After months of delays, Google revealed the Pixel 4a back in August last year. Google’s budget phone is primed to take on the likes of the iPhone SE and the OnePlus Nord. But is it good enough to be classed as a worthy alternative to its far more expensive flagship counterpart, the Pixel 4? Let’s find out as we take a look at the Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4!

Editor’s note: We’ll mainly be referring to the standard Pixel 4 for the sake of this comparison. We’ll also mention the larger Pixel 4 XL when the specs and features differ. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t released a Pixel 4a XL. Those after a larger cheap phone from Google will want to check out the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5. Check out our comparison below for more on Google’s new Pixels.

Read more: Google Pixel 5 vs Pixel 4a 5G vs Pixel 4a: Which should you buy?


Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4


Specs

Google Pixel 4aPixel 4Pixel 4 XL
Display
Google Pixel 4a:
5.81-inch OLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3
Pixel 4:
5.7-inch P-OLED
2,280 x 1,080 resolution
19.9:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
90Hz refresh rate
Pixel 4 XL:
6.3-inch P-OLED
3,040 x 1,440 resolution
19.9:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
90Hz refresh rate
Processor
Google Pixel 4a:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
Adreno 618 GPU
Pixel 4:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Adreno 640 GPU
Pixel 4 XL:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Adreno 640 GPU
RAM
Google Pixel 4a:
6GB RAM
Pixel 4:
6GB RAM
Pixel 4 XL:
6GB RAM
Storage
Google Pixel 4a:
128GB
No microSD slot
Pixel 4:
64GB/128GB
No microSD slot
Pixel 4 XL:
64GB/128GB
No microSD slot
Cameras
Google Pixel 4a:
Rear:
12.2MP, f/1.7
OIS + EIS
Front:
8MP, f/2.0
Pixel 4:
Rear:
12.2MP, f/1.7 + 16MP telephoto f/2.4
OIS
Front:
8MP, f/2.0
Pixel 4 XL:
Rear:
12.2MP, f/1.7 + 16MP telephoto f/2.4
OIS
Front:
8MP, f/2.0
Battery
Google Pixel 4a:
3,140mAh
18W fast charging
No wireless charging
Pixel 4:
2,800mAh
18W fast charging
Qi wireless
Pixel 4 XL:
3,700mAh
18W fast charging
Qi wireless
IP Rating
Google Pixel 4a:
No IP rating
Pixel 4:
IP68
Pixel 4 XL:
IP68
Software
Google Pixel 4a:
Android 10
Pixel 4:
Android 10
Pixel 4 XL:
Android 10
Colors
Google Pixel 4a:
Just Black
Pixel 4:
Just Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange
Pixel 4 XL:
Just Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange
Dimensions and weight
Google Pixel 4a:
144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
143g
Pixel 4:
147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2mm
162g
Pixel 4 XL:
160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2mm
193g

Design

The Pixel 4 and the 4a are quite different, which is understandable since there’s a huge price difference between the two. You get a metal and glass build, dust and water resistance, and wireless charging with the flagship Pixel 4, while the Pixel 4a skips all these premium features to keep the price as low as possible.

The Pixel 4a’s polycarbonate body doesn’t feel cheap by any means though. Many may even prefer its near bezel-less front when compared to the large forehead of the Pixel 4 which houses the Soli chip and other sensors. These sensors are essential for the Pixel 4’s hardware-based face unlock feature. The Pixel 4a instead opts for a physical fingerprint scanner, which isn’t as high-tech but is a tried-and-tested security option.

The headphone jack continues to be a major selling point of the budget-friendly smartphone as well. The Pixel 4 doesn’t have a 3.5mm port. Conversely, the Pixel 4 series offers Active Edge so you can squeeze to summon Google Assistant. This feature also appeared on the Pixel 3a, but has been dropped for the Pixel 4a.

Related: Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 4a headpone jack macro
David Imel / Android Authority

The 4a might have the more “modern” design, and the Pixel 4’s look is certainly polarizing, but there’s something quintessentially “Pixel” about both smartphones. Whether it’s the square camera bump, the contrasting power button, or the unique orange colorway of the Pixel 4, both phones are easily recognizable in a world where smartphone designs tend to blend into one another.

