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Google Pixel 4a 5G buyer’s guide: Know before you buy
The Google Pixel 4a 5G is bigger and better than the already-excellent Google Pixel 4a. It’s also more expensive.
We’re here to make your purchase decision easier by answering some key questions. Is the new Pixel 4a 5G a good deal? Should you buy the 5G model or stick with the trusty LTE version? Is it worth spending a bit more for the Pixel 5a? What about all the other great options out there?
Let’s go through the key facts in our Google Pixel 4a 5G buyer’s guide.
Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this Pixel 4a 5G guide with more tips, resources, and details, so keep it tuned.
Google Pixel 4a 5G at a glance
The Pixel 4a 5G was announced on September 30, 2020, alongside the Pixel 5, the Google Nest Audio, and the latest Chromecast.
The Pixel 4a 5G is, in essence, the 5G-enabled version of the regular Pixel 4a, which came out on August 3. However, there are more upgrades to the Pixel 4a 5G. The phone has a bigger screen, features a faster Snapdragon 765G processor, and comes with a bigger battery.
Pixel 4a 5G is a value-oriented phone made for people who don’t want or need a flashy high-end phone. Like the Pixel 4a, the 4a 5G model’s strong points are its cameras, smooth software, and rock-solid update policy.
It’s worth pointing out that Google has discontinued the Pixel 5a back in August, meaning it can be hard to get your hands on it. Some retailers still hold stock, but you can’t get the phone from Google anymore.
What experts think of the Pixel 4a 5G
Our very own Oliver Cragg reviewed the Pixel 4a 5G and was impressed with it in many ways. In fact, he called it one of the best mid-range phones to date.
He thinks that the handset takes the best of the Pixel 5 and combines it with the value offered by the Pixel 4a, making it a perfect balance between premium and budget. It features the best camera in its class, a great display, a very strong battery life, and a fantastic software experience. Oliver also highlighted the fast fingerprint scanner, 5G support, and great performance.
As expected, the phone also has a few drawbacks you need to keep in mind. Oliver pointed out that the display’s refresh rate is low at just 60Hz and that the ultra-wide camera is a bit underwhelming. The phone also uses an older version of Gorilla Glass up-front for protecting the display, which isn’t as strong as the latest model.
What other reviewers from around the web think
To give you the best overview of Google’s mid-range phone, we looked at what reviewers from other publications had to say about the Pixel 4a 5G.
- Tech Radar’s Tom Bedford said that the Pixel 4a 5G is a “fine but unexciting mid-range phone.” The performance of the handset isn’t that great in his opinion, and the camera experience is hit-and-miss. But on the other hand, Tom liked the software experience and the fact that there’s a headphone jack onboard. The battery life is good as well, especially for a Pixel phone.
- Tom’s Guide’s Philip Michaels had a lot of good things to say about the Pixel 4a 5G. He liked the display of the phone and the fact that it offers 5G support, especially considering its price point. He also loved the cameras as well as the clean software experience. However, Tom didn’t care much for the battery life, which he described as well below average. He wasn’t impressed with the performance of the phone either, especially since you can find similarly-priced devices with faster chipsets.
- Cnet’s Lynn La said the Pixel 4a 5G has a solid battery life, fantastic rear cameras, reliable performance, and great software support. Then there’s the addition of a headphone jack and 5G support. These features, combined with a competitive price tag, make it easy to recommend to most people. There are a few drawbacks to consider, with the biggest one being the lack of wireless charging.
Do you even need a 5G phone?
Before we go any further, ask yourself: will you be able to use the 5G connectivity of the Pixel 4a 5G?
This isn’t a simple question, as the answer depends on a few factors outside of your control. While 5G coverage is becoming more common, it’s still scarce in many places around the world. Not only does your carrier need to offer 5G service in your area, but you may also need to be signed up for a 5G plan. Furthermore, the 5G network needs to cover the places in which you actually live and work. Finally, even if you do technically get 5G, you might not notice a speed improvement at all — 5G connections can actually be slower than 4G in some cases.
Go deeper: What to look for in your perfect 5G plan and network
What about “future-proofing?” If you think you’ll want 5G service down the road, then yes, the Pixel 4a 5G is a good choice, though it’s far from the only one.
