Update: September 30, 2020 (15:20 AM ET): Google has detailed a new Pixel 4a series phone called the Pixel 4a 5G. For everything you need to know about the upgrade 5G model, be sure to check out our Pixel 4a 5G buyer’s guide. Likewise, check out our Pixel 5 buyer’s guide for more on the latest Google flagship phone.
We’ll fully update this guide with details regarding the new phones soon, but for now, you may want to read our comparison article below.
The cheapest phone from Google in 2020 is the Pixel 4a and it’s a great budget Android device. In this Google Pixel 4a buyer’s guide, we bring you all the info you need to make a smart purchase decision and to make the most of your new phone.
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this Pixel 4a guide with more tips, resources, and details, so stay tuned.
Pixel 4a at a glance
The Pixel 4a was announced on August 3, 2020. It’s Google’s most affordable phone for the year and it’s a great pick if you want:
- A cheap-ish phone from a trusted brand
- A great camera
- A smaller size
- Quality software and guaranteed updates.
The Pixel 4a costs $349 in the US, where it’s available in only one size, one color, and one storage configuration. It competes with the iPhone SE, the OnePlus Nord (outside the US), the Samsung Galaxy A51, and a slew of other affordable phones from brands like Xiaomi and Realme.
You should avoid the Pixel 4a if you want:
- Top performance, especially for games
- Lots of bells and whistles
- A battery that holds several days
- 5G (wait for the Pixel 4a 5G version instead).
Read our Pixel 4a review for more details.
Further reading: The best Google products
Is the Pixel 4a worth buying?
We think the Google Pixel 4a is a great pick for the money, especially in the US, where value-focused brands like Realme and Poco are not present.
At $349, it’s a great phone for those who want something solid and functional for day-to-day use, with added niceties like a high-quality camera and a beautiful screen.
Now, Google doesn’t have a stellar track record as a phone maker. Some previous Pixel phones have suffered from hardware issues. Also, Google phones are rarely on the cutting edge in performance and battery life. The Pixel 4a is no exception. Keep that in mind if you want the highest reliability or the best specs for your money.
What reviewers are saying about the Pixel 4a
Our own David Imel reviewed the Pixel 4a and came away impressed. Calling it a “no brainer,” David noted that the Pixel 4a gives users “one of the best experiences on Android in a well-designed chassis, for one-third the price of modern flagships.”
That last point is crucial – many customers feel that flagship phone prices aren’t really justified. The Pixel 4a is not a flagship, but it offers a “good enough” experience for a very decent asking price. That helps it stand out.
Besides the value, David highlighted the “fantastic display,” great cameras, and good performance among the selling points of the Pixel 4a. On the downside, David noted there’s no IP rating or wireless charging. Also, the single camera on the back, while really good, can’t match the flexibility of multi-camera designs.
We’ll update our Pixel 4a buyer’s guide with impressions from other reviewers from around the web soon.
What people like you think of the Pixel 4a
In a poll Android Authority ran back in May, almost 90% of the 6,000+ respondents said they’re excited for the Pixel 4a.
Some of that excitement might have been lost on the way, as Google inexplicably delayed the release of the device. Still, it’s safe to say a majority of Android fans are looking forward to the Pixel 4a.
In another poll from July 20, we asked people to choose between the heavily leaked Pixel 4a and the heavily hyped OnePlus Nord. The Google phone came out on top, with 60% of the votes. That’s impressive, considering how popular OnePlus is and how well received the OnePlus Nord has been overall.
Google Pixel 4a specs
We have a full breakdown of the Pixel 4a specs and features here. Below you’ll find the key Pixel 4a specs at a glance.
|Google Pixel 4a|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G|
No microSD slot
12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4µm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization
8MP sensor, f/2.0, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 84-degree field-of-view
No wireless charging
|IP rating||No IP rating|
|Dimensions and weight||144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm|
Is the Pixel 4a camera good?
The Pixel 4a features the same 12MP camera sensor as its predecessor. There’s also only one lens on the back – no wide angle, no zoom, no depth sensors.
On paper, that doesn’t sound encouraging, but specs alone don’t paint the full picture. Like other Pixel phones, the Pixel 4a punches above its weight, thanks to great software optimization. As David put it in our review, “images from the Pixel 4a are classic Google. That is, they’ll look fantastic straight out of camera in nearly any situation.”
