Rumor after rumor, leak after leak, and “revealing” story after “revealing” story have all made their way to the internet over the past few months regarding Google’s mid-range Pixel 4a. The phone was rumored to come out in May, wound up getting delayed multiple times due to COVID-19, and still won’t be shipping until later this month. Regardless, Google today finally took the wraps off the device and gave us all the devices. While there was little to be surprised about given how much the phone leaked, it still seems like a solid package, and the first round of reviews agree.
The Pixel 4a costs $349 and will be available starting August 20th. Google hasn’t souped the phone up with the best specs available nor does it have a single, stand-out, super-flashy feature. It’s kind of subdued in a way that tries to perfect the fundamentals of a good smartphone, one that you can get for less than $400.
On the front, Google opted for a 5.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display with a 60Hz refresh rate. In case you’re wondering, there is no Pixel 4a XL so that’s the biggest screen you’ll get. Reviews suggest it isn’t perfect with some off-angle color shifting, but it’s otherwise a good enough panel for the price.
Inside, the Pixel 4a includes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730G processor. That’s a step below from the 765G chipset in phones like the OnePlus Nord and LG Velvet. It’s also a pretty significant step down in terms of performance compared to the iPhone SE’s A13 Bionic. And despite the “G” in its name, this chip doesn’t include 5G connectivity. Google has a special version of the Pixel 4a that will ship with 5G connectivity arriving this fall.
Other specs include 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage (double the baseline of both the iPhone SE and much pricier Pixel 4), a 3,140mAh battery, 18W fast charging (with no wireless charging), and a headphone jack. All of this ships in a plastic body which sports stereo speaker grilles and a fingerprint scanner on its rear.
Unfortunately, you can’t squeeze the 4a to activate the Google Assistant, but you can swipe up from either bottom corner. Speaking of which, the 4a comes with the new Assistant onboard, a feature carried down from the standard 4. Voice processing, responses, and visual information are all now presented much more quickly thanks to changes to how the Assistant stores information on your phone. That’s a good thing since the 4a doesn’t exactly have that much power to back features like this up with.
In terms of software, the Pixel 4a ships with Android 10 out of the box. Google is promising three years of major OS upgrades including an upgrade to Android 11 when it arrives later this year.
Of course, a big reason why someone would buy a Pixel phone in the first place is for the camera, and Google hasn’t disappointed. It’s essentially brought the same 12.2MP sensor from the more expensive Pixel 4 and 4 XL to the 4a, including its post processing and features like Night Sight. Admittedly, things will run a bit slower since there’s no dedicated chip inside this phone to handle photo processing, but things should remain relatively snappy given how lightweight the software is on the phone.
On the front, there’s an 8MP hole-punch selfie camera. Beyond that, you won’t find any more cameras on the 4a. This is the first phone in a while to only ship with two cameras total. It’s actually kind of refreshing.
For those of you wondering, reviews have highlighted the 4a’s camera as being basically on par with the Pixel 4. It beats the iPhone SE in some scenarios (e.g. at night) and is able to compete with $1,000 beasts without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately, video is apparently still a problem since HDR and color balance are shaky. Overall, though, the camera performs well.
While on the subject of reviews, the rest of the Pixel 4a is apparently pretty great. All-day battery life, good performance, nice speakers, and a decent overall design seem to be in play here. Obviously I can’t speak from personal experience yet, but I’m gonna do my best to get my hands on a review sample. I’ll be paying attention, especially, to the performance since that’s the area most reviewers are concerned about as the phone ages.
All of that being said, the Pixel 4a seems like a really promising mid-range smartphone. Whether it can be as successful as the 3a remains to be seen, but if history repeats itself, Google may have a hit on its hands.
Do you plan on buying a Pixel 4a? Could you care less about the latest phone Made by Google? Let me know in the comments. I’m curious to see how many people are excited for it.