Today Google is announcing its 2020 successor to its budget/mid-range line of phones in the form of the new Pixel 4a. Awaited since several months now, but seemingly delayed into August, the new Pixel 4a brings to the table a few key upgrades whilst offering a Google software experience at a $349 price point.

Last year’s Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL were seemingly well received devices, with Google’s strategy being mostly focused on offering a “Google Experience” software stack that’s only found on Pixel devices. This year, Google is trying to continue this focus with the Pixel 4a, with the biggest obvious change being that we’re not seeing a 4a XL being released at this point in time.

Google Pixel 4a
  Pixel 4a
SoC Snapdragon 730G

2x Kryo 470 (CA76) @ 2.2GHz
6x Kryo 470 (CA55) @ 1.8GHz

Adreno 618
DRAM 6GB LPDDR4X
Display 5.81" OLED
2340 x 1080 (19.5:9)
Size Height 144.0 mm
Width 69.4 mm
Depth 8.2 mm
Weight 143 grams
Battery Capacity 3140mAh
Wireless Charging -
Rear Cameras
Main 12.2MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF
f/1.7 77° lens with OIS
Telephoto -
Wide -
Extra -
Front Camera 8MP 1.12µm
f/2.0 84° lens; fixed focus
Storage 128GB UFS 2.1
I/O USB-C
3.5mm headphone jack
Wireless (local) 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.1 LE + NFC
Cellular Snapdragon X15 LTE
(Category 12/5)
DL = 600Mbps
3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM
Other Features Dual Speakers, 18W Fast Charging
Dual-SIM 1x nanoSIM + eSIM
Launch Price $349 / 349£ / 349€

Hardware-wise, the Pixel 4a is being powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC, a chip platform that’s nearly 1.5 years old by now. The SoC features two Cortex-A76 cores at 2.2GHz and six Cortex-A55 cores at 1.8GHz, accompanied by an Adreno 618 GPU.

Whilst certainly not a bad SoC in itself and is well fitting for a device of this price range, the fact that Google had opted to release a 4G device at this point in time, and versus new the competition such as 399€ Snapdragon 765 phones like the OnePlus Nord puts the Pixel 4a at a rough spot in terms of long-term value proposition. We’re currently at an inflection point between standards in the smartphone industry, so it’s definitely something I would consider if you’re planning to keep a device for more than a year.

Memory wise, Google has configured the Pixel 4a competitively as it features 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

One of the best aspects of the Pixel 3a phones were that they feature OLED displays, and the 4a continues the trend for the higher-quality display technology even though the phones are at the lower price range. The screen diagonal has risen to 5.81”, however that’s only because the aspect ratio has been increased to 19.5:9 thanks to the move to a full-screen display design.

The 2340 x 1080 resolution screen now features a hole-punch front-camera located in the left corner of the notification area, actually representing Google’s most modern design aesthetic to date in this regard.

The phone has a similar form-factor as the Pixel 3a, actually shrinking in length from 151.3 to 144mm. The width which most notably is the defining factor into one-hand usability of a phone has remained similar at 69.4mm – which is actually on the smaller size compared to most other devices on the market right now.

The small size does have one disadvantage, and that’s the battery size which falls in at 3140mAh which isn’t all that competitive in the current landscape. The only silver lining here is that the phone weighs in at only 143g which makes it very lightweight, a lot having to do with the plastic housing of the phone that is actually quite uncommon to find in a phone nowadays.

The phone features up to 18W PD charging capability, however wireless charging was one of the features on the chopping block in order to achieve the lower price-point.

In terms of camera experience, it’s pretty straightforward for the Pixel 4a: It houses the very same module that is found on the Pixel 4. This means it’s again the same 12.2MP sensor coupled with a f/1.7 optical system at a conventional viewing angle of 77° which corresponds to a 27mm equivalent focal length.

The good news for the Pixel 4a is that at this price range, the phone should have an easy time to compete with most other phones as the camera is still amongst the best performers on the market. Whilst the main module is seemingly going to offer a great experience and will certainly be able to compete and probably outperforms phones such as the iPhone SE, it’s still only a single camera module setup – which is going to be again quite weird given that most other vendors at least have two usable camera modules, most of them opting for an ultra-wide-angle.

The front-camera also sees the adoption of the very same 8MP f/2.0 module that is found on the Pixel 4.

In essence, the camera performance of the Pixel 4a should be in line with the Pixel 4, for which you can read our comprehensive comparison in context of all other flagship devices in 2020.

Other notable mentions of the Pixel 4a is the fact that it continues to use a rear capacitive fingerprint reader, and luckily still maintains a 3.5mm headphone jack that’s no longer present on the higher-end Pixel phones.

