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Top 4 reasons the Pixel 4a makes me excited for the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 4a
Google Pixel 4a (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Google's Pixel flagships have always had at least one fatal flaw. Usually, it's the battery, or the screen, or the memory, or software bugs — seriously, how does Google have more serious software bugs in its launch history than Samsung and LG? — but with this year's Pixel 4a, about the only flaw was that Google made us wait an extra four months before we could buy it.

Seriously, this is one of the most well-rounded Pixels I've ever used. The Pixel 4a steps up the performance and gives us the battery to match it while also making the phone smaller and easier to use one-handed than even the Galaxy S20. It's a no-nonsense phone for a year where everyone is overwhelmed by nonsense and chaos.

I've been using the Pixel 4a for three weeks now, and here are a few things that I absolutely adore and can't wait to see on the Pixel 5 — along with a few mistakes the Pixel 5 can remedy.

1. Cameras — The Pixel 5 will finally go wide-angle

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central and Andrew Martonik / Android Central

The Pixel 4a's camera experience holds up just fine, and in fact there's only one time I find myself hankering for my S20: when I'm trying to capture wider shots. Most of the time, the regular sensor is perfectly fine, but when I'm trying to capture the full splendor of Pandora or the full intimidation of Kylo Ren and his Stormtroopers trying to "confiscate my data pad", a wide-angle lens is really helpful, and I'm super excited to see a Pixel finally have one.

Wide-angle shots on even the best Android phones tend to have a washed-out, grainy feel, but we use them because that's what we have. I'd love to see if Pixel algorithm magic could help cut down on that, giving us the ultrawide shots we deserve, especially in lower light situations like sunsets and indoor venues.

2. Battery — Finally, a Pixel flagship that might last a full day

Pixel 4a Battery Life

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The Pixel 4a is the first Pixel that can well and truly live up to the claim "full-day battery life" without killing apps left and right the way the Pixel 3a did. I'm not reaching for charger by 2pm, and I'm not double-checking to always bring a portable charger when I leave the house, something I could never say for the Pixel 4, and I'm hopeful that this holds true for the Pixel 5 even with a slightly more powerful processor and a 90Hz screen.

The Pixel 4a is the first Pixel that has truly great battery life. Let's hope the Pixel 5 follows suit

A big part of why I'm more hopeful for this than last year is that we've seen the battery savings of the Pixel 4a's Snapdragon 730, and the Pixel 5 will be using the Snapdragon 765G rather than the more expensive and more battery-hungry 865. We've seen some phones with the 765G already, such as the OnePlus Nord, and while the 765G might not be as bleeding edge beastly as the 865, in day-to-day use it's more than enough for everyone who isn't a hardcore mobile gamer.

I don't know about you, but I'll gladly take a phone that's still got get-up-and-go when I need it — processing pictures, swapping between apps — but won't drain my battery before afternoon tea. And the Pixel 4a's battery gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, Google is finally getting onto that page with us.

3. Wireless charging — I miss it on the Pixel 4a, and Pixel 5 will simplify things

Wireless charging stand

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Speaking of batteries and charging, after being on the Note 10+, Pixel 4 and then the Galaxy S20 in the last year, I'd finally become used to just plopping my phone on the wireless charger next to my bed and passing out. But since there's no wireless charging on the Pixel 4a, I have to plug in every time I want a top off, like I'm stuck in the 00's!

Wireless charging is one of those things that used to come with enough limitations that it made sense to leave it off more budget-minded models, but these days, the Pixel 4a should've at least come with 5W wireless charging, even if they weren't going to give us that special snowflake charging the Pixel 4 had.

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Okay, the Qi charging profile on the Pixel 4 wasn't a proprietary snowflake — it's the standard EPP charging profile — but it still gave owners a hell of a time trying to figure out which chargers were actually charging it at 5W and which were charging it at 11W. Yeah, 11W, because if it's not weird in some way, is it even a Pixel feature?

I'm really looking forward to not having to second-guess whether every charger will actually charge the Pixel 5 at full speed. 15W EPP Qi charging is the same profile and speed that we've seen on LG phones for a couple of years now, and the chargers that support it are easy to spot — especially since Samsung hasn't opened up its special 15W profile to third-party chargers yet — and the name-brand versions are getting affordable, like the $30 Anker PowerWave Alloy (opens in new tab).

