The Pixel 4a was announced just over a year ago and curiously remains on sale following yesterday’s Pixel 5a with 5G unveil. In fact, it’s the only phone from the Made by Google 2020 lineup to remain in stock in the official US store.
That isn’t to say supply hasn’t been running low in recent weeks. It was removed from the Google Fi store earlier this month, while it’s no longer listed at Verizon. The Google Store, however, still offers the Unlocked model in Just Black and Barely Blue. This could just be that Google has a lot of stock remaining
What’s interesting is how the phone announced yesterday actually replaces the model launched nine months ago. The Pixel 4a 5G — along with the 5 — has been consistently out of stock for the past few weeks on the Google Store. It speaks to how 2020 was such a vast departure for Google’s phone efforts.
After 10 devices split evenly between regular and “XL” variants, Google released a new phone in just one size with the 4a. Later in the fall, Google released two upper-mid-range devices that shared many specs and a focus on affordability between them.
As such, the Google phone lineup today starts at $349 for the Pixel 4a. For $100 more, you get a bigger screen (5.8″ vs. 6.34″) and better processor with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G over the 730. Having used two phones with both chips over the past year, I have not seen a noticeable difference in casual, day-to-day usage, but future-proofing always helps. That said, the all-important RAM and storage remains the same at 6GB and 128GB, respectively.
Battery sees a big boost at 3,140 mAh vs. 4,680 mAh with the Pixel 5a 5G easily lasting a day and some — possibly two. The Pixel 4a gets you through a full day, but you shouldn’t expect meaningful usage the day after.
On the camera front, both share the same front-facing and main sensor. The ultra-wide lens is only found on the Pixel 5a with 5G. It’s nice to have for the occasional shot, but far from necessary.
A more appreciable difference between the Pixel 4a and 5a is the presence of IP67 water resistance on the 5G phone, while the metal unibody with plastic coating — like the Pixel 5 — is a significant step up in quality. The rating provides peace of mind when in wet environments, while the entirely polycarbonate build of the 4a is very apparent.
In all, paying $100 more for a Pixel 5a with 5G gets you a lot in terms of battery, screen, build quality, and an extra year of software updates. The dual-camera, processor upgrade, and Sub-6 5G are just there for the ride.
That said, the Pixel 4a is appealing for those that are prioritizing affordability above all else and want a more compact phone.
From a pure size perspective, the 4a was a tremendous treat, but likely Google’s last small device for a short while. With the 5a with 5G, Google is catering to how people like big screens and a pendulum swing back is unlikely, especially with the smaller Pixel 6 being pretty sizable.
If that’s you, the 4a remains available for purchase today, but presumably not for long.
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