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Google Pixel 4a could drop this feature — and we say good riddance

Google Pixel 4a concept design
(Image credit: Pigtou and xleaks)

The Google Pixel 4a might drop the Active Edge sides of its predecessors and the previous-generation Pixel phones, at least according to 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall

On Twitter, Hall claimed that he can confirm the Pixel 4a won’t have the "squeezable" sides that the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4 both have, though he didn’t say whether he’s been tipped off about this by insider sources or managed to get his hands on an engineering sample. 

With the Pixel 5 supposedly dropping Google's Soli radar chip, it would seem like Google’s on a mission to cut out features from its Pixel phones, perhaps to help lower their prices. 

Active Edge is a feature in the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL that lets you squeeze the lower edges of the handsets in order to activate the Google Assistant. This was done to avoid the need to say "OK Google" to summon the phone's virtual assistant. 

I personally found it a mildly useful feature that helped me feel a little less conscious when barking orders at my phone in public. But a lot of people found Active Edge to be little more than a gimmick and something that was quickly forgotten after a Pixel handset was initially activated.

Being able to activate the Google Assistant with a long press on the software home button arguably feels more natural and is a common feature in a lot of modern Android phones. So there's an argument that this way of activating the Google Assistant is more intuitive than squeezing the edges of a smartphone. And thanks to Android 11's upcoming 'Columbus' feature, future Pixel phones could allow you to summon Google Assistant with a quick double-tap of the back of the phone.

Removing Active Edge could be one way to reduce the production cost of the Pixel 4a and thus allow for Google to sell it at a cheaper price. And pricing is arguably going to be a key metric for the Pixel 4a. While the 3a models offered an impressive camera and software suite for an affordable price, the arrival of Apple’s iPhone SE 2020 means there's now a powerful budget handset with a class-leading processor for $399. Fortunately for Google, most rumors point to the Pixel 4a undercutting the iPhone SE with a $349 price tag. 

We’re expecting the Pixel 4a to make its debut in June, so it won’t be long before we find out whether Google's latest handset can come out on top as the affordable phone of choice.