The wireless future is bright for the Pixel 5, and again, it really, really, makes me wish the Pixel 4a at least had a basic Qi coil inside it.

4. Rear fingerprint sensor — What's old is new and awesome again

Google Pixel 4a

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Face unlock on the Pixel 4 was cool, but given that they're not that useful with a face mask on — and you had better be wearing a mask whenever you leave the house — the Pixel 4a has been a breath of fresh air. I'm not having to fight with inconsistent in-display fingerprint sensors and not forced to put in my password every time I wake my phone in public, thanks to the old-school convenience of a rear-mounted capacitive fingerprint scanner.

I'll gladly admit that rear fingerprint sensors aren't for everyone, but I'm 1000% glad to see it returning to the Pixel 5 after its absence on the Pixel 4. Yes, they make it harder to use some larger phone grips and they ruin a lot of graphic cases (opens in new tab), but the benefits of a rear fingerprint sensor far outweigh the trivial downsides.

Sometimes the old ways really are the best.

The rear fingerprint sensor with a clearly defined sensor is easier to use while busy or rushed, such as unlocking your phone so your spouse can find a roadside BBQ joint while you drive or opening up your weather app's radar while rushing to take cover during a tornado warning.

It's also easier to find and press your finger to while in the process or pulling your phone out, so that your phone is unlocked and ready to go by the time you've pulled it out and up to eye level. The ability to swipe down for notifications is also a wonderful bonus in an age where phone screens keep getting taller and taller, keeping me from straining my thumb to reach the top edge of the screen.

What are you excited about?

Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 Tease

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Of course, there are a whole host of other reasons to get excited about the Pixel 5: the 90Hz screen, the upgraded memory and storage — since Google is still hell-bent on not including microSD support — and whatever new "Pixel Features" drop on the Pixel 5 before eventually rolling out to the rest of the line. (Call screening is still a wonderful, wonderful thing and I wish Google would bring it to all Android phones.) I guess there's also the 5G support, if you're into that kind of thing.

It may not be the major overhaul that we've seen with flagships like the S20+ and the Note 20 Ultra, but the Pixel 5 also looks to be a flagship that's priced more reasonably, which is something to be excited about in the year of the $1200 flagship. It'll have to, since the Pixel 4a is offering up a lot of value for just $350 right now.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

