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Google Pixel 5a vs. Pixel 4a: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 5a Lifestyle
Google Pixel 5a Lifestyle (Image credit: Google)

Google Pixel 5a

Pixel 5a 5g Render Both Sides Adjusted

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A lot of people may say that the Pixel 5a is just a repackaged Pixel 4a 5G, but that's not entirely true, nor would it be a bad thing if it were. For starters, it is $50 cheaper than the 4a 5G, has IP67 water resistance, and a much larger battery. Given that it has all of these upgrades and is only $100 more than the older 4a, it is clear where we'd put our money in this faceoff.

Google Pixel 5a

More value, more time

Similar screen and cameras to last year's Pixel 4a 5G
Even cheaper than Pixel 4a 5G
Upgraded processor
IP67 water resistance
5G support
More expensive than previous Pixel 3a and 4a
Doesn't support mmWave 5G
Not a huge upgrade over Pixel 4a 5G

Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

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The Pixel 4a has been a fan and reviewer favorite ever since it was released. It was the perfect phone for the madness of 2020, and it's still a great device today. For under $400, you get a great camera, stable software experience, and several years of updates. However, it is missing a few things like water resistance and 5G that make it a tougher sell in 2020.

Google Pixel 4a

A lasting legacy

Best phone under $400
Pixel-quality camera
Solid battery life
Great size for those who prefer smaller phones
Still on track for two Android platform updates
No official waterproofing
No wireless charging
No 5G support
Smaller screen
Is becoming more difficult to find

The Google Pixel 4a has been out for just about a year at this point, and it's still selling like hotcakes, and for a good reason: It's a great phone at a great price. Google followed up that device's late release with an even later-released Pixel 4a 5G, which in addition to adding 5G support also brought a larger screen, larger battery, and second rear camera.

Now that we're on the cusp of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, we've got one more Pixel 4/5-inspired design in the Google Pixel 5a. But if you just bought the 4a last year, is it worth your time, money, and effort to upgrade so quickly? Let's take a look at the features of the Google Pixel 5a vs. 4a to see which phone is the best option is for you.

Google Pixel 5a vs. Pixel 4a: Specs

These two phones share a common lineage and even look similar, but there are enough differences between them to understand what you're getting for the extra money the 5a requires. So are those things worth it for you? Let's find out.

Pixel 5aPixel 4a
Operating SystemAndroid 11Android 11
Display6.34-inch OLED
2400x1080 (20:9)
5.81-inch OLED
2340x1080 (19.5:9)
Gorilla Glass 3
ChipsetSnapdragon 765GSnapdragon 730
RAM6GB6GB
Storage128GB128GB
MicroSD slot
Rear camera 112MP, f/1.7
4K at 30FPS
12.2MP, f/1.7
4K at 30FPS
Rear camera 216MP ultra-wide, f/2.2
117-degree FOV
Front camera8MP, f/2.08MP, f/2.0
ConnectivityWi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0
NFC, A-GPS
AudioUSB-C
Stereo sound
3.5mm audio jack
USB-C
Stereo sound
3.5mm audio jack
Battery4,680mAh
Non-removable
3,140mAh
Non-removable
Charging18W USB-C 3.118W USB-C 3.1
Water resistanceIP67
SecurityRear fingerprintRear fingerprint
ColorsMostly BlackJust Black

Google Pixel 4a: Such great value

Google Pixel 4a

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

In 2016, Google showed the world what its vision for Android should be with the first Pixel smartphone, and in 2019 the company resuscitated the idea of an affordable for value flagship with the Pixel 3a. As great a value as the Pixel 3a was, Google did one better the following year with the Pixel 4a. Unfortunately, the global pandemic kept the 4a from releasing in the spring of 2020 as intended, but even in August, it was the consensus affordable phone of the year and the phone we were all looking for at that time.

The Pixel 4a marked somewhat of a return to "small" phones, keeping the basic stylings of the Pixel 4 series and the price point of the 3a. To this day, it's a challenge to find a comparable mix of features for the price that the 4a delivers. You get the same basic primary camera from the Pixel 4, Google's software goodies, and a decent battery for under $400. Plus, it is slated to get platform updates through Android 13 (at least). Not a bad value at all.

Google Pixel 5a: Tough to beat

Google Pixel 5a Lifestyle

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Even though there are the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro on the horizon, it's once again looking like the a-series option for this year — the Pixel 5a — just may be the best Google phone for most people. The most common criticism we've seen of the 5a is that it isn't much different than its immediate predecessors, the Pixel 4a and 4a 5G, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sure, if you were to hold this device up next to the Pixel 4a 5G, you might not see any obvious differences, but it's what's inside that counts. While the devices are roughly the same size and have the same processor, RAM, and storage, Google made some key tweaks to make this device a worthy bump over the Pixel 4a 5G and a definite must-have for Pixel 3a and 4a owners.

For starters, the Pixel 5a has a much better SOC than the 4a, with its Snapdragon 765G versus the Pixel 4a's Snapdragon 730. It also has a much larger screen, and its battery is much bigger at 4,680mAh to the 4a's 3,140mAh, which can easily make it through two days of use. In addition, the Pixel 5a has a second ultrawide camera on the back, matching what the Pixel 5 and 4a 5G offered, which is a definite upgrade over the 4a. Finally, it has IP67 water-resistance, which is a first for an a-series phone. Just about the only disappointment here (aside from what is becoming a bit of a dated style) is that the 5a is not equipped for wireless charging, although it can "fast charge" via an 18W wired connection.

Google Pixel 5a vs. Pixel 4a: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 5a Likely Lime Case

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

The Pixel 4a is only a year old and is still provides great bang for your buck. If wireless charging and water resistance aren't deal-breakers for you, and if you're not a heavy gamer, this is still a fantastic option. It should still receive at least two more Android platform updates, and it handles everyday tasks with aplomb. I have no plans of letting go of mine any time soon!

On the other hand, if you want a feature-packed Android phone that is guaranteed to last you for the next 3-5 years, the Pixel 5a should be at the top of your list. Not only do you get that long-term support, but you also get all the Pixel-first and exclusive features, water-resistance, superb battery life, and amazing cameras for around $500. With devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 approaching $2,000, and even the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro pushing the $1,000 price point, it's getting harder and harder to find this combination of features at this price.

Whether you decide to stick with your trusty Pixel 4a or upgrade to the updated 5a, you can rest assured in the knowledge that you've got one of the best cheap Android phones available!

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.