Pixel 4a: The simple phone

Andrei Trinidad
6 min readDec 5, 2020

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Here’s my review of the old-new Pixel 4a

Pixel 4a was released months ago. It was announced and released in August 2020.

It’s not the latest phone to be released by Google there’s the Pixel 4a 5G which guess what? supports 5G. (as the name implies). And also, the Pixel 5 which have nicer specs but for a higher asking price.

Google changed its target market yet again. Google is not releasing a flagship-spec device this time. They are targeting the low to mid-range segment of the market.

Ok, why the hell am I explaining this? Guess it’s a good-to-know then.

Pixel 4a is it for me?

One word can be used to describe Pixel 4a — simple.

Simplicity

If you want a phone that can do basically all the things you expect a phone can do like calls, messaging, simple social media browsing, it is for you.

If you love small phones, yes not those shoe-sized phones that plagued the market today (yuck) this phone is for you. with its 5.81" display it can be used easily with one hand so you can do your thing with your other hand ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

If you’re interested here’s the size comparison with Iphone SE 2020

“Everybody wants the best. I want the best. But sometimes we don’t need it.” — Dave2D on his Pixel 4A review

The screen is good, 60hz screen refresh rate, 21:9 aspect ratio and it is an OLED display (black are blacks, in short, good contrast, plus dark theme really conserves battery since OLED screens pixels are literally turned off when they are black.) If you are planning to binge-watch your favorite Netflix shows on this phone, you can do so but you might want a larger screen for that.

I'm not running down through the specs of the device in this review, instead, I’ll be focusing on what I think mattered to me the most.

The Camera

Sample night-sight capture. (yes I’m no photography wizard so pardon me)

This phone is called a Pixel for a reason, its camera.

It is really impressive to think that Google can squeeze the camera to produce stunning photos. Imagine it’s only a 12-megapixel single-shooter camera. No wide-angle lens. No helper cameras for fancy computations. Just plain good old Pixel camera. Thanks to its software and the things Google made under the hood it really stood out to other rival phones like iPhone.

But it is really in the photos. The videos are good but I think the iPhone SE does a better job when capturing video.

It’s plastic

For me, having a plastic build is a pro more than a con. At least it will not shatter when you accidentally dropped your phone, you clumsy hooman. It does feel cheap, cheap but with quality. It doesn’t feel premium in your hands. Well, what do you expect with a 349 dollar phone? You may want to wrap a skin to your phone or buy a protective case. (I’m buying one coz I love this phone)

No. It doesn’t support 5G

Pixel 4a doesn’t have 5G surprise surprise. But why do you want a 5G phone in a country that doesn’t even have 100% 4G coverage in 2020? Another gotcha is that it has only one nano sim-slot. Sure it has e-sim support but sadly only Globe Telecom supports e-sim as of the moment.

The Audio

The speakers are loud. They are good but not the best. But the aptX support for Bluetooth audio devices is amazing. I tried to pair my Sabbat Vooplay earphones with this phone and wow I can hear the sounds I am missing.

Aside from the camera what am I paying for?

Mostly, it’s the software. To be completely honest, the specs are mediocre. For this price point, the OnePlus Nord specs punched the Pixel 4a straight to the face.

Remember Apple? Yes, the guys who make expensive gadgets like the iPhone, who do both their hardware (hard, tangible) and also their software (soft, cannot be touch, intangible) side of the things. And the result? An almost perfect phone. The hardware and software talk to each other fluently, like automagically (a borrowed word from Anthony of Linus Tech Tips). Surely, you get what are you paying for.

Let’s say you have a Google Pixel phone then everything just works automagically.

The integration is so good that the result is that the iPhone doesn’t need to have those fancy 12GB of ram to open a lot of demanding apps, or 6000mah of battery just to last a day. In short, everything is optimized if a company handles both the hardware and software.

This is the case with Pixel phones. Everything is first-party. Google creates the software as well as their own hardware. It is the purest Android experience. This, this is what you are paying for.

Oh and also there’s this three (3) years of continuous software update from Google (you promised). Pixel users will be the first to receive an update once a new version of Android is released.

Android 11

Android is now matured. It is complete. It doesn’t need to have new features as of the moment. Everything just works. Smooth, fast, fluid. I have nothing more to say about Android. It’s like the OS had a glow-up from its pre-puberty period (*ehem* Jelly bean days)

Pixel’s software uses Google’s version of Android. No other bloatware (aside from Google’s own apps) It is as-is. No fancy wrappers, just pure Android.

What’s wrong with Google-partner OEMs?

Android is a software, maintained by Google. OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) like Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus get their license to use Android on their phones.

Ever wonder why manufacturers bombard their flagship phones with the fastest and super-aggressive specs? It is to make up with the one thing that they are lacking, the software. What’s the use of ultra-high specs if you can’t even squeeze the full potential of it. I mean work on your software guys. Please do optimize it for your phones.

How about gaming?

I’m no gamer myself. Sure I’ve played a number of games but I don’t find multiplayer games that appealing and fun to play. What more in mobile gaming. The only game I installed on my Pixel phone is 2048.

If you are planning to use this for gaming, you might reconsider some other options. The phone screen size is not good for gaming. It is small for two-handed use. Plus the phone is not designed to do some heavy gaming. The chipset is only Snapdragon 730G. You might want to consider the gaming phones like Xiaomi BlackShark or Asus ROG phone.

The Price

The original price of the Pixel 4a is $349 (around Php 16,000). Since Google is not selling directly in the Philippines I’ve got it from a reseller for Php 23,500 (including the shipping) roughly $488 when converted. Wow, I just realized that I paid a hundred bucks more just to get my hands on this phone. Okay, it is not the most budget-friendly phone. If budget is your concern go with cheaper phones like the Poco X3 or something.

TLDR;

It is a small phone with the purest Android experience and a great camera. That’s it.

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