A Lower Price at $349

The Pixel 4a comes at $349 which is $50 less than the launch price of the Pixel 3a last year. What we’re getting this year are a more notably updated processor, more RAM, double the default storage which has been upgraded to UFS 2.1, and a new design including a new screen with longer aspect ratio. Whilst the camera department has seen the adoption of the new modules from the Pixel 4, these weren’t that big of a jump over the Pixel 3 and 3a – and Google still keeps things very simplistic with only a single rear camera.

Overall, it feels like it’s a solid package, at least it feels a quite better value proposition than what the Pixel 3a was last year. However, Google’s only real strength here is the camera processing; a $50 more expensive OnePlus Nord offers a faster SoC with future-proof 5G connectivity, a 90Hz screen, and throws in the extra ultra-wide-angle camera, even though it’s possibly not great in quality.

It should be noted that the Pixel 4a has a petite stature, and the lack of a Pixel 4a XL means that if you’re looking for a small phone, the 4a is amongst only a few other rare offerings on the market right now.

I see Google having a tough time against the mid-range competition in global markets, the fact that there’s almost no other comparable device offering in the US makes the Pixel 4a a seemingly no-brainer choice at this price segment, with the phone offering a magnitude better value than the flagship Pixel 4 line-up.

Availability for the Pixel 4a starts August 20th in the US, with later release dates in other markets such as October 1st for the UK, and late-to-mid September for other European markets.

Google also made a teaser mention that we’ll be seeing a 5G variant of the Pixel 4a later this year at a price point of $499, which if the only upgrades are a 5G compatible SoC, will be quite uncompetitive in pricing.

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  • Retycint - Monday, August 3, 2020 - link

    The CPU may be enough but the GPU on these mid range Snapdragons are notorious for being crippled. In fact, the GPU in the 3 years old SD835 is 1.8x more powerful than the GPU in the SD730 (comparing the GFX 3.1 benchmarks).

    So while the CPU might be overkill for years to come, the GPU is going to bottleneck this system in 2-3 years, possibly causing dropped frames and stuttering
    Reply
  • Peskarik - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    for what do you need GPU, bitcoin mining? Like I said, I have 821 with whatever GPU and I run my RR3 game (the only game I play) just fine. Reply
  • Retycint - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    "possibly causing dropped frames and stuttering" I'm just to copy paste this here from my earlier comment, since you can't read. UI/app fluidity is definitely affected by the GPU, and it is naive to think that a weak GPU will be able to maintain constant 60fps for the next 3-4 years.

    In fact, even the GPU in your 4 year old SD821 is more powerful that the GPU in the SD730. That tells all you need to know about how shit the SD730 GPU is
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - link

    Qualcomm are greedy bastards. There's no need for the second-tier GPU to be this bad, but they set a standard of only having a top-tier GPU and a junk-tier GPU a long time before they started doing this "premium mid-range" chipsets. They clearly decided it wasn't worth the effort to develop a third option when they could use that feeble GPU to push people into buying their top-end products. Reply
  • Peskarik - Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - link

    In which sense is GPU in SD821 is more powerful than GPU in SD730? Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, August 7, 2020 - link

    In the sense that it has twice as many computational units running at the same clock speed with access to double the memory bandwidth.

    They'd have had to really crank up the efficiency from the 500 series GPUs to the 600 series to make up for that. Benchmarks indicate that they did, but not enough to bridge the gap.
    Reply
  • voicequal - Tuesday, August 4, 2020 - link

    Fading and transition effects are the first thing that gets turned off on my phones. Just don't need all that delay when trying to close or switch apps. Just drop all the frames - it makes the phone feel so much faster. Reply
  • Spectrophobic - Monday, August 3, 2020 - link

    A top-mounted headphone jack is a specific phone design that I absolute abhor. Ah, but who cares about ergonomics anyway? Reply
  • dullard - Monday, August 3, 2020 - link

    Top mounted ports are ideal if you like to set your phone down while using it.

    (1) If you place your phone in portrait mode flat on the back surface, then all wires point away from you making for a nice ergonomic experience.

    (2) If you prop up place your phone in portrait mode at an angle (such as if it is propped up at an angle so you can see it from afar like when cooking) then bottom ports make this nearly impossible to accomplish.

    (3) If you need to set your phone on your lap/stomach/similar when on a plane, car, or other cramped situation, then bottom ports make this nearly impossible.

    I really wish for ergonomic purposes that all my phone ports were on top.
    Reply
  • Spectrophobic - Monday, August 3, 2020 - link

    For my uses, my phone is either on my hand or on my pocket. Rarely use it while plugged in for charging.
    I holster my phones/music players on my pocket upside-down, which to me is the ergonomic way so if you draw out your device it's already in the right orientation. Having it on top causes strain to plugs (even right angled ones) and sometimes get yanked off with some pants. I've experience a lot of other niggles, but I don't want to list them all out.

    I guess it's an oddly specific problem that's only relevant to me. I mean, no normal person has more than two dozen ear/headphones.
    Reply

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