Why the Google Pixel 5 XL doesn’t exist but really should

Pixel 5
(Image credit: Google)

The Google Pixel 5 has been unveiled, and it looks like a decidedly affordable flagship, boasting respectable specs at a cheaper price than rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S20 line and the iPhone 11 Pro phones. But there’s one thing Google’s new phone doesn’t have – a larger XL version – and that’s going to bum out some consumers.

Flagship phone lines have included larger XL/Plus/Max versions for years, ostensibly to please consumers who absolutely need more screen real estate and were willing to pay a bit more (usually $100 / £100 / AU$150). But once the Google Pixel 4a arrived in August without a bigger model, we wondered whether the Pixel 5 would get one, especially after rumors surfaced that both the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL cannibalized sales of each other. 

Now we have our answer: the Pixel 5 has launched alone. That’s disappointing given all the things that could’ve come in a physically larger version that would justify a price bump.

So what would be on the menu for a Pixel 5 XL?

Google Pixel 5

(Image credit: Google)

Everything that could've come in a Pixel 5 XL

The easy answer is battery life: the Google Pixel 4 XL had a staggering 900mAh more capacity than the standard Pixel 4, and while the new Pixel 5 has a far more respectable 4,080mAh battery, the XL version could extend that even more – perhaps up to 4,500mAh or breaking 5,000mAh, which both budget and flagship phones have come out with in 2020. Capacity doesn’t necessarily mean drastically longer battery life, but it would extend it somewhat – which would leave more to spend on the ‘Battery Share’ feature to charge other devices.

A Pixel 5 XL could also pack a third rear camera: the standard Pixel 5 drops its predecessor’s telephoto lens for a 16MP ultrawide camera in addition to its 12.2MP main camera, but why not have both? The camera block is surely big enough for it. The phone could also pack an extra front-facing camera for portrait mode-like photos – or bring back the Soli depth sensor that enabled middling gesture control in the Pixel 4.

The extra space could mean extra storage, too: 128GB is acceptable on the mid-range Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G, but it feels sparse on the Pixel 5, as a flagship phone should pack more than that (or at least have the option). And if we’re talking more room, why not fill some of it with a 3.5mm headphone jack, most beloved of features now regularly retired from flagship phones?

But at the end of the day maybe it would just have been enough for consumers to have a larger alternative to the standard Pixel 5’s 6-inch display. Whether that’s the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s 6.5-inch screen or something as colossal as the 6.9-inch display on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, consumers may just want something larger – and they’ll have to look elsewhere than the flagship Pixel line for now.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.