The Pixel 4a’s single camera is refreshingly simple, but that’s its weakness too. Other phone makers are pushing the hardware envelope, adding more lenses, bigger sensors, and more complex zoom systems. This gives users more power to capture each scene in the best way. Meanwhile, with the Pixel 4a, what you see is what you get.
Deep dive: The best Android camera phones you can get
How is the Pixel 4a battery life?
From our experience, you can expect around 6.5-7 hours of screen-on time from the Pixel 4a’s 3,140mAh battery, with medium usage. That’s a fairly good number for a battery this size, though it probably won’t be enough to get you through two days of use.
We ran the Pixel 4a through our battery test against two competitors – OnePlus Nord and LG Velvet – and two other Google devices. As you can see in the chart below, the Pixel 4a gives the Nord’s bigger battery a good run, while the 4,300mAh LG Velvet pulls ahead. The 4a clearly beats both the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 4.
Is the Pixel 4a fast enough?
Like everything else about the Pixel 4a, the phone’s performance is good enough for the money. You won’t get flagship-level smoothness, or the highest frame rates in Fortnite. You will get a nearly seamless, lag-free experience in day-to-day use, which is what most people who buy this kind of phone want and expect.
Our resident chiphead Rob Triggs benchmarked the Pixel 4a and noted that it’s “fast enough for a modern mid-range handset when it comes to the real world.” The “real world” part is key – in his testing, Rob found that the Snapdragon 730G processor simply doesn’t hold up to intensive use like long gaming sessions. The processor starts to slow down after about 25 minutes of heavy use.
See also: The Snapdragon chipset guide
In normal, non-gaming use, the Pixel 4a performs fairly close to phones equipped with the next fastest Snapdragon tier, the 765G.
To wrap up, the Pixel 4a is good enough for most use cases, but don’t get it if you want to run high-end games or other processor-intensive apps. If you plan to keep your next phone for more than two years, then you might want to choose a more future-proof Snapdragon 765G-equipped phone.
Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a: What’s new?
Compared to the Pixel 3a, the Pixel 4a is very much an incremental update. That’s visible in the familiar design, but also throughout the spec sheet.
The key updates concern performance and memory. The Snapdragon 670 processor on the Pixel 3a has been replaced with the 730G, which offers better overall speed, but only slightly improved graphic performance. RAM and storage have been bumped up to 6GB and 128GB, up from 4GB and 64GB on the Pixel 3a. That’s a welcome update, though it’s basically the bare minimum Google could get away with in 2020.
The screen is slightly larger (5.81 inches vs 5.6 inches) and slightly taller (19.5:9 ratio, vs 18.5:9 last year), while resolution stays the same. The Pixel 4a definitely looks more modern, giving up the Pixel 3a’s chunky top and bottom bezels.
Cameras are very similar, and the battery has received only a slight upgrade, to 3,140mAh, up from 3,080mAh. That said, battery life is notably better on the Pixel 4a thanks to the newer processor.
What about the Pixel 4a (5G)?
In true Google fashion, the company is muddying the waters around the 5G version of the Pixel 4a. Google briefly confirmed the Pixel 4a (5G) will be coming sometime this fall at a price of $499. The 5G Pixel 4a will be launched at the same time as the Pixel 5, which will also feature 5G.
We don’t know much about the Pixel 4a (5G) for now, other than the price. Considering the $150 difference between the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 4a (5G), it’s possible there will be more differences than just the addition of 5G. At the very least, the 5G model will have a different processor, likely the Snapdragon 765G. Everything else is up in the air for now.
Pixel 4a (5G) will go on sale in US, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia. Google promised more details in the coming months.
What are some good Pixel 4a alternatives?
The answer to this question depends a lot on where you live. In the US, the options in the Pixel 4a’s price range are limited, while in Europe and Asia, Chinese brands offer much stronger competition.
Here are some Pixel 4a alternatives you should consider:
- Pixel 3a (~$300): If you can get your hands on one, the now-discontinued Pixel 3a is not that far behind the Pixel 4a. That said, we strongly recommend you spring up for the 4a.
- iPhone SE ($400): You’d have to switch to iOS, but the iPhone SE (2020) is a very strong player in this price range. That’s mostly thanks to its truly flagship-grade processor. Meanwhile, the Pixel 4a gives you a nicer screen and a better camera.
- OnePlus Nord (~$500): A very good mid-range phone that’s not available in the US. Get it if you want a bigger screen, a faster processor, and longer battery life, along with smooth software. A future Nord-series phone will be coming to the US this year, so you may want to wait for that.
