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At this point, Google should just launch the Pixel 4a alongside the Pixel 5

Google Pixel 4a leaked render
Google Pixel 4a leaked render (Image credit: 91Mobiles / @OnLeaks)

Where's the Google Pixel 4a? Your guess is as good as anyone's at this point. We don't know why Google hasn't announced it yet, but it's a pretty badly-kept secret that the Pixel 4a is effectively done, and it's close to launching — though it's been close for months now. And at this point, Google needs to consider just putting the brakes on it altogether and launching it as a Pixel 5a alongside the Pixel 5.

If we remember back to last year, the Pixel 3a was launched on May 7 during Google I/O — and even that was a significant delay from what we initially expected. Now we're a full 14 months removed from the Pixel 3a, and there's nothing more than a glimmer of expectation that the Pixel 4a will launch imminently. Previous leaked launch dates pointed to May and June releases, which came and went without a peep, and the latest information still points to mid-July ... though after these delays, you can't put much weight on any time frame.

Made by Google sign at CES 2018

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

The leaks we've seen, which of course are never fully accurate, have said that even if the phone launches in July, there's a good chance it won't hit many retailers until August — and some colors may not arrive until October. I understand that not everyone buys a phone — particularly a budget-focused one — on Day 1, and having various colors and spec offerings roll out over time in different markets is a fine strategy ... but that's not going to look good with the Pixel 5 hitting stores at the exact same time.

At some point, Google needs to evaluate whether it makes sense to launch a Pixel 4a within a couple months of launching the Pixel 5. Google has historically launched its high-end Pixels in early October, so it wouldn't at all be surprising to see the Pixel 5 launched the week of October 5. Does it really make sense to launch the Pixel 4a, and then the next-generation Pixel 5 roughly two months later? The optics of it are just downright bad.

This branding is just going to make the Pixel 4a look old immediately after launch.

It's not that the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 are direct competitors, or people will be confused over which one is better — the price points will clearly differentiate them. The issue is with making the Pixel 4a seem like it's older than it is — the whole idea of the "a" model is to capitalize on whatever brand recognition people have of Pixel phones, and offer a less-expensive version. Having a vast majority of the Pixel 4a's life overlap with a next-generation Pixel 5 just looks bad, and makes the 4a look outdated when it isn't. Especially as Google hopes to continue selling the Pixel 4a well into 2021.

I have to imagine that some sort of contingency plan is in place for a situation in which the Pixel 4a's ship date slips even further. This late in the product development process, it's a big undertaking (and probably too big) to change everything from marketing materials down to device packaging to make the Pixel 4a miraculously turn into the Pixel 5a. But it is honestly the best thing Google could do if there are factors outside of its control delaying the launch to the point where the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 are launching in close succession. Because the way it looks now, Google's going to launch a phone that it really needs to succeed with a nearly year-old model name on it.

