Pixel 5 lacks Motion Sense tech – but it will return, Google says

Google Pixel 5
(Image credit: Google)

Google has officially unveiled the Pixel 5, and we're impressed by what we've seen so far – though the new smartphone lacks one key feature that the Pixel 4 had, and that's the Motion Sense gesture controls. According to Google, it's not gone for good.

Speaking to The Verge, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh said Motion Sense and the Project Soli radar technology that powers it will "be used in the future" – so we can get the Pixel 6 rumors started up right away.

The main reason for the omission of Project Soli and Motion Sense this time around is the obvious one: cost. Google wanted to hit a mid-range price point with the Pixel 5, and that meant sacrificing some of the high-end features that were on the Pixel 4.

We might also see Project Soli appear in other Google devices besides phones – we've already heard rumblings of a gesture-controlled Nest Thermostat that would let you move the temperature up or down just by waving at it.

Radar power

Project Soli as deployed as Motion Sense in the Pixel 4 lets you control your phone with certain gestures – waving left or right over the screen to skip forwards or backwards in a playlist when you're in a music app, for example.

It can also detect how close your hand is to the screen, which means alarms and incoming call alerts get quieter as you reach out to pick up the phone. The same sensing tech can wake up the Face Unlock camera system more quickly as well.

None of these features are available in Google's new phone, but the Pixel 5 does come in at a starting price of $699 / £599 / AU$999, whereas the Pixel 4 originally went on sale at $799 / £669 / AU$1,049.

The Pixel 4 was also joined by the Pixel 4 XL (starting price $899 / £829 / AU$1,279), though there's no Pixel 5 XL (which is a shame). We'll have to wait and see whether Google's focus on the mid-range for 2020 turns into more sales of its handsets, but Project Soli should make a return at some point.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.