Google’s finally back with their mid-range phone for 2020, the Google Pixel 4a, and for the first time in the Pixel lineup, this phone doesn’t have an XL version. That being said though, it’s also the most affordable of the lot, but we’ve covered quite a few amazing mid-range options around this price point. Let’s see if this could be our new favourite mid-range phone.
The Pixel 4a comes in a single version, with a 5.81-inch OLED display that supports HDR+. Normally I’d be a bit bummed out at the fact I can’t choose to get a bigger version, but this screen size actually fits in the hand amazingly well. Perhaps I’ve become a bit cynical of the “bigger is better” idea, but regardless, the Pixel 4a is an excellent size for average hands. People with bigger hands might find it a bit too small though.
Inside, you get the Snapdragon 730G processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a 3,140mAh battery. The use of the Snapdragon 730G isn’t a big surprise, most other mid-range phones use it as well, but the one downside is that when compared to the Huawei Nova 7 SE‘s Kirin 820 5G SoC, performance is a bit weaker and the 730G doesn’t support 5G.
The phone runs extremely smoothly through, thanks to the 6GB of RAM and Google’s own optimisation. Some aspects of the phone don’t feel as fluid or as quick as other phones, for example, the fingerprint unlock takes just a smidge of a second longer than you’d be used to with other phones. But if you’re not coming from a flagship phone, you won’t really notice it.
The display also gets pretty bright, which is nice when you’re browsing the web or playing mobile games. Unfortunately, no high refresh rate here, but thankfully there is HDR+ and you get really nice blacks thanks to the OLED panel.
I have to admit though, I’m not the biggest fan of Google putting the lock button above the volume rocker. It just throws me off every time I have to switch phones since everybody else is doing it the other way. The power button has kept its different coloured power button, which is a nice powder blue colour that’s pretty subtle but still has a pop.
You get two down-firing speakers as well as a speaker at the top of the phone, and games I tested played in stereo sound, so even if the bottom speakers were covered, the top one would still provide powerful enough audio. And speaking of power, these speakers can get loud. Like, really loud. I couldn’t even bear to push these to max volume because of how loud it was.
Obviously, I don’t recommend listening to music through the speakers, and distortion is a problem at higher volumes, but if you’re playing games on the phone, the speakers do an excellent job.
The Pixel 4a has kept the 3.5mm headphone port, which is excellent; I always appreciate brands giving consumers the choice between whether to use wired or wireless earphones. That being said, the new Google Pixel Buds we tested will work great with these, and the whole point of getting a Google phone is for the base Android software anyway.
The fact that Google’s products play nice with each other (and all other Android devices) is just icing on the top.
Battery life is pretty decent for moderate users, and there’s an 18W fast charger included in the box. The Adaptive Battery feature uses machine learning to understand the usage pattern of the phone and limits background battery usage of apps that are infrequently used.
The phone really shines when it comes to photography though, even though it doesn’t seem like it will since there’s only a single 12MP lens on the rear and again, the image processing chip (Pixel Neural Core) has been removed, which means slower processing once a photo is taken.
But again, the software is the strong point here. Google has updated the Pixel 4a with pet detection in Portrait mode, meaning it’s easier to lock on and focus on pets when you’re trying to take an artistic shot of your furbabies.
We tested it out and the results are clear. Google’s pet detection works amazingly, and the phone could actually get closer to the animal and take sharper shots than other phones like the iPhone 11.
The excellent Night Sight from past Pixel phones make its way back as well, and even though the processing does take a second or two longer than the Pixel 4 will, it’s still really good.
You get an 8MP front-facing camera in a punch hole at the top left, and selfies are… decent. They’re not as detailed as I’d like, but the overall result is pretty natural, the separation between the background and subject is good and if it’s just for social media, nobody will complain.
There are so many features that have been brought over from the Pixel 4, and Google clearly isn’t resting on their laurels, with new ones being introduced as well. There’s a new Live Caption feature for calls being introduced, and this will be available for other Pixel phones in a future update too. Captions are processed locally in real-time, and data doesn’t leave the device. The Recorder app can also export directly to Google Docs now, with transcripts saved.
So is it the best mid-range phone out there? Not quite. It loses out on the chip and RAM to the Huawei Nova 7 SE, but hey, the biggest selling point of the Pixel phones was always the fact that you get the clean Android OS. And that’s exactly what you get with the Pixel 4a.
For heavy Google users out there, it’s a no brainer. The Huawei Nova 7 SE with no GMS is a definite strikeout, so in that case, the Pixel 4a will definitely be the best mid-range Android phone around.
The Google Pixel 4a will be available for online preorder on the Google Store, as well as at Challenger and Courts online. General sales for the Google Pixel 4a will start on 10 September.
More information can be found on the Google Store.