39 Comments
  • Funny that part about "better be wearing a mask when you leave the house," follow by noting the phone is "a breath of fresh air." See the oxymoron? Masks are stupid and pointless. Please don't push fear porn in tech reviews.
  • Of course they're not pointless which is why health agencies all over the world are recommending them. They stop you infecting others, which is especially important when you don't know that you're infected. Even the cheap cloth ones stop more than 60% of respiratory droplets.
  • Is it surprising that someone who thinks masks are stupid and pointless doesn't understand how an idiom works? Not really lol.
  • Please don't push agenda in tech comments.
  • Not true. Get your information impartially.
  • I can guess who you voted for and support...hope you enjoy the hospital's forced air mask as you choke on your phlegm
  • If masks were stupid and pointless why have surgeons been wearing them for decades?
  • can't delete my comment
  • Don't push your anti-mask fake news in the comments. If I wanted to read garbage, I'd turn to Donald Trump's twitter feed.
  • Hahaha love this!
  • Oh, another dumb American? I understand, Americans don't do "for the common good" well, that explains the American covid19 dumpster fire. Masks help you protect others... You might be asymptomatic.
  • If you don't believe in mask go volunteer in a hospital for a week. See how that works out.
  • You must be a Trump supporter
  • Google finally goes ultra wide. And I'm sure as rain it will be a great one? The Pixel5, keep the price down & you will sell ⛵ loads?
  • Yeahhhh looks like I'm skipping this generation. Was hoping for telephoto and wireless charging to hit the chopping block.
  • Wireless charging is coming to the Pixel 5.
  • I'm thinking of buying a 4a just to have a pixel to mess with. The 5 is too expensive for a phone i don't actually plan to use.
  • In complete agreement every way. Except the wireless or rather inductive charging hence the coil. You waste approx 50% of the energy when you charge a device using a wireless charger. That energy goes somewhere and I bet its on your night stand so you figure that one out. In times like these where you can at least reduce your carbon footprint. For that reason I purchase the 350 Pixel4a and have no disappointments. The face unlock was gimmicky at best and this is the econo-line of the a series remember. I love it and it puts the other brands to shame!
  • I agree about the poor efficiency, but please tell me you're not insinuating that wireless chargers are harmful to people's health?
  • No, I think he's saying that wireless charging uses twice the energy to charge a battery than regular charging does. Not to mention that it makes your battery wear out faster. Seeing that we're all starting to choke on our own pollution it might be a good idea to lower our carbon footprint anyway we can.
  • That's all true, but what I'm referring to is the part about the extra energy having to go somewhere and keeping it on your nightstand.
  • No that's not a good thing, I want a fancy fully loaded expensive Pixel but going to still buy the pixel 5. I wouldn't have minded if they went with a more premium expensive option. Especially you already have the 4a series to satisfy the budget market.
  • I like in screen fps over rear fps. Even when the phone is on desk you can unlock without lifting it.
  • Agreed I had pixels with rear fingerprint and when I moved to oneplus the front is Def more user friendly and in the car on the pad. However the rear sensor is lightning fast and more accurate. So it's how you use it that I think makes sense. At least the op has pseudo face unlock also which is nice even if it's not ultra secure.
  • Why can they not give us both...one under the screen, and one on the back??? Heck, they can put 15 cameras in a phone...right?
  • All great points. I'm excited for what the Pixel 4 should have been and why I didn't "upgrade" to it from my 3XL. The 5 has exactly the right feature set for me while upgrading all the critical hardware components. I'm particularly excited to get a 90hz display and ultrawide camera on a Pixel.
  • 5th Pixel... No excuses. Although I'm pleased to see AC no longer throws in foolish statements like 'you really don't need 12GB of RAM on a phone.". Lol, the Note 20 Ultra proved to me the extra RAM has utility. No, no... I'm not insulting the Pixel... But they have been priced too high for what they have always been... A mid tier phone. Maybe the Ultra Note 20 is priced too high as a top tier phone... That's also a fair question.
  • Perhaps not directly but if what they say is true and 50% of the energy is wasted in many states that comes from fossil fuel plants. It's the same argument for ice cars which are like 50% efficient or so. So maybe they do something like on power supplies that were 60-70% efficient and now with 80+ you can get one that is 90% pretty easily.
  • "But since there's no wireless charging on the Pixel 4a, I have to plug in every time I want a top off"
    Oh you poor little baby..we're so sorry you have to actually push a little cable into a port...does it hurt your teensy-weensy fingers, or maybe it smears your finger nail polish, or did you crack a nail...ROFLMAO
  • Get out with that sexist nonsense. The point was that wireless charging is relatively universal: you don't, as the article says, have to find/carry the exact wattage of charger. I'm sorry you would have had to read a few words to understand that; does reading hurt your widdle brain? :'''(((
  • That guy is an idiot. ROTFLMMFAO
  • The Pixel 5 could well be my perfect phone. Plastic build, compact, rear mounted finger print reader, stereo speakers, flat high refresh rate screen,wireless charging,great camera,5g,great battery life and of course clean software with first in line updates . Reasonable price !
  • Nothing. I don't care for whitebread phones.
  • If you don't believe in mask go volunteer at some hospital's for a week or two. Because it's a hoax right, see how that turns out for you.
  • Can someone clear to me what is point of pixel 4a XL in this segment?
    As far leaks I understood that it has plastic build and 200 mah less battery than pixel 5 everything else is same?
    Why not go with latest 768g with pixel 5 and 765g with 4x xl?
  • I think it's supposed to be for anyone who wants the biggest model, the successor to the Pixel 3a XL.
  • For how many years have we been told that each processor iteration is supposed to be more powerful and more power efficient. Not anymore! It seems the most recent releases are actually consuming more power than their cheaper cousins. I don’t buy it. Samsung and one plus are doing just fine using the 865. How is google struggling so badly in battery life with their supposed “clean” version of Android? I’m not a fan of google going in the budget spec category.
  • I would have liked to see the pixel 5xl have the 865+ processer. I would have paid up for this phone? No such luck? But I think the sweet spot for these up coming pixels using a mid-range processers are a great idea! Keep the price down!
  • I was hoping for an XL-sized option to replace my 2XL of which the screen is about 80% blue due to burn-in. No 5 XL - then perhaps 4a5G which is reportedly larger. But what am I giving back?