Timing a new technological purchase is perpetually tricky. There’s always something better right around the corner. This is particularly the case with the upcoming Pixel 4a, Google’s second-generation affordable phone that looks set to cost under $400. This puts it up against Apple’s new iPhone SE, making it a particularly important launch for Android fans.
Unfortunately, with Google I/O 2020 canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and a possible online launch delayed, we now don’t know when the Pixel 4a release date will finally arrive. Some rumors point to July, but should you wait that long or buy a phone available today? Let’s look at the options.
Google Pixel 4a: Everything we know so far
Google Pixel 4a: Why you should wait
Hardware is always an important consideration when buying a mid-range phone, but we’re not expecting the Pixel 4a to be any faster than its competitors with a rumored Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 in tow. However, Google does photography really really well, even at affordable price points, as the Pixel 3a showed. Google brought the majority of its high-end camera smarts to the 3a, the processing times were just a little longer. If you’re after one of the best and most affordable phone cameras, it might just be worth holding out for a confirmed Pixel 4a release date just a little longer.
A closer look: Google Pixel 3a XL camera review
Another reason to hold on for the Pixel 4a is system updates. The phone comes with Android 11 and will be one of the few mid-range handsets to offer long-running Android updates, courtesy of Google. Of course, you could go out and buy the Pixel 3a, which can already run the Android 11 Beta. But with the Pixel 4a release date so close, a short wait for an extra year of support seems worthwhile, especially if you plan to keep the phone for a long time.
Google Pixel 4a: Why you shouldn’t wait
Of course, the Pixel 4a doesn’t offer everything. If you’re looking to experiment with multiple cameras, features like wireless charging, or make use of a 5G network, then there are other handsets already out there. Albeit you may have to spend a little more cash — if you’re holding out for a great 5G phone at under $400 (with global availability), you’ll probably be waiting until 2021. Even so, the Pixel 4a is only worth the wait for those who want the essentials done well for a reasonable price, not the full bells and whistles.
In addition, while the rumors suggest the Google Pixel 4a has all the makings of another blockbuster phone, there are affordable alternatives on the market already if you’re in desperate need of a new phone. I’ve put together this shortlist of alternatives in the same price bracket, which are all definitely worth checking out. Not included below is the Pixel 3a, but if you want a cheap Google phone that you can buy right now, you can’t really go wrong with the first generation device (or the larger Pixel 3a XL). At under $300 in most sales, it’s an absolute steal too.
Samsung Galaxy A51/A70
One phone hitting the $399 sweet spot (or less at current discounts) is the Samsung Galaxy A51. With a big battery, triple camera and depth-sensing package, and a high-quality OLED display, this is arguably Samsung’s best affordable phone to date. The processor is a bit dated, but otherwise, this phone goes above and beyond your basic affordable package. The Prism Black Crush color and reflective design are pretty eye-catching too, if that’s your thing.
Samsung has definitely upped its game in the mid-tier market this year. It’s almost as if the success of the Pixel 3a has shocked the Galaxy A range back into life. The Galaxy A70 and A80 are also worth a look for customers outside the US. The only real drawback is that Samsung’s update policy for its mid-range phones isn’t as fast or reliable as Google’s.
If you’re after a manufacturer with a solid update record then Nokia deserves a mention. The Nokia 7.2, released back in 2019, comes with two years of Android updates and three years of security updates. That’s a very good policy, although the upgrade to Android 10 now counts as one year.
The handset itself offers a solid camera package, excellent software, and really great build quality. However, we weren’t completely sold on the phone’s older Snapdragon 660 processor nor its slow charging speed. The phone makes a few compromises, showcasing just how hard it is to nail the perfect $400 package. Still, the Nokia 7.2 will certainly serve you well in a pinch.
Apple iPhone SE
A controversial choice for an Android website, but it’s hard to think of closer competition for the Pixel 4a than the Apple iPhone SE (2020). If you can grin and bear the move to Apple’s ecosystem and the dated build, the $400 iPhone offers a solid camera, top-tier performance, IP67 water and dust resistance, and even wireless charging thrown in. Talk about value for money.
Apple is, of course, top of its game when it comes to long-running update support too. The target consumer and reasons to buy are clearly quite comparable with the Google Pixel 4a, and Apple’s phone is already available. Quite honestly, the longer Google waits to release the 4a the better for Apple.
So should you wait for the Pixel 4a release date?
The Google Pixel 3a was such a success not just because it nails the smartphone fundamentals, but also partly because there’s not a lot of choice around the $400 mark… at least not in the US. The likes of Realme and Xiaomi have plenty of solid phones on the market around the world, but grabbing an import is only worthwhile if you’re sure the phone will work with your carrier.
We can’t be sure lightning will strike twice with the Pixel 4a until we’ve reviewed it, but if you’re big on Google’s software ecosystem or really want an affordable Pixel camera, it will almost certainly be worth the wait. Even so, the phone has a lot to live up to if it’s to compete with the iPhone SE and pull ahead of some of the new competition in this price segment.
The Pixel 4a may be worth the wait, but there are some great options already out there.
The other wild card is OnePlus, which itself is readying a cheaper smartphone for the masses to counterbalance its own push into the premium space with the OnePlus 8 series. There’s still a lot we don’t know about the so-called OnePlus Z (including the release date), but the brand is no stranger to making amazing and affordable phones.
Of course, it’s also worth considering last-gen flagships when buying on a budget. For example, the excellent OnePlus 7T or even the Google Pixel 4 can be picked up without breaking the bank, and all you’ll need is an extra $100 or so. Smart shoppers certainly don’t have to wait to grab a great Android smartphone.
Will you be waiting for the Google Pixel 4a release date or are you picking up another cheap phone instead? Let us know in the poll in the article above and in the comments below. Also be sure to check out our other Pixel content!