a Verizon model with mmWave connectivity (model number G6QU3) that is available for $599 — $100 more than the unlocked version.

The $100 difference between the unlocked and Verizon models of the Pixel 4a 5G is entirely down to mmWave connectivity. Here's the puzzling part: Google is selling a single variant of the Pixel 5 in the U.S. with Sub-6 and mmWave connectivity (model number GD1YQ), and because the unlocked model also has mmWave 5G bands, it retails for $699. Google could have used the same strategy as the Pixel 4a 5G and offered an unlocked Pixel 5 with Sub-6 connectivity for $599 and a Verizon model with mmWave for $699, but that's not the case.

Google sells a Pixel 5 with just Sub-6 5G connectivity, but that model is not available in the U.S.

What makes this particularly irritating is that Google does sell a Pixel 5 model with just Sub-6 connectivity. As spotted by eagle-eyed Reddit users, the Pixel 5 variant that's sold in the UK (model number GTT9Q) is limited to Sub-6 5G connectivity and doesn't have mmWave bands. Google could have offered the same model in the U.S. as the unlocked option for $599, but it chose not to do so.

Sub-6 connectivity consists of low-band and mid-band frequencies at under 6GHz, while mmWave covers frequencies over 24GHz. Sub-6 5G is designed for long-range connectivity, while mmWave is aimed at delivering better bandwidth in dense urban environments. T-Mobile has leverage Sub-6 connectivity for its 5G deployment, with Verizon instead using mmWave.

Most 5G-enabled phones come with Sub-6 as standard, with mmWave limited to high-end devices or carrier models. It wouldn't have taken a lot of work for Google to offer two models of the Pixel 5 in the U.S., just like it does with the Pixel 4a 5G. But because it chose not to do so, you'll have to shell out $699 instead of $599 for the phone even if you don't care about 5G connectivity on Verizon. Google got a lot right with the Pixel 5, but it was a misstep to not launch a version with just Sub-6 for $599 in the U.S.

The new hotness

Google Pixel 5

$699 at Amazon $699 at Best Buy $699 at B&H Photo

Everything you need

The Pixel 5 comes with a 90Hz OLED panel, exciting internal hardware with 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and 5G connectivity, all-day battery life with 18W fast charging and 15W wireless charging, and stereo sound. Add an outstanding camera with a rear wide-angle lens, clean software with three Android updates, and you get one of the best phones of the year.

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