See also: Google Pixel 4 XL revisited: The good and bad

Design is a personal preference, but the flagship has more to offer with regards to the display. Both screens are of the OLED, Full HD variety, however, the Pixel 4 has the benefit of a 90Hz refresh rate that makes everything seem that much smoother. That said, the Pixel 4a has one of the best displays we’ve seen in this price range, so you’re definitely not going to have a bad time with it. The 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL’s display also bumps the resolution up to Quad HD, just in case you want the very best Pixel display out there.


Features

The Pixel 4 series is powered by the 2019 flagship processor of choice, the Snapdragon 855. On the other hand, the 4a comes with the decidedly mid-range Snapdragon 730G. As shown by the Speed Test G results in the video above, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will handily beat the 4a in an all-out sprint, or with processor-intensive gaming, but we found no issues with everyday performance with the latter.

The fact that both come with 6GB of RAM and an identical software experience — thanks to the ultra-clean Pixel UI — makes it a little closer. It wouldn’t be fair to expect similar performance given the significantly different processing packages, but the Pixel 4a doesn’t disappoint.

Related: The best Google Pixel 4a cases you can get

Google Pixel 4a using in hand screen 1
David Imel / Android Authority

Where the Pixel 4a has the definite advantage is in battery life. A screen on-time of 6.5 hours may not be as impressive when compared to a lot of other phones out there, but that’s still a big improvement over the around 4-hour screen-on time of the Pixel 4. The Pixel 4 XL fares a little better due to its larger cell, but you’ll still be reaching for a charger by the end of the day, or in some cases even earlier. Google’s decision to go with relatively small batteries with the Pixel 4 series is still baffling, and it’s good to see the Pixel 4a bucking that trend.

Both phones come with the same 12.2MP primary shooter. The Pixel 4 series gets the added benefit of a secondary telephoto lens though. However, the Pixel 4a does get all the fantastic camera software enhancements available with its flagship counterparts, like astrophotography mode and dual exposure sliders.

Given the similarities, it’s no surprise that Pixel 4a produced images similar to those of the Pixel 4. Images have great color and dynamic range, and maintained more contrast than other devices currently on the market. The Pixel 4 has one of the best smartphone cameras around, and it’s fantastic to see its budget sibling go down the same road. Check out our camera shootout between the two phones for some samples and further analysis of the differences between the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4 cameras.

Read more: Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4 camera shootout: Budget vs flagship

The Pixel 4a and Pixel 4 are completely identical on the software side of things. Both phones launched with Android 10, but now run Android 11. Of course, the two Pixels will also be among the first to get future software updates.

You’ll get to enjoy all the new Android features with the Pixel 4a, including the new Google Assistant, Call Screening, and more. Pixel UI may not be for everybody, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the cleanest and most minimalistic takes on the OS around.


Price

Google Pixel 4a screen in hand 3
David Imel / Android Authority

The Pixel 4a is priced at $349. It comes in Just Black with a single 128GB storage option and shipped in the US from August 20. The Pixel 4a is available in the UK for £349, and the rest of Europe for between €349-€389. You can also pick up this phone in India for 31,999 (~$440).

On the other hand, the Pixel 4 launched with a $799 (or £699/€659 in the UK/Europe) price tag for the base 64GB model but is available now for around $500. It is available in Just Black or Clearly White colorways. There’s also an Oh So Orange option but it’s no longer sold via the Google Store and is quite hard to get ahold of these days. The Pixel 4 XL, meanwhile, starts at $799.


Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 4: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 4a taking a photo horizontal
David Imel / Android Authority

The choice between a flagship and a mid-ranger is usually pretty straightforward. However, it’s actually quite hard to make the case that the Pixel 4 is the objectively better option here. Yes, it has a faster processing package, better build quality, and wireless charging. The display comes with a higher refresh rate, you get Motion Sense and Active Edge, and there’s a secondary rear shooter for improved zoom and Bokeh-style shots.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 4a review — Google’s best phone in years!

The Pixel 4a makes a strong case for itself though. The Pixel 4a is essentially what’s left if you remove the premium add-ons from the Pixel 4 and kept all the essentials. You’ll still get a fantastic camera experience with the 4a, the performance is impressive for a mid-ranger, the battery life is much better, and the software package is identical. More importantly for many, the Pixel 4a is less than half the price of the Pixel 4.


Are the huge savings enough to put the Pixel 4a over its high-end namesake? You tell us!