The Google Pixel 4a has some big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of the very successful Google Pixel 3a. And the stakes are even higher now that Apple has raised the bar on mid-range phones with the launch of the iPhone SE 2020.
It's hard not to conclude that Apple brought back its low-cost compact phone in part because of the Pixel 3a. After all, that $399 device proved to be one of the most popular phones Google has ever sold, thanks to that low price and a camera that compared favorably to Google's flagship Pixels.
- Best Android phones to buy now
- iPhone SE 2020 vs. Pixel 4a: Which budget phone will win?
- Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4a: Biggest differences to expect
So what does Google do for an encore with the Pixel 4a? Deliver a bigger display, faster processor and and even better camera. The Pixel 4a is also rumored to have a lower starting price of $349, undercutting Apple.
If Google can get the right amount of premium functionality in the Pixel 4a at an aggressive price, then it may have another great success on its hands. Read on to learn everything we know about the Pixel 4a, including its potential release date, price, specs and more.
Google Pixel 4a latest news (updated May 27)
- The Pixel 4a's launch date may have been pushed back again. Now, rumors point to a July launch for the phone.
- The Pixel 4a may face stepped-up competition in the budget phone space and not just from Apple's new iPhone SE. OnePlus CEO Pete Lau says he wants OnePlus to return to its budget phone roots, and many see that as a sign that the low-cost OnePlus Z could soon debut.
Pixel 4a release date
Talk about your moving targets. We expected to see the Pixel 4a at this year's Google I/O conference in May. After all, the Pixel 3a made its debut at the 2019 developer conference.
But Google I/O was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. And while it looks like Google's moving ahead with the Pixel 4a, we're unlikely to see the phone in May.
A German tech blog then reported that the phone was on track for a June 5 launch. (That same blog had earlier indicated that the Pixel 4a would reach store shelves on May 22.) The June 5 date made sense, as it's two days after Google hosts a June 3 online event where it will reveal details surrounding Android 11. That would seem to mark the perfect occasion to introduce the Pixel 4a, especially considering last year's Pixel 3a debuted the same day Google previewed Android 10.
Now, however, we're hearing new reports courtesy of phone leaker Jon Prosser, that we won't see the Pixel 4a until July 13. There's no word on the reason for the reported delay, though Prosser says it's because of "market conditions" and not because the phones aren't ready to release.
Even more confusing, the Pixel 4a may not even hit stores in July, according to Prosser. He says the Just Black version of the Pixel 4a would hit stores on August 6, with the Barely Blue model showing up months later on Oct. 1. If this unconventional schedule is accurate, we'd guess it's Google trying to anticipate when foot traffic returns to retail outlets.
Pixel 4a price
According to a leak from 9to5 Google's Stephen Hall, the Pixel 3a will start for as low as $349. This would be $50 cheaper than the Pixel 3a and $50 less than the iPhone SE. Plus, the leak says to expect 128GB of storage to start, which would be double the 64GB offered by the iPhone SE. The Pixel 3a also started with 64GB of storage.
If you want more proof that the Pixel 4a could cost $349, a Reddit user shared a pricing survey Google reportedly sent out, which mentions a Pixel phone made of plastic that seemingly refers to the Pixel 4a. That phone is listed as $349 in the survey.
"What about the Pixel 4a XL?" you may be asking. Reportedly, Google's not coming out with a larger version of its budget phone as the Pixel 3a XL didn't sell as well as the 3a. Jon Prosser confirmed as much when reporting on the new Jul 13 release date for the phone.
Pixel 4a design
Like the Pixel 3a, the Pixel 4a is expected to have a full plastic body, which is not a premium material, but can still feel pleasant to hold. Jon Prosser reports that the Pixel 4a will come in two colors — Just Black and Barely Blue.
Leaked photos of the device that have surfaced on Twitter via TechDroider highlight how Google has evolved the Pixel 3a's design into its next midrange handset. The two most noticeable design discrepancies with this year's model appear to be the hole-punch camera cutout — evoking the Infinity-O displays on Samsung's Galaxy S10 series of phones — and the square rear camera module, which strangely only carries one lens. This may have been done to establish a design lineage with the Pixel 4, which employs a dual-lens rear camera embedded in a similar-looking patch.
Google Pixel 4A .. Small + Powerful Camera + Better Design than Pixel 4/XL pic.twitter.com/aEdeyhgR9CMarch 7, 2020
On the top edge, the headphone jack from the 3a still appears to be present. That's a pleasant surprise in the smartphone ecosystem, and one that users on tighter budgets who don’t already own wireless buds will appreciate. On the bottom, the usual USB-C port can be found, now the standard for all smartphones unless you’re Apple.