How good are the cameras on the Pixel 4a 5G?
The Pixel 4a 5G sports two rear cameras. You get the primary 12.2MP Sony IMX363 sensor we’ve seen on every Pixel phone since the Pixel 3 series and an 8MP ultra-wide lens. The camera setup is nearly identical to that of the Pixel 5, which means the Pixel 4a 5G is arguably the best in its class when it comes to photography.
Thanks to Google’s software enhancements, the phone takes great images in just about any lighting condition. You can expect sharp and accurate colors, a wide dynamic range, and near-flawless exposure. At least when it comes to the main sensor. The ultra-wide camera is a bit different, as the colors are muted and there’s a lack of sharpness.
Additionally, the wide-angle lens isn’t as wide as we’d like with its 107-degree field of view. For reference, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s wide-angle lens has a 123-degree field of view, meaning it can capture more in a photo.
Overall, the results from the wide-angle camera aren’t bad by any means, they just aren’t as good as what you get with the main sensor. Most people should be happy with it, though.
To learn more details, check out our Pixel 4a 5G camera review.
Does the Pixel 4a 5G have good battery life?
The battery life of the Pixel 4a 5G is really great. The phone packs a 3,885mAh cell that was good for around six hours of screen-on-time of moderate-to-heavy use during our testing. With lighter usage, the battery should last even longer, with two full days a possibility. The Pixel 4a 5G also managed to push a whopping 347 minutes on a constant stress test loop before dying. That’s among the best of any phone we’ve ever tested.
The battery life can be extended even further with Extreme Battery Saver, which is Google’s new software feature that disables access to non-essential apps and services.
The Pixel 4a 5G supports 18W wired charging that gets the battery from zero to 100% in around 90 minutes. In 30 minutes, you can expect to get it up to roughly 40%. These numbers aren’t bad, but they are nothing special.
Keep in mind that the Pixel 4a 5G doesn’t support wireless charging or reverse wireless charging. If these two features are important to you, the Pixel 5 is the better choice.
Google Pixel 4a 5G ($499) vs Pixel 4a ($349): What’s the difference?
At a glance, here’s how the Pixel 4a 5G differs from the Pixel 4a:
- The Pixel 4a 5G is larger and heavier than the Pixel 4a.
- The screen on the Pixel 4a 5G is bigger, at 6.2 inches vs. 5.81 inches. Both are 60Hz displays.
- The Pixel 4a 5G features a slightly more powerful processor. We found the 4a’s Snapdragon 730G to be good enough for most daily tasks, but you’ll want to pick up the Pixel 4a 5G if you want better performance.
- The battery on the Pixel 4a 5G is 24% larger than the Pixel 4a’s. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the 5G model will have 24% longer battery life, as the bigger screen and the 5G connectivity consume more power.
Related: Google Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5G vs Pixel 4a: Which should you buy?
What about the Pixel 5a?
The Pixel 5a is the latest phone from the company’s affordable “a” series. It’s more or less identical to the Pixel 4a 5G, sporting the same chipset, a similar design, and the exact same cameras. However, it does come with a larger display and a larger battery, among other things. You can learn more about the differences between the two phones in the post linked below.
Read more: Google Pixel 5a vs Pixel 4a 5G
With that in mind, the Pixel 5a is the better buy right now. It’s surprisingly also cheaper, coming in at $450. The Pixel 4a 5G isn’t sold by Google anymore, but you can get it on Amazon. However, it currently retails for around $490, making it less appealing than the Pixel 5a.
Google Pixel 4a 5G ($499) vs Pixel 5 ($699): What’s the difference?
As for the Pixel 4a 5G compared to the top-of-the-line Pixel 5, the key differences are:
- The Pixel 4a 5G’s screen is 0.2 inches larger than the Pixel 5. However, the Pixel 5 features a 90Hz refresh rate, making for a smoother experience. The Pixel 5 also has a better grade of Gorilla Glass protecting it.
- The Pixel 5 has 8GB of RAM, compared to just 6GB of RAM on the Pixel 4a 5G. We believe 6GB is still enough for most users right now, but the Pixel 5 is better equipped to run smoothly for longer.
