Google already confirmed that it's working on a Pixel 4a 5G, and initially, we didn't know a whole lot about this upcoming phone beyond its price, general release date and what its LTE sibling the Pixel 4a offers. However, with a launch date now in view, Google's plans are coming into focus.
While having 5G connectivity probably doesn't matter to most customers right now, 5G is going to become more and more common over the next couple of years. As a result, buying a future-proof phone will be smart for those looking to save money. It will also mean the Pixel 4a matches up better to rivals like the OnePlus Nord, which already offers 5G support, even if it doesn't ship in the U.S.
• Release date: Sept. 30, 2020
• Price: $499
• Processor: Snapdragon 765G
• Display: 6.2-inch OLED
• Cameras: Single rear 12.2MP lens
• Other key specs: 5G, Android 11
- Pixel 4a vs. iPhone SE: Why Google beats Apple
- Pixel 5: Rumors and leaks about Google's other fall phone release
We'd expect basically everything good about the Pixel 4a to return in the 5G version of the phone, along with maybe a few improvements if we're lucky. This is what we know so far about the Pixel 4a 5G.
Pixel 4a 5G latest news (Updated Sept. 24)
- Another leak, this time from a British retailer, has given us our clearest look yet at the design of the Pixel 4a 5G.
- A string of Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G early product listings have revealed three color options — including one we didn't see coming.
- Google is holding a product launch on Sept. 30, and the Pixel 4a 5G figures to debut alongside the Pixel 5 at that event.
Pixel 4a 5G price and availability
We now have a pretty good idea when we'll see the Pixel 4a 5G. Google has a product event set for Sept. 30, and while it doesn't mention the phone by name, it does promise that Pixel devices will be on display. We assume that includes the Pixel 4a 5G along with the Pixel 5.
We already know what the Pixel 4a 5G will cost. Google announced in a blog post after the Pixel 4a's August launch that the 4a 5G would cost $499 when it appears. That's $150 more than the basic $349 Pixel 4a, so we'll have to see if Google has added in extra value with the 5G version that makes the price increase worth it or not.
As for availability, we can assume that the Pixel 4a 5G will follow the path of the Pixel 4a, with availability from wireless carriers such as Verizon, Google Fi and US Cellular, or retailers such as Amazon and the Google Store itself.
Pixel 4a 5G design
We have one official image of the phone to go off, but fortunately we know what the standard Pixel 4a looks like, and can assume that the 5G version will look very similar to the original. That would mean it's the phone on the right of the above image from Google, rather than the more sparkly model on the left.
There will be perhaps subtle differences in the handset's weight or the arrangement of its antenna lines around the edges, or even its total size, but the major details will be identical to the Pixel 4a. Potential design features include a punch-hole display on the front, with a square camera patch and fingerprint scanner on the back. A color-contrasting power button on the side will add some extra visual interest. The chassis materials for the Pixel 4a 5G will likely be matte plastic again, rather than the glass and metal that we see on more expensive phones.
Alternatively, the Pixel 4a 5G could be a Pixel 4a XL, renamed to emphasize its key feature. The Pigtou renders of the supposedly cancelled 4a XL give us an idea of how Google's design would look on a larger device.
The only other potential change will be if Google decides to offer a unique color option on the 5G model to help differentiate it from the standard 4G model. There's only a Just Black option for the standard Pixel 4a, and Google normally offers two more options, one of which would be white. However since Google has said it's trying to streamline manufacturing due to coronavirus-related delays, perhaps the rumored "Barely Blue" color scheme we heard about months prior to the Pixel 4a's launch is sadly no more.
On Reddit, a poster put up a photo of two Google phones — reportedly the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. The 4a 5G is the taller of the two devices and the picture shows off a white model. Product listings that have emerged at websites for several European retailers have suggested the phone may be offered in black and white, with perhaps a shade of green replacing the white option, though this isn't known for certain yet. An additional leak from British retailer John Lewis & Partners has provided us with clear renders of the black model.