Meanwhile, at the back is the rear fingerprint sensor as well as the signature Google logo. This sensor was dropped in the transition from Pixel 3 to Pixel 4 because Google wanted people to use the Face Unlock facial recognition system. But since there’s no longer a big bezel at the top of the display, and no doubt Google’s Soli radar tech is expensive to install on a phone, there are a couple of good reasons to go back to the old method.
If you want the specific measurements, Dave Lee provided some numbers: 144.2 x 69.5 x 8.2mm (5.7 x 2.7 x 0.32 inches). Comparing this to the current Pixel 3a, the phone is noticeably shorter, presumably thanks to the rumored swapping out of the bezel for a camera punch-hole, while the other dimensions are near identical.
All the above is further lent credence by new design renders created by Pigtou and xleaks, who developed the images below based off leaked CAD drawings.
Much like previous images, the design render shows an evolution of the Pixel aesthetic, mixing in a modern near bezel-less display with the rounded utilitarian design of previous Pixel phones. And the rear fingerprint scanner is also present and correct, which some fans will welcome as the sensor has been praised for being responsive and able to reliably unlock a Pixel phone in a split-second.
I'm pretty certain I mentioned this before but I can confirm that Pixel 4a doesn't have Active Edge. First of the Pixel line to leave it behind.May 18, 2020
One design difference between the Pixel 4a and previous Google phones is the lack of an Active Edge feature which allows you to squeeze the side of the phone to summon Google Assistant. 9to5Google's Stephen Hall says the Pixel 4a won't have that feature — one possible way Google is keeping costs down on this phone.
Pixel 4a display
Renders based on leaks provided by 91mobiles and Twitter user @OnLeaks have tipped us off another subtly changed Pixel handset. Having finally ditched the signature heavy bezel, the Pixel 4a will apparently have a punch-hole selfie camera in the top left corner, set in a display that’s somewhere in the 5.7 to 5.8-inch range depending on who you listen to.
The most definitive word on the Pixel 4a's screen size thus far has come from 9to5Google, which posted the rumored specs of the Pixel 4a. That report claims the phone will have a 5.8-inch OLED display with a full-HD+ resolution.
Google Pixel 4A AgainCredits - @raude2210 pic.twitter.com/jDzWCXsIQdMarch 8, 2020
That claim is backed up by benchmarks for a phone that fits the Pixel 4a's description showing up on Geekbench. That post includes specs for the device, where the display is described as 5.81-inch OLED panel.
Some initial photos that appeared on both Twitter and Slashleaks, reportedly of the Pixel 4a, back up the rumor that the oversized top and bottom bezels are gone from Google's upcoming phone. Those images show a punch-hole for the front camera replacing the bezel on last year's models.
The Pixel 4 has a 90Hz AMOLED display, in either a 5.7-inch or 6.3-inch version. The Pixel 3a had an AMOLED panel too (albeit a not very bright one), so we should expect another one on the Pixel 4a.
Whether Google will bring over the 90Hz technology it introduced with the Pixel 4 is debatable. It would be a great selling point for a mid-price phone, but the price of implementation, plus the fact it didn’t work that smoothly on the Pixel 4 may mean Google plays it safe and leaves the Pixel 4a display at the standard 60Hz.
Pixel 4a cameras
Google’s last two phones, the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4, had one and two cameras respectively. It looks like the 4a will take after the 3a, using only a single main sensor, presumably the 12.2MP one it used on its previous phones. That is a small pity since the Pixel 4’s 16MP telephoto lens is pretty good.
Fortunately the Pixel series has always held Google’s amazing photo processing software as a secret weapon, meaning that often a single lens can do the job as well as multiple ones working together. That gives us faith that the Pixel 4a will ultimately land on our list of the best camera phones.
Fotos: #Pixel4a vs #RedmiNote7 12MP vs 48MPCual te gusta mas? pic.twitter.com/ULsU8pOlRoApril 30, 2020
A number of Pixel 4a camera samples have leaked, and both sets of results look pretty impressive compared to the Redmi Note 7. The Pixel 4a particularly excels in low light, but even outdoor shots look more colorful and sharp. This bodes well for Google's phone in its battle against the newly released iPhone SE, which will relies on a single rear camera augmented by neural processing.