-Andrew

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

30 Comments
  • Google should give up on this year, improve it's products, dump Pixel and launch next year with a new name.
  • Launch the 4a in mid July and hold off on the 5 until a time in early 2021.
  • At this point they might as well just retool it, and start over. 
  • More like just rename it as the Pixel 5a
  • Well that's my point
  • Yup it was after I read your article. I jumped into the comments to see what others where saying before reading lol. I was saying this weeks ago if they don't release the 4a in the next few weeks.
  • I agree do away with the 4a name
  • Though I get your point I'd quite like a new phone sooner than that 😭😭😭
  • Or just stop. Just do a pixel 5 and that's it. No XL or a
  • Launch the 4a as the 5a in the fall. Delay the Pixel 5 until Spring 2021 with a 775 processor.
  • No way! That would alienate fans who want a Flagship level CPU.
  • I have the 3xl and want a 5xl
    Slipped the 4xl due to lack of wide screen selfie lens for getting family shots
    Also like the finger print sensor better than face id
  • I have the 3Xl as well using on Verizon. My next phone needs to have 5G. looks like will be waiting till 2021.
  • Their contingency plan is to keep saying nothing and hope no one notices. At this point they've succeeded, No cares about any of them now thanks Google....NOT!
  • Aww, grumpy fanboys and fangirls who just can't wait for an overpriced midrange phone. For goodness sakes Google, the least you can do is ad the common micro SD expansion... Lol, maybe the Pixel hardware is something to dismiss as something Google really isn't interested in getting right. At best, a Pixel is an overpayment for early Android OS releases, and maybe an extra couple of years of support. Tell me why anyone would want to upgrade from the Pixel 3 series? Is this what AC forums recommend, annual or biannual upgrades of average phones?
  • PS The fact the average Android Pixel phones do get all the OS updates is the very counter argument to not bother upgrading to whatever the Pixel 4 is.
  • @Northern Arbiter, Micro SD card expansion isn't important, at least to me as I prefer my data all internally stored on the device it's self and I'm glad that Google doesn't bother with expandable storage because for me it's been a disaster so no thanks, you can keep your expandable storage.
  • An SD card expansion frees up the phones internal storage for apps and OS updates. You would quickly eat into that internal storage with all those images and/or audio.
  • Maybe so but I had a bad experience with an SD card with my first ever Android phone, a Moto G second GEN so I haven't cared about SD cards since and internal storage is faster than an SD card and I always make sure I have enough storage.
  • UFS card support would be even better...as fast & reliable as internal storage, plus the slots are backwards compatible with SD. https://fossbytes.com/ufs-3-0-features-comparison-microsd/
  • At this point Google should just forget the Pixel, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL were just another in a long list of failures for the Pixel line with only the budget Pixel 3a having any kind of success because of its cheaper price and even then it was too expensive for what it offered just like the flagship Pixel 4 and 4 XL which were the worst phones Google has ever released and now I'd doesn't matter whether it be the Pixel 5 or 5a, it will fail now against the iPhone 12, Galaxy Note 20 and every other Android flagship or mid range phone.
  • Google should just dump the high-end Pixel line and just go with the 'a' series as their main phone line. 4 years in a row they've shown they can't make a competitive high-end phone. Their devices and sales are proof of that. The only thing they have going for them is the 'a' series, so instead of launching it alongside the Pixel 5, just release it as the Pixel 5a and dump the Pixel 5/5 XL. Google seem to have their head in the clouds and don't seem to listen to/care what consumers want in a phone, and I bet they're scratching their heads and can't understand why Pixels don't sell well.
  • So, in a nutshell, reinvent the Nexus line?
  • I really don't get the desire in these comments for Google to stop making Pixels, why sound so insecure? Just don't buy them then, and let those of us who like them enjoy them. After a year, my 3a XL is still running strong despite the doom-mongers promising it'll slow down like walking through treacle. A credit to Google optimization. There's still no better camera on a phone for the price, and the battery life is still very good. I'll never spend a grand on a phone after this. With Google developing their own chip likely for next year, don't think Pixels will be going anywhere. Outright sales don't seem to be the same priority for Google as it is for Apple or Samsung so leave them be.
  • To me the whole Pixel line is like Sony, or LG. None of them do any real marketing here in the US. Being "retired" and under house arrest (Pandemic) I see too much TV and NEVER do I see any commercials for any of the phones I just mentioned. However, I do see commercials for Samsung and of course Apple. People are not going to buy something they know nothing about! So, if they want to sell millions of phones then they need to loosen their wallets full of Billions of dollars and spend some on advertising that the masses will see.
    Everybody here in the US knows everything about every car insurance company on the face of the earth... whether we want to or not! Do the same with Sony, LG, and Pixel and you might just sell a few!
  • Google should just give up on the smartphone hardware business as they've proven they just don't have what it takes to be successful with flop after flop after flop with every Pixel phone who's only real reason they are talked about is the camera while the rest of the hardware just isn't up to scratch, I mean I watched a battery life test with the Pixel 4 XL and the iPhone 11 and the Pixel 4 XL LOST hard against the iPhone 11 which has a smaller battery capacity and yet it has better battery life than both Pixel 4 models which is an embarrassment and complete failure on Google's part.
  • I saw a video on YouTube where the pixel 4 was going up against an iPhone 11 pro max in a game of one on one. The pixel 4 destroyed the iPhone, even though the iPhone is significantly taller!!!
  • You must have been watching a fake video because there's no way the lowly Pixel 4 would stand a chance against the iPhone 11 Pro Max, especially when it loses so badly against the standard iPhone 11.
  • Here's an idea: don't launch any Pixel phone this year. Next year, drop the Pixel brand and maybe rename it as a Google gPhone. Launch the premium flagship and the midrange phones at the same time, in Q3/Q4 when the newer version of Android is officially released. Commit to a 3+2 year software update cycle: 3 years of Android version upgrades, 2 additional years of bug fixes. Hire someone who understands the aesthetics of product design. You don't have to double down on 'geeky' or 'quirky' just to prove to others that you're Google. Some of the Chinese Android phone makers release very sexy phones... shame about their software. Learn from them.
  • Google seriously sucks at hardware, this is super embarrassing. LOL.