For weeks now I’ve been trying to articulate to friends why I love the Pixel 5—a phone that costs hundreds of dollars less than an iPhone 12 Pro—when I loathed the Pixel 4. There’s almost nothing to this new phone. It’s a screen, an unlock button, and a hole-punched camera on the front. But it’s quick, it takes nice photos, it has great battery life, and the back feels like no material I’ve ever held in my hand. It’s aluminum coated in a bumpy, almost leather-like bio-resin.
The Pixel 5 is not just functional or a good value; it’s satisfying. And it’s part of a new wave of products that strips away the extraneous bells and whistles, leaving only the best, most essential features. I call it the new pragmatism.
These products are simpler and less expensive than high-end flagships. But they are also appealing to a discerning consumer while keeping the essential features and user experience from their pricier peers. In tech, the cheap versions used to be the crappy versions, and that’s just no longer true. “Individuals are figuring out what’s essential in their life, who they are and what they need,” says Google’s head of hardware design, Ivy Ross. Technology companies are responding with a sweet spot of design that includes everything from cheap, desirable phones to inexpensive video game consoles that you almost hate to hide away in a cabinet.