If you spent some time studying the Pixel 5 specifications after Google announced the phone yesterday, you may be wondering how on earth the search giant managed to include wireless charging in an aluminum phone.
Well, Google confirmed the details to a few U.S. members of the press, including Android Authority’s David Imel, who shared the engineering behind it on Twitter. In short, the Pixel 5’s aluminum chassis has a physical cutout for the Qi charging coil. Google coated the whole back of the phone in a ‘bio-resin skin’ (read: plastic) that covers and protects the coal while also giving the back of the phone a flush, uniform look.
Google is using a Bio-resin on top of the aluminum of the Pixel 5's body to achieve wireless charging. Basically, there is a physical cutout in the aluminum where the coil lives, and this plastic bio-resin sits on top.
— David ImeI (@DurvidImel) September 30, 2020
Google says wireless charging works as normal and can hit up to 10W speeds, just like on the Pixel 4.
While this simple workaround is relatively neat, it made me wonder why Google bothered making an aluminum-bodied phone if it was going to cover it in a plastic-like coating anyway. Google has a bit of a history doing stuff like this too. The Pixel 3, for example, has a glass back partially covered with a matte, plastic-like finish. The orange and white Pixel 4 also cover the glass back with a similar matte finish.
However, Imel explained that Google did have a reason: thinness. The Pixel 5 sports a 4,080mAh battery — the biggest to date in a Pixel device, although not substantially bigger than what other manufacturers offer. Google told Imel that using an aluminum frame with the super-thin bio-resin allowed it to keep the phone at 8mm thick while maintaining a premium feel.
As nice as glass phones are, I haven’t enjoyed the trend of flagships moving towards the ‘glass sandwich’ we see on so many phones now. Glass screen, metal band around the edge, glass back. If you drop a phone like this, it’ll probably break, and glass just doesn’t feel good in your hand. Granted, both these issues can be remedied with a case, but for me, cases add too much bulk.
While we don’t know how well the bio-resin will hold up over time, Google’s ‘aluminum with skin’ approach seems like a win, especially since it maintains wireless charging. Hopefully, we see other manufacturers take similar approaches and move away from glass-back smartphones.