- While the main cameras are similar on both phones, the Pixel 5 has a 16MP ultra-wide camera, versus 8MP on the Pixel 4a 5G.
- The Pixel 4a 5G has a headphone jack, the Pixel 5 does not!
- The battery is slightly larger on the Pixel 5: 4,080mAh vs 3,885mAh. Again, it remains to be seen what kind of difference that makes in terms of battery life.
Google Pixel 4a 5G software updates
If fast and frequent software updates are your thing, you can’t go wrong with the Pixel 4a 5G. Google promises three years of OS upgrades for the device, which means it should get Android 13 in 2022, and Android 14 a year after that. It has already received Android 12 back in 2021. These updates are available on the day a new Android version makes its debut, as is the case with other Pixel phones.
Additionally, the handset is guaranteed to get security updates until September 2023. It will also stay fresh for a while thanks to Feature Drops, which are Pixel and Google app updates rolled into one quarterly update for Pixel phones.
Google Pixel 4a 5G specs
|Pixel 4a 5G|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
60Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 3
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
2.4 GHz + 2.2 GHz + 1.8 GHz, 64-bit
Titan M Security Module
no microSD card slot
12.2 MP dual-pixel
1.4 μm pixel width
Autofocus with dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilization
77° field of view
16 MP ultrawide
1.0 μm pixel width
107° field of view
8MP sensor, f/2.0, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 83-degree field-of-view
USB-C USB-PD 2.0
18W fast charging
No wireless charging
Minimum 3 years of OS and security updates
Dimensions and weight
153.9mm x 74mm x 8.2mm (8.5mm for mmWave variant)
168g (171g for mmWave variant)
Just Black, Clearly White
Google Pixel 4a 5G alternatives
- Pixel 5a — The Pixel 5a is newer and slightly better. It’s also cheaper at the moment, making it the better option.
- Pixel 4a – The Pixel 4a offers less, but it also costs less at $349 (launch price). Read the sections above to get an idea of the differences between the phones.
- Galaxy A52 5G – Depending on where you get them from, Samsung’s 5G mid-ranger can be bought for about the same price as the Pixel 4a 5G. We find its performance a bit lackluster, but it provided niceties like a microSD card slot, more versatile cameras, and bigger batteries. The Galaxy A53 has also already launched, but it costs more and we haven’t reviewed it yet.
- Motorola One 5G – This unassuming phone features a massive 5,000mAh battery and a very similar processor, though the Pixel pulls ahead with the better image quality and update policy.
- OnePlus Nord – Currently not available in North America, the OnePlus Nord beats the Pixel 4a 5G when it comes to the battery size and charging speeds, RAM and storage, and the 90Hz display. The newer Nord 2 is also a great alternative.
- POCO F3 – The only Snapdragon 875 phone on our list of Pixel 4a 5G competitors, the POCO F3 is all about value for money. On paper, it beats the Pixel 4a 5G in multiple ways, but the two phones target very different buyers.
To see a more comprehensive list of Google Pixel 4a 5G alternatives, head here.
Where to buy the phone
The Pixel 4a 5G can be hard to get at the moment since a lot of retailers either don’t carry it anymore or have sold it out. You can still get it on Amazon, though.
In the US, the unlocked Pixel 4a 5G is available in the Clearly White colorway alongside the Just Black option. The phone has launched in many other countries in addition to the US, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
Google Pixel 4a 5G FAQs
Q: Does the Pixel 4a 5G have a headphone jack?
A: Yes, the Pixel 4a does have a 3.5mm audio jack.
Q: Does the Pixel 4a 5G have a microSD card slot?
A: The Pixel 4a 5G 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 5G available in?
A: The Pixel 4a 5G is available in Just Black and Clearly White.
Q: Is the Pixel 4a 5G waterproof?
A: The Google Pixel 4a 5G doesn’t have an official IP rating for water and dust resistance. You shouldn’t expose it to any liquids.
Q: Does the Pixel 4a 5G screen offer 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rates?
A: No, this is a standard 60Hz display.