What is it?
The Pixel 4a is an upcoming midrange smartphone developed by Google. Like the fan-favorite Pixel 3a before it, the Pixel 4a should deliver a clean, frequently updated version of Android 10 and great camera performance on a budget. Competition in the mid-range market is seriously stiff at the moment, however, so Google’s latest phone has its work cut out for it.
It’s also one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry. Google hasn’t officially acknowledged the phone’s existence, but we’ve already learned plenty about what makes it tick. Hands-on coverage? It’s out there. Benchmarks? Already available. Camera samples? You get where we’re going with this. In an age where nearly every smartphone launch gets spoiled far in advance, the Pixel 4a is probably the most thoroughly leaked device of the year so far.
What’s so special about it?
Google’s Pixels have a long history of camera excellence, but not because the company uses the best parts available. (In fact, it tends to rely on pretty unimpressive camera sensors.) Instead, Google’s internal camera team has spent years developing computational photography features for its Pixels that deliver perfectly punchy photos with each press of a button. While last year’s Pixel 4s had two rear cameras housed in a divisive square hump, the 4a is said to use a single 12.2MP Sony IMX363 camera, and we’re curious to see how it’ll stack up against its low-cost competition.
And while the Pixel 4a broadly embraces the existing Pixel design language — down to the colorful power button and the square rear camera array — it packs one thing earlier models didn’t. The 4a will be the first Google-made smartphone to feature a hole-punch display, in this case to accommodate an 8MP front-facing camera. That might not sound like a big deal, but big foreheads and chins can’t help but make a phone look dated, especially when handsome competition like Samsung’s Galaxy A51 exists. Curiously, unlike last year, it seems likely that the Pixel 4a will only come in one size — that is, unless Google really does plan to release a Pixel 4a 5G this year.
Beyond all that, though, we’re not expecting the Pixel 4a to be the world’s most exciting device. As mentioned earlier, it’s meant to run well, take great photos, and not cost too much money. The cost constraints that go into making a phone like this also mean that niceties like wireless charging, an IP rating for water and dust resistance, and the Pixel 4’s MotionSense feature are absent here. That may not be the most thrilling recipe for a smartphone, but we loved last year’s Pixel 3a and 3a XL because of how competent and un-fussy it was. If Google can keep that trend going in 2020, the Pixel 4a may shape up to be another fan favorite.
When will it launch?
Last year, Google launched its Pixel 3a smartphone at the start of its I/O developer conference in Mountain View. From what we’ve heard, that was the plan for this year too until the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak forced the company to reassess its launch plans. Despite some earlier rumblings that Pixel 4a could make its debut as late as October, all signs currently point to a launch in early August. According to 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall, Google is targeting a $350 price point, presumably for the base Pixel 4a with 64GB of storage. If true, that would give the company’s latest cheap phone a slight — and potentially crucial — edge over its biggest rival, the iPhone SE.
Pixel 4a has slipped again 🤦🏼♂️
Announcement was supposed to be happening July 13 (Monday), but just got bumped.
What we can see in the system now is announcement happening on August 3 🧐
The mystery continues…
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) July 10, 2020