How do you choose between the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5, when both devices share such tightly knit DNA? We’re here to examine the nuances, differences, and help you make that all-important decision.

We feel like we’ve repeated ourselves until we’re hoarse at this stage, but the late-2020 Made by Google smartphone lines are both great value but simultaneously very convoluted. COVID-19 is no doubt to blame for some of the confusion that has arisen. But that has not been helped by the staggered release of the Pixel 4a, 4a 5G, and the Pixel 5.

If you’re coming from an older device, the two that probably stand out most are bound to the 5G-powered duo we’re comparing here. In all honesty, no matter which device you pick, we’re sure you’ll get that “Pixel experience” that you’re craving.

Some of you on the fence might be wondering if the extra $200 is worth it between the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 — in the US at least. Let’s lay all of the available information out and determine which is a better buy for you:

Video — Google Pixel 4a 5G vs. Pixel 5: Which is the right Pixel for me?

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Hardware

It’s a case of omissions — and size — where the bulk of differences will be found between the Google Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. You’ll need to work out just what you want and need in a smartphone to decided between these very similar pieces of tech.

Google Pixel 4a 5G Google Pixel 5
Size 6.2-inches 6.0-inches
Display 60Hz / FHD+ / Gorilla Glass 3 / 413ppi 90Hz / FHD+ / Gorilla Glass 6 / 432ppi
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM 6GB 8GB
Storage 128GB UFS 2.1 128GB UFS 2.1
Battery 3,885mAh 4,000-4,080mAh
Rear camera 12.2MP wide / 16MP ultra-wide 12.2MP wide / 16MP ultra-wide
Front-facing camera 8MP 8MP
Biometrics Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner
Colors Just Black Just Black, Sorta Sage

The “core” differences between the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 are down to the external hardware. While the Pixel 5 includes some internal hardware bumps, it is made from more “premium” materials and does feel slightly more expensive in the palm. Having only one color option for the Pixel 4a 5G might also be a sore point for people that want a colorful device.

pixel 4a 5g pixel 5

Because the “main” internals are the exact same, the Pixel 5 is only a very minor upgrade thanks to the increased RAM. With no XL variant of the flagship model this year, then the added screen real estate might prove to be a big draw for those looking at the Pixel 4a 5G.

While the external materials favor the Pixel 5, the unibody design is effectively the same on both devices. Both include the same haptics, which is a marginal step down of the Pixel 4 and 4 XL from last year too. Although the Pixel 4a 5G does have better audio thanks to a proper earpiece speaker and downward-firing tweeter, which is far clearer than that Pixel 5’s combination of under-display speaker and downward-firing tweeter.

Software

The software on the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5 is — like most Made by Google devices — identical. Unlike previous hardware, there are no removals from the 4a 5G that do not require extra hardware. You will effectively have the exact same experience no matter which device you choose.

Google Pixel 4a 5G Google Pixel 5
Software Shipped with Android 11 Shipped with Android 11
Features Headphone port
Standard earpiece speaker
5G connectivity
Smooth Display
Wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging
5G connectivity
IP68 rating
Under-display earpiece speaker

You won’t be able to charge wirelessly on the Pixel 4a 5G, which means the Pixel 5 is the only Google-made device to include reverse wireless charging tech atop this charging method. As for the software version, the Pixel 4a 5G arrived slightly later than the Pixel 5 but both come with Android 11 out of the box.

As such, both devices will be eligible for OS upgrades up to and including Android 14. Beyond this release, you’ll get monthly security patches until the end-of-life phase. Your core daily experience is practically identical on both the 4a 5G and the 5 thanks to the same Snapdragon 765G at the heart of both handsets.

Battery

The battery sizes on the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 are very close in terms of size. They both provide an all-day lifespan, which has been a problem for previous flagship Pixel devices in recent years. You could even stretch that longevity out a little further on the Pixel 5 by dipping the refresh rate from 90 to 60Hz too.

Google Pixel 4a 5G Google Pixel 5
Battery size 3,885mAh 4,000-4,080mAh
Charging Speed 18W wired 18W wired
12W Qi wireless
5W reverse wireless

You’ll notice the only core difference is the extra charging methods you’re afforded with Pixel 5. If you simply must have wireless charging, then this is the device for you. The charging speeds via USB-C are capped at 18W, which is slow by 2020 standards but is still plenty fast for the most part.