- LG Velvet ($600): This one is much more expensive, but for the money you get a stylish design, a faster processor, 5G support, and a massive battery.
- Realme 6 Pro (~$400): Faster processor, a 90Hz LCD screen, a beefy 4,300mAh battery with 30W charging, and four cameras on the back, giving you all the imaging flexibility the Pixel 4a lacks.
- Samsung Galaxy A51 ($280): Samsung’s mid-ranger has a bigger screen and battery, but performance is lacking. We think the Pixel 4a is a better pick.
- Redmi Note 9 Pro ($330): The popular Redmi Note 9 Pro has a bigger 5,020mAh battery, 30W charging, expandable storage, and an ultra-wide camera. The software experience won’t be as good though.
Should you buy now or wait?
Google has dragged its feet releasing the Pixel 4a, which was originally supposed to go out in May. Now that fall is almost here, you might want to wait a month or two to see what phone makers are working on for the end of the year.
Google itself teased a 5G version of the Pixel 4a. 5G is a big deal for carriers, but it shouldn’t be a priority to most customers. We don’t think most people should hold out for the 5G model, as the benefits of 5G today are limited, at best.
Google regularly puts its Pixels on sale, though you may need to wait several months for the first discount to appear. Definitely keep an eye on the Pixel 4a around Black Friday and the holiday season, when you can expect a 10-20% discount.
The Pixel 5 is expected to arrive around October. Rumor has it a Snapdragon 765G processor will power the phone, meaning it might be cheaper than previous flagship Pixels. If the Pixel 4a looks a little underpowered to your taste, the Pixel 5 could be worth the wait. Read more details about the Pixel 5 rumors here.
Where to buy the Pixel 4a
The Google Pixel 4a is available from the Google Store and via Google Fi. Other retailers that will offer it include Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart.
In the US, Google will also sell the Pixel 4a on C Spire, Spectrum Mobile (Charter), US Cellular, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile (Comcast).
The Pixel 4a is now available in a variety of other countries as well, as emails have been sent out to users who signed up for the waitlist. However, it looks like you might only receive your order in October. The phone is reportedly available to purchase in the likes of Europe, Japan, and Taiwan, although it seems like customers in the UK can only pre-order it right now. We’ve contacted Google to confirm current availability.
Pixel 4a software and updates
Like all Google phones, buying a Pixel 4a means skipping the line when it comes to software updates. Google usually (but not always) pushes out security and system updates in a timely fashion, meaning the Pixel 4a will stay current and fresh.
Pixel feature drops are another incentive for buying a Pixel 4a. Google constantly adds new software features to its Pixel phones, eschewing the need to wait for a major update.
Google promises at least three years of system and security updates for the Pixel 4a, which is a better commitment than what most other Android manufacturers offer.
Top Pixel 4a questions and answers
Q: Where’s the Google Pixel 4a XL?
A: Despite some rumors, this year the Pixel 4a doesn’t have an XL version. That means you’ll have to settle for the 5.81-inch screen of the Pixel 4a.
Q: Is there 5G?
A: The Pixel 4a does not support 5G. Its processor, the Snapdragon 730G, is not a 5G chip. Google did tease a 5G version of the Pixel 4a coming this fall for $499. We’ll update as we hear more.
Q: Does the Pixel 4a have a headphone jack?
A: Yes, the Pixel 4a does have a 3.5mm audio jack.
Q: Does the Pixel 4a has a microSD card slot?
A: The Pixel 4a doesn’t have a memory card slot, so you won’t be able to expand the storage beyond the internal 128GB.
Q: What colors is the Pixel 4a available in?
A: In the US at launch, the Pixel 4a is only available in black.
Q: Is the Pixel 4a waterproof?
A: The Google Pixel 4a doesn’t have an official IP rating for water and dust resistance. You shouldn’t expose it to any liquids.
Q: How do you enable Active Edge on the Pixel 4a?
A: The Pixel 4a does not have the Active Edge feature. Found on previous Pixel phones, Active Edge allowed you to squeeze the sides of the phone to open Google Assistant or silence alarms.
Q: Does the Pixel 4a screen offer 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rates?
A: No, this is a standard 60Hz display.
- What we know about the Pixel 4a 5G
- Google Pixel 4a vs OnePlus Nord: Which should you buy?
- Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4 camera shootout: Budget vs flagship