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

Google Pixel 4a
Google Pixel 4a (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 render

The Pixel 5 offers exciting camera upgrades and is the first Pixel phone to feature a wide-angle lens at the back. The phone has robust hardware with 5G connectivity, a 90Hz display, IP68 water resistance, and 15W wireless charging — along with 5W reverse wireless charging. It is a great all-around option if you're in the market for an affordable flagship in 2021.

Google Pixel 5

All the extras

Reasons to buy

Stunning 90Hz OLED display
Snapdragon 765G with 5G connectivity
Incredible cameras with a wide-angle lens
15W wireless / 5W reverse wireless charging
IP68 water resistance
Three Android version updates

Reasons to avoid

Limited global availability
Doesn't have Qualcomm's fastest chipset

Google Pixel 4a

Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a distills the fundamentals into a more affordable package. You still get decent hardware in day-to-day use and all-day battery life, but the value on offer is extraordinary. Combine that with the fact that the camera on the Pixel 4a is leagues ahead of anything in this segment, and it's an easy recommendation in the mid-range segment.

Google Pixel 4a

Just the basics

Reasons to buy

Outstanding value
Class-leading camera
Decent hardware for day-to-day use
Three Android version updates

Reasons to avoid

Single-camera at the back
Limited to 4G connectivity
No wireless charging

Google's flagship Pixel 5 launched just two months after the introduction of the Pixel 4a, and it comes with exciting hardware and camera upgrades. Google took a more streamlined strategy with the portfolio, with the design aesthetic largely unchanged between the two devices. But there are a lot of differences here, so let's get started.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4a: Google's flagship packs a ton of exciting upgrades

The Pixel 5 furthers Google's smartphone ambitions by packing in a lot of interesting updates. With Google opting for a mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset instead of the Snapdragon 865, the Pixel 5 undercuts the likes of the Galaxy S21 and other Android flagships by a significant margin.

But if you're looking for value, you'll be hard put to find a device that's better than the Pixel 4a. By bringing its flagship-tier camera to the mid-range segment, Google makes a bold statement with the more affordable phone.

The Pixel 5 has a 90Hz panel, wireless charging, water-resistance, and 5G connectivity.

So let's take a look at where these two phones differ. The Pixel 5 costs a lot more than the Pixel 4a, but it includes a host of extra features. While the overall design aesthetic isn't too different from the Pixel 4a, the Pixel 5 has a metal unibody design that feels much more premium in hand. Then there's the fact that the green color option for the Pixel 5 looks downright gorgeous.

Then there's the screen. The Pixel 4a has a 5.8-inch OLED panel, with the Pixel 5 offering a 6.0-inch OLED screen. Both phones have the same FHD+ resolution, but the Pixel 5 has a 90Hz display and features HDR10+, offering vibrant colors for streaming content. In addition, the Pixel 5 features a layer of Gorilla Glass 6, whereas the Pixel 4a has Gorilla Glass 3.

As for the internal hardware, the Pixel 5 has the Snapdragon 765G chipset with 5G connectivity, while the Pixel 4a features the more modest Snapdragon 730G. The Pixel 4a holds up just fine in day-to-day use, but it doesn't have the same performance as the Pixel 5 — particularly for gaming. Both phones come with 128GB of storage as standard, and Google is fixing past mistakes by offering a generous amount of RAM — 6GB on the Pixel 4a and 8GB on the Pixel 5.

Google is offering a wide-angle camera at the back for the first time on the Pixel 5.

The Pixel 5 continues to take the lead on the battery front. With a 4,080mAh battery, it handily beats the 3,140mAh unit on the Pixel 4a. Both phones have 18W fast charging, but the Pixel 5 comes with 15W wireless and 5W reverse wireless charging.

There are interesting updates on the camera side of things as well. While both devices use the same 12.2MP primary lens, the Pixel 5 gets a 16MP wide-angle module at the back — the first time we're seeing one on a Pixel phone.

The Pixel 5 has a slight edge on the software front. Google guarantees three Android version updates, but with the Pixel 5 launching Android 11 out of the box, it will update to Android 14. The Pixel 4a came with Android 10, so Google is under no obligation to deliver the Android 14 update to the phone.

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4a: All the specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryGoogle Pixel 5Google Pixel 4a
Operating systemAndroid 11Android 11
Display6.0-inch 90Hz OLED2340x1080 (19.5:9)HDR10+, Gorilla Glass 65.81-inch OLED2340x1080 (19.5:9)Gorilla Glass 3
ChipsetSnapdragon 765G1 x 2.4GHz A761 x 2.2GHz A766 x 1.8GHz A55Adreno 6207nmSnapdragon 7302 x 2.22GHz Cotex A766 x 1.80GHz Cortex A55Adreno 6188nm
MicroSD slot
Rear camera 112.2MP, f/1.74K at 60fps12.2MP, f/1.74K at 30fps
Rear camera 216MP, f/2.2107-degree wide-angle lens
Front camera8MP, f/2.08MP, f/2.0
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0NFC, A-GPSWi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0NFC, A-GPS
AudioUSB-CStereo soundUSB-CStereo sound
Charging18W USB-C 3.115W wireless charging5W reverse wireless charging18W USB-C 3.1
Water resistanceIP68
SecurityRear fingerprintRear fingerprint
ColorsJust Black, Sorta SageJust Black

Google Pixel 5 vs. Pixel 4a: How much do you care about extras?

Pixel 4a Alex Home Launcher

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Regardless of whatever phone you pick up, you're getting great value. The Pixel 5 continues to be one of the best Android phones money can buy, and it has a premium design, 90Hz display, incredible camera, and wireless charging. The Pixel 4a, meanwhile, is an outstanding value, delivering a flagship-tier camera in the mid-range segment.

Pixel 5 is the outright winner here, but if you're in the market for value, get the Pixel 4a.

Ultimately, it comes down to how much you care about the extras. Interested in the switch to a phone with a 90Hz panel or need wireless charging? Then the Pixel 5 is the obvious choice here. The phone costs double that of the Pixel 4a, but you are getting enough features to justify the added cost.

There's a 5G-enabled chipset, the aforementioned 90Hz display, IP68 water resistance, an ultra-wide camera, 15W wireless charging, 5W reverse wireless charging, and a more premium design. If you see yourself needing any extras, then the Pixel 5 is a great overall choice.

But if you're in the market for value and don't want to spend too much money on a phone, the Pixel 4a is the ideal alternative. The hardware may not be as robust, but it is still great in day-to-day use, you get 6GB of RAM, and the camera is absolutely fantastic. For $350, you are getting a lot of value here.

At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with either the Pixel 5 or the Pixel 4a. Both phones deliver great value in their categories, and with three years of guaranteed Android updates, the Pixel 5 will be getting Android 14 and the Pixel 4a switching to Android 13.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.