On the front, and as far as we know nestled in a brand-new punch-hole cutout, the selfie camera is likely to once again be Google’s 8MP sensor. Whether the front camera will be the same as the 3a, or employ the slightly wider field of view of the Pixel 4's lens, has yet to be determined.
The Google Camera app, which also contains references to code names likely to be the Pixel 4a models, was also shown by XDA Developers to contain code for a 24fps video mode. This, joining the 30 fps and 60 fps video modes that are staples for smartphone video, will be welcome news for videographers who want extra versatility in their frame rates for various mechanical and artistic reasons.
Pixel 4a CPU, RAM and storage
Dueling rumors suggested that there were different CPUs headed to the Pixel 4a. XDA Developers found during its investigation into Google’s code names that one version uses the Snapdragon 730, while another uses the Snapdragon 765, a 5G-ready processor that poses exciting possibilities for this new handset.
XDA Developers have since confirmed that the codename "sunfish" relates to a Pixel 4a with the Snapdragon 730 chip, but cannot yet confirm if there will be other versions. For what it's worth, the 9to5Google report on Pixel 4a specs only mentions the Snapdragon 730 and many of the leaked benchmarks we've seen so far refer only to that processor.
The Pixel 4a benchmarks posted to Geekbench are for a device powered by a Snapdragon 730 chipset. More interestingly, the phone is listed as having 6GB of memory, which would be an improvement over the 4GB of RAM in the Pixel 3a. As for performance, the rumored Pixel 4a posted a Geekbench 4 multicore score of 6,366, which is about what you'd expect for a phone powered by a Snapdragon 730.
Additional benchmarks carried out using AnTuTu by TechnoLike Plus reveal similar information. Overall the Pixel 4a's performance lies between the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4. This is respectable, but it won't get it far compared to the iPhone SE's mighty A13 chipset, which beats even flagship Android phones using the Snapdragon 865 CPU.
Pixel 4a 5G
With evidence mounting that the Snapdragon 730 will power the Pixel 4a, it's increasingly unlike that Google's next budget phone will be able to connect to emerging 5G networks.
That wouldn't be the case if Google surprises us and uses a Snapdragon 765 chipset. The 765 features a built-in 5G modem, so any phone powered by that system-on-chip will have 5G connectivity.
Should the Snapdragon 765 appear in the Pixel 4a, that would make Google’s cheapest phone its first 5G offering. It might also help speed up adoption of the new networking standard, since most 5G phones are far more expensive or are made by less well-known brands.
Obviously Apple’s move to 5G will be the final step that moves a lot of people over, but for Android users, Google has a chance to be their guide to a new high-speed and low-latency data world.
If, however, Google opts for just one model of the Pixel 4a powered by a Snapdragon 730 chipset, that means the company is passing on adding 5G to its midrange lineup for now. Instead, the Pixel 5, coming in the fall, would be Google's first 5G phone.
Pixel 4a battery
More battery is always good, but it’s quite desperately needed in the Pixel series. The standard Pixel 3a came with a rather small 3,000 mAh battery, and the XL a below average 3,700 mAh battery.
Pixel handsets have used 18W fast charging since the original Pixel debuted, and it wouldn’t make sense for Google to take a step backwards here. Therefore, the Pixel 3a will almost certainly be compatible with 18W charging too.
The 3a did not feature wireless charging, and that feature also looks unlikely for the Pixel 4a. It's one of those "nice to have" features that wouldn't be a major problem to lack at this price.
Pixel 4a outlook
The Pixel 3a has been a popular phone, increasing Google’s handset sales by a large margin. Therefore the sequel has the perfect stage already set for it. However, the Pixel 4's stumbles reinforce the need for Google to think carefully about which new features it transfers over to the Pixel 4a — especially now that Apple is challenging Google with a sub-$400 phone of its own.
It doesn't look like the Pixel 4a will offer Motion Sense or Face Unlock, which is just fine with us. The latest camera processing software and Google Assistant improvements should be top of the list of things the new phone needs.
A performance boost wouldn't go amiss, and hopefully the two new Snapdragon CPUs rumored would help with that. And while a significantly upgraded display would be nice, it would be better to keep anything too advanced, like the Pixel 4's 90Hz display, off the Pixel 4a if it's in danger of raising the price significantly.
The Pixel 4a doesn't need to be revolutionary, just a solid update on the Pixel 3a. If Google plays it safe, its next foray into the mid-range handset market will no doubt do very well once again.