Google Pixel 4a 5G display
We're likely to find another OLED screen on the Pixel 4a 5G. Google has offered OLED panels on the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 3a, so there's no reason to expect a switch over to LCD.
The Pixel 4a uses a FHD 5.81-inch display, which can achieve a good max brightness and color vividness and accuracy, even if the Adaptive Brightness system can be indecisive at times. Hopefully that's something Google can just patch out in an OTA update in the near future.
Google may just use the same exact panel on the 4a 5G, or it could offer something larger. Rumors of a Pixel 5 XL model seem to have more in common with the Pixel 4a rather than the Pixel 5, so it's possible that larger phone will actually belong to Pixel 4a family.
For what it's worth, a report on Pixel 5 specs from Android Central indicated that the Pixel 4a 5G will have a 6.2-inch screen. That's slightly taller than the 6-inch display anticipated for the Pixel 5.
Google's Pixel 4 phones introduced a 90Hz refresh rate, and that's likely to continue with the Pixel 5. The Pixel 4a 5G won't get that feature, though — we're expecting a 60Hz refresh rate, just like the Pixel 4a.
Google Pixel 4a 5G cameras
Don't expect any more cameras to grace the 5G version of the Pixel 4a. You'll likely get the same 12.2MP rear camera and 8MP front camera that are found on the Pixel 4a, but that's not a bad thing. Google's photo software is fantastic at getting the best out of an image, be that in portrait mode, Night Sight low-light photography or just a simple snapshot. Even if in hardware terms its phones are lacking compared to competitors like the Nord, the Pixel 4a rightfully holds a spot on our list of best camera phones.
There are some rumors that there will be an extra rear camera on the back of the 4a 5G, if rumored images of what people thought was the Pixel 5 actually are of the 4a 5G. This would be a departure from what Google did with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, but it would help justify the extra $150 you're paying for the 5G model.
Google Pixel 4a 5G specs
In order to give the Pixel 4a the ability to use 5G, Google's going to have to make some big changes to the basic Pixel 4a. The most obvious move it will have to make is to swap the Snapdragon 730 chip out for something like the Snapdragon 765G, the most powerful of Qualcomm's mid-range SoCs, which has a built-in 5G modem. That will also have the advantage of giving the phone a performance boost, and closing the gap on rival phones like the OnePlus Nord, which uses the same piece of silicon.
The new chip may also mean more RAM and storage capacity to go with it, since the phone will be more capable of intensive tasks. Google tends to use a small amount of RAM compared to other manufacturers, but perhaps an increase to 8GB, from the Pixel 4a's 6GB would be a worthwhile change. Likewise an option for 256GB storage instead of or as well as the 128GB you currently get, would be welcome.
Google Pixel 4a 5G battery and charging
The Pixel 4a contains a 3,140 mAh battery, which you can charge at up to 18W via a wired USB-C connection. That's not a huge cell, and it had an appropriately disappointing result in our battery life test of just under 9 hours, compared to the 11-hour average for smartphones. If Google Is going to change some of the interior components already, it would be awesome if the phone maker could fit in a slightly larger battery.
And that's apparently what might happen. Specs posted along with that Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G photo on Reddit suggest the 4a 5G will get a 3,800 mAh battery.
Google Pixel 4a 5G software
With Android 11 now out, we can safely say that the software is going to come pre-installed on the Pixel 4a 5G. The update is already available to existing Pixel phones, as well as select OnePlus handsets. You could read our full Android 11 review to see what software changes are in store for the Pixel 4a 5G and other Android phones.
Pixel 4a 5G outlook
Although the price boost is unfortunate, the Pixel 4a 5G could be the better of the two Pixel 4a options. That's not just because of the 5G compatibility but rather the potential upgrades Google could deliver in terms of screen size and performance.
The Pixel 4a 5G won't make the 4G version redundant — the $500 price on the 5G model will be a little too much for customers seeking a budget Android phone. But for users wanting Google's great software and photography at a price between the general costs for mid-range and flagship phones, and the comfort of knowing their phone is ready for the 5G world of tomorrow, the Pixel 4a 5G could be oddly perfect.