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Google Pixel 4a vs. Motorola One 5G: Which should you buy?

Motorola One 5G
Motorola One 5G (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a is the budget phone that manages to do it all. It has good performance, a great OLED display, unmatched cameras, and clean software that's backed by years of updates. It does all of this while retaining a wonderfully small size and price tag, making it a go-to recommendation for just about anyone.

Google Pixel 4a

The phone for everyone

Reasons to buy

+
Flagship-grade camera quality
+
Vibrant OLED display
+
Compact and lightweight
+
Great performance
+
Three years of guaranteed updates

Reasons to avoid

-
Has just one rear camera
-
Might be too small for some people

Motorola One 5G

Motorola One 5G

With the Motorola One 5G, we have a phone that does some things better than the Pixel, others worse, and does so at a higher price. The 90Hz display, Snapdragon 765G processor, and huge battery are all great, but things like mediocre cameras and carrier exclusivity are not. If you're an AT&T customer, it's certainly worth a look.

Motorola One 5G

Only at AT&T

Reasons to buy

+
90Hz display is buttery smooth
+
Tremendous battery life
+
Fast, responsive performance
+
Expandable storage
+
Supports 5G connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Exclusive to AT&T
-
Hit-or-miss cameras
-
Disappointing hardware

Both of these phones bring a lot to the table while maintaining low price tags, but if we had to pick a winner, we'd choose the Pixel 4a. Its camera is unmatched, performance and battery life are great, and Google backs the phone with three years of major updates and security patches. Even better, it costs just $350 and can be purchased unlocked for use on any carrier that you'd like. The Motorola One 5G is also worth considering, though it doesn't have the same mass appeal of the Pixel. It gets big points with its 90Hz display, faster processor, and larger battery, but it also finds itself hindered by disappointing cameras, worse hardware compared to the 4a, and carrier exclusivity deals.

Google Pixel 4a vs. Motorola One 5G Price and availability

AT&T

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

When looking at pricing and availability for the Pixel 4a and Motorola One 5G, the Pixel instantly gets points for being both cheaper and more accessible. It has a retail price of $350, can be purchased at Amazon and Best Buy, and is sold as an unlocked smartphone that can be used on whichever carrier you like — including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and any of their respective MVNOs.

By comparison, the Motorola One 5G costs $445. That price increase isn't too bad considering some of the different specs between the two phones, but where the One 5G tumbles is with how it's being sold. The phone is currently exclusive to AT&T, meaning if you aren't an AT&T customer, you have no way of buying and using the phone.

Motorola has said that the Motorola One 5G is headed to Verizon at some point this fall, but even when that happens, there still won't be an option to buy the phone unlocked and use it wherever you please.

Google Pixel 4a vs. Motorola One 5G The Pixel 4a is best for most people

Pixel 4a with a simple home screen

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

With that out of the way, let's take a closer look at what it's like to use both phones and where each one shines. Starting with the Pixel 4a, the most obvious advantage is its camera.

On paper, the single 12.2MP sensor looks pretty weak stacked up against the four cameras offered on the Motorola One 5G. To actually use both phones, however, is a completely different story. The Pixel 4a takes absolutely incredible photos, with shots having great detail, depth, and colors regardless of the time of day. Whether you're shooting in broad daylight or in pitch black, the 4a is there to capture a gorgeous image time and time again. No matter the price tag, this sort of camera performance is beyond impressive.

Google Pixel 4a

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

The other big benefit of the Pixel 4a is its software. Both the Pixel 4a and Motorola One 5G ship with clean builds of Android and their own sets of useful feature add-ons, but the Pixel is backed by Google's excellent update policy. You're looking at three years of major OS updates and monthly security patches, with updates heading to the phone first before anyone else. If you plan on keeping your phone for a long time, this is a huge perk to consider.

Other specs of the Pixel 4a aren't as jaw-dropping, but they all contribute to make the phone a joy to use. The OLED display looks great, there aren't any performance issues, and you get reliable all-day battery life. I'm especially fond of the Pixel 4a's design, which is super lightweight and easy to use with one-hand (something we don't get enough of with phones these days). There's a reason we consider the Pixel 4a to be one of the best Android phones of 2020.

Google Pixel 4aMotorola One 5G
Operating SystemAndroid 11Android 10
Display5.8-inch OLED
2340 x 1080
60Hz
6.7-inch LCD
2520 x 1080
90Hz
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 730GQualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM6GB4GB
Storage128GB128GB
Expandable Storage✔️
Rear Camera 112.2MP primary
f/1.7
OIS
48MP primary
f/1.8
Rear Camera 28MP ultra-wide
f/2.2
Rear Camera 35MP macro
f/2.2
Rear Camera 42MP depth
f/2.2
Selfie Camera 18MP primary
f/2.0
16MP primary
f/2.0
Selfie Camera 28MP ultra-wide
f/2.2
AudioStereo speakers
3.5mm headphone jack
Mono speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
Battery3,140 mAh
18W wired charging
5,000 mah
15W wired charging
Dimensions144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm168 x 74 x 9mm
Weight143g210g

Google Pixel 4a vs. Motorola One 5G Where the Motorola One 5G shines

That brings us to the Motorola One 5G, which could be a great purchase depending on where your needs lie (and which wireless carrier you're subscribed to). The Motorola One 5G has three main benefits over the Pixel, with those being its display, processor, and battery.

In regards to the display, we're treated to a much larger 6.7-inch LCD panel with a crisp 2520x1080 resolution. It's a perfectly fine screen with good colors and detail, but what helps it stand out is the 90Hz refresh rate. This makes all of the scrolling, swiping, and other animations considerably more fluid than how they look on the Pixel 4a, and especially at this price point, it's a fantastic feature to have. When you pair that with the more powerful Snapdragon 765G processor, the Motorola One 5G ends up feeling a bit snappier and more responsive than the Pixel.

Battery life is outstanding on the Motorola One 5G.

Then there's that 5,000 mAh battery, which is substantially larger than the 3,140 mAh one that Google gives you. The Motorola One 5G easily lasts for over two days on a single charge, which is something a lot of other devices just can't do.

All of that's great, but that's not to say everything about the Motorola One 5G is better than the Pixel 4a. In fact, it has a few different problems you don't have to worry about if you get the Pixel. Motorola's phone is difficult to use one-handed, its camera performance is pretty disappointing compared to what the 4a offers, and the single mono speaker is annoying if you watch a lot of YouTube or movies.

Worse than all of that, though, is the lack of updates offered for the Motorola One 5G. Motorola is committed to just a single update for the device, which will take it from Android 10 to Android 11. After that, it won't get anything else. That won't be a deal-breaker for everyone, but it is annoying if you plan on keeping the phone for any longer than a year.

Google Pixel 4a vs. Motorola One 5G Availability is king

Motorola One 5G

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

At the end of the day, a lot of this comes back to the phones' availability. Anyone can go out right now, buy the Pixel 4a, and use it on their carrier — no matter if you use AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Mint Mobile, Cricket Wireless, etc., etc. Factor that together with the lower price, and the Pixel 4a becomes an unignorable value.

The Motorola One 5G is a non-starter for anyone that doesn't have AT&T, but if you do, there are a few other things you'll want to consider. Motorola's phone doesn't have as good of cameras as the Pixel 4a, but its battery life is substantially better. The 90Hz display is a wonderful treat, but are you willing to sacrifice long-term update support to get it? There's also the matter of size, with the Pixel 4a being nice and compact while the Motorola One 5G is rather bulky.

Once you answer those questions, it should be pretty clear which phone is right for you. Happy shopping!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.