Cameras

Again, the cameras on the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 are literally identical — from front to back. This even includes all of the software tweaks and new camera modes. This will undoubtedly take the stress out of choosing between the two devices when you know that no focal length or feature is left behind.

Google Pixel 4a 5G Google Pixel 5
Main sensor Sony IMX 363
12.2MP
f1.7 aperture
Sony IMX 363
12.2MP
f1.7 aperture
Secondary sensor Sony IMX 481
16MP ultra-wide-angle
f2.2 aperture
107˚ FOV
Sony IMX 481
16MP ultra-wide-angle
f2.2 aperture
107˚ FOV
Front-facing sensor Sony IMX 355
8MP
f2.0 aperture
Sony IMX 355
8MP
f2.0 aperture
Camera hardware features OIS
EIS
PDAF
OIS
EIS
PDAF
Camera software features Night Sight Portrait
Portrait Light
4K UHD 60fps
Cinematic Pan
Locked Focus
Active mode
Night Sight Portrait
Portrait Light
4K UHD 60fps
Cinematic Pan
Locked Focus
Active mode

The Pixel 4a 5G is actually the first “a” series Google device to come with a secondary lens. You don’t get the telephoto zoom lens on either but the main versus ultra-wide is likely the perfect combination with the software-driven Super Res Zoom.

Neither device comes with any AR Playground camera features, so if you like adding 3D characters and objects to your photos in real-time, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Because the core internals, camera hardware, and software additions are identical on each device, the end results are indistinguishable from one another. This is definitely a net win for the Pixel 4a 5G over the Pixel 5 though, as that extra initial outlay doesn’t net you any major camera performance improvements.

Pixel 4a 5G vs. Pixel 5: Which should I choose?

pixel 4a 5g pixel 5

About upgrading: 9to5Google often gives specific product recommendations. Sometimes, we may suggest not upgrading, due to various reasons including, but not limited to: increased device cost, negligible performance gains, or environmental impact. Whether to upgrade is always your call, but our aim is to help you make as informed a decision as possible.

It all boils down to the hardware and finish. The Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5 share around 80% of the same DNA, which makes your decision much easier in many ways. Do you want an IP water and dust resistance rating, premium materials, 90Hz display, and wireless charging? If so, the Pixel 5 is for you. Should you want a headphone port and larger display — albeit at 60Hz — and potentially better battery? Then go for the Pixel 4a 5G.

Everywhere else, these phones are practically identical. It’s one of the strangest hardware lineups from any OEM in recent years, which does make the entire Pixel series a bit of a confusing mess in 2020. However, getting granular, it becomes a little clearer. Just on price alone, you’re not really giving up too much by opting for the $499 Pixel 4a 5G over the Pixel 5 in the grand scheme of things.

However, if you want the most powerful Google Pixel, even at this stage of 2020 it remains the Pixel 4 or 4 XL. Even with a 4G-only chipset, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 is a far superior performer to the Snapdragon 765G found inside the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5. It too includes a dual-camera setup and the same “Pixel experience” that you’re likely on the lookout for. Plus it’s now available at a knockdown price.

Where can I get the best deal on the Pixel 4a 5G or Pixel 5?

Are you insistent on getting the Pixel 5? If so, the Pixel 5 is available for $100 off from Best Buy with activation. Verizon is offering the Pixel 5 at up to $550 off with select device trade-ins or up to $150 off with select plans with a free $250 Verizon gift card. Otherwise, ahead of Black Friday, the Pixel 5 retails for $699 in the US and can be purchased directly from GoogleAmazonBest BuyVerizonB&HPhotoAT&T, plus more with $50 off, taking the price down to $649!

If you want the Pixel 4a 5G, which offers a heck of a lot for the $499 asking price, then you can grab it for just $299 directly from the Google Store when taking out a new Google Fi line, Amazon, Best Buy with $50 discount after activation, Verizon, B&HPhoto, AT&T and more at various Black Friday week discounts.

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