The Google Pixel 4a has finally arrived. Just like last year’s model, it’s here to flip off the mid-range market with insane price and impressive specs. Here’s why it’s so great.
WHAT IS IT?
The budget version of the Pixel 4
Stupidly cheap for what you get, great camera, solid battery, impressive software, nice design
No 4a XL this year, no water resistance, no wireless charge
Google Pixel 4a changes the mid-range narrative, again.
Last year’s Google Pixel 3a was a sensation. I’ve said this over and over again but it’s still true – it rocked the phone market. The Pixel 3a offered beefy specs and a gorgeous camera for just $649. It completely changed what customers should expect at that price point.
Things got even more serious earlier when Apple followed suit with its new iPhone SE which largely did the same thing – offered great specs in a little body at a damn fine price.
In a world where ‘mid-range’ increasingly means $1,000 (as we recently saw with the LG Velvet and Motorola Edge) phones like the iPhone SE and Google Pixel 3a are important. They call bullshit on this trend.
Now the Pixel 4a is here to do the same and so far it’s making its predecessor proud.
Google Pixel 4a Specs
Before I dive into my first look, let’s quickly recap the key specs of the Google Pixel 4a.
- Display: 5.81-inch OLED 1080×2340 display with 60Hz refresh rate
- Processor: Snapdragon 730
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128GB
- Rear Camera: 12.2MP
- Front Camera: 8MP
- Battery: 3,140mAh with 18W fast charging
- LTE: 4G
- Colours: Just Black
These are some nice numbers, and most are an upgrade from the Pixel 3a. We’re seeing more RAM, double the storage capacity, a larger processor and a chunkier battery.
While there is no 5G included at the moment, a Pixel 4a 5G variant will be coming out around the same time as the Pixel 5, so stay tuned for that.
There’s also some new software goodies — gesture navigation, adaptive battery, the recorder app, smart copy paste and some new safety features.
Google Pixel 4a camera
Just like last year, the stand out for me is the camera. On the hardware front it has the same 12.2MP rear and 8MP front set up as the Pixel 4. On the surface this seems like a bit of a red flag. Not only due to the repetition, but because some similarly-priced phones in market offer dual lenses at the rear.
Google’s answer to this is software. The Pixel 4a enjoys a lot of the same flagship-inclusions as the Pixel 4, such as has Night Sight, Time Lapse and astrophotography mode. I tried the latter last year and its spectacular.
If you place a lot of importance on phone photography you should not expect same outcome as a $2,000 camera. But considering the modest hardware, the Pixel 4a results are very impressive.
The portrait mode on the rear and selfie cameras are lovely as ever — even when it’s dealing with my face. And as with previous generations there’s built-in editing software if you want to tinker a little. I’ve left my shots as is, though.
When it comes to low light, there is a little fuzz in particularly darker settings. But again, considering the price point I’m happy with the outcome. For $599 I don’t expect it to be able to see in the dark like last year’s Huawei P30 Pro or even the more recent Samsung and Apple devices.
Besides, it still manages to do a lovely job of capturing the city at night.
While shooting regular point-and-click shots I’ve found the Pixel 3a to be warm and vibrant. But importantly, it doesn’t over expose or over saturate the colours.
Of course, there are limitations. Having gotten used to ultra-wide lenses over the past few years, this is something I found myself missing in the Pixel 4a. This may not matter to everyone, but as an avid hiker who froths a cracking landscape shot, I was let down by this.
The lack of zoom lens is also noticeable. While Google’s assisted zoom software is present in the 4a, it falls over once you go past 2x zoom. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but it’s worth mentioning.
Zoom, zoom, zoom. Photo: Tegan Jones
Photo: Tegan Jones
Photo: Tegan Jones
Despite some of the limitations I think the Pixel 4a is pretty much on par with the Pixel 4, which is an outstanding outcome for a $600 phone.
No Water Resistance
Unfortunately, just like last year, there is no water resistance for the Pixel 4a. This is a point against it for me due to my lifestyle. I’m clumsy, go on a lot of coastal hikes and take too many baths. I need that IP68 rating.
That being said, this isn’t exactly surprising for a $599 phone. If you’re interested in how rugged the Pixel range can be though, we’ve talked about it before.
Something I love about the iPhone SE, Pixel 3a and now the Pixel 4a are their sizes. I’m getting tired of huge phones that won’t fit comfortably into my back pocket or small hands. Not everyone wants phone that borders on being a tablet.
And despite being wrapped in plastic the 4a doesn’t feel cheap. It’s lovely to touch, not to mention comfortable (thank you smol boi handset) and extremely light.
Switching between in and the 6.9-inch Samsung Note 20 Ultra makes the difference all the more noticeable. The same goes for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The Pixel 4a has really made me realise how cumbersome so many flagships devices are. Ouch.
Solid battery, but with no wireless charging
Another minus for me is the lack of wireless charging. This is something I never used to care much about, but have become accustomed to over the last couple of years.
But again, this feature is very much gravy when it comes to phones. It’s not standard on every device yet and certainly not those in this price bracket. The only reason I mention it at all is because it’s super hard to find downsides to this phone.
And on the plus side, the battery itself is great for the size. I had no problem getting through an entire day with the Pixel 4a. I’m a high usage kinda gal though, so that equated to at least 5 hours of screen time a day, often more.
I’m not one to neglect overnight charging anyway, but you’ll definitely need to juice it up as you sleep. If you do forget, it has fast charge functionality so you can give it a quick top up if needed.
Google Pixel 4a price
As a Pixel 3a stan I didn’t expect to be shocked by anything the Pixel 4a threw at me. But then I saw the price tag. Generally prices go up year on year and I expected a $699 price point this time around. Instead, Google dropped the price by $50. Google is really showboating at this point and it’s glorious.
$599 is a stupidly good deal for a phone of this calibre. Considering the hardware, camera, software bumps and first-in-line Android updates first – this in an incredible buy.
You won’t get all the bells and whistles of a $2,000+ device but it doesn’t matter. I test a lot of phones and none of them have nestled into my tech-loving heart in the same way as the Pixel 3a. Until now.