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The only phones you should care about in 2020 are the OnePlus Z and the Pixel 4a

Pixel 3a Greenmat
Pixel 3a Greenmat (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

I've been using the Galaxy S20 for just over a month now, and while I still agree with my review saying that it's a great phone — it is — the pool of people I'd recommend one to has shrunk in the last four weeks. The S20 was the last phone that made it out the gate in February before Europe and the US began having to shut down and self-isolate.

Buying any big-ticket item during a pandemic is a struggle — even without the price gouging I've seen on laptops and Chromebooks the last few weeks — but if your phone breaks, that is a lifeline you'll have to replace. It's too important, especially when video chatting apps like Hangouts Meet, Duo and Zoom are the only way to see most of our family and friends. If your phone is old and slow — or you're just prone to dropping and breaking your phone — there are only two phones you should really consider between now and whatever holiday deals come this fall: the Google Pixel 4a and the OnePlus Z.

Google Pixel 4a leaked render

Source: 91Mobiles / @OnLeaks (Image credit: Source: 91Mobiles / @OnLeaks)

Even before millions started getting furloughed and laid off as the economy started to fall, the Google Pixel 4a was the phone I was most excited for this year. The Google Pixel 4 was a decent phone with amazing cameras and terrible battery life, but I'm quite hopeful that just as the Pixel 3a fixed the Pixel 3's problems while sporting a much more reasonable price tag, the Pixel 4a will shake the Pixel 4's battery issues and offer up Google's software and camera prowess while still packing a $400 price tag.

The Pixel 4a is the best value in a smartphone, hands down.

The Pixel 3a's single camera punched better than the dual-camera setup most of its competitors had last year, and we're hoping to see that again with the Pixel 4a's single camera. More importantly, the Pixel 4a will be getting monthly security updates longer and with more consistency than every other phone in this category. It'll also be one of the few unlocked Android phones that work with Wi-Fi calling on all major U.S. carriers, including AT&T which is notorious for only allowing Wi-Fi calling on its carrier-branded phones.

It won't have Motion Sense — a small loss, to be sure — and it won't have the Pixel 4's excellent Face Unlock, but it will have a good old reliable fingerprint sensor on the back, which I'm sure many of you will prefer to in-screen sensors and facial recognition anyway. Just last week my coworkers were commiserating on how they miss the swipe down for notifications that a rear fingerprint sensor offers.

OnePlus 8 Lite render

Source: @OnLeaks (Image credit: Source: @OnLeaks)

Another phone with a reasonable price tag and an excellent value in 2020 is shaping up to the be the OnePlus 8 Lite or OnePlus Z, which will offer some of the more premium features like a 90Hz screen without straying into full flagship territory the way the OnePlus 8 Pro will. This mid-range offering won't be hitting the market until later this summer, and I'm very interested to see how its rumored MediaTek processor performs, but the 8 Lite or the Z or whatever it's called is still likely to be one of the better choices for value-minded consumers that can't justify $700 or $950 for a phone.

I spent the better part of five months last year on a Pixel 3a, and I can tell you from personal experience that it does everything you need in a smartphone. It plays music, it connects you to the world, and it takes good photos to share with your friends and family. 64GB of storage can be a bit small if you tend to download tons of music as I do, but it's more than workable as a daily driver. Given the "starting at $399" price tag, I'm hopeful that there's a 128GB version of the 4a this year for those who need a little more breathing room.

The Pixel 3a is the phone to buy if you dropped your phone down an elevator shaft today, and if you dive into a pool with your phone on Memorial Day, the Pixel 4a will be the one to buy then. But when no one knows where they're going to be in six months or what job they may have by then, please don't spend $1000 on a phone. Even if the 120Hz screen is awesome and 256GB of storage plus microSD is perfect for downloading a dozen movies for when you're stuck on crappy hospital Wi-Fi.

Save your money for other things. Better things. If nothing else, take the $300 you just saved and donate it to the frontline response.

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.

19 Comments
  • So you're telling me because times are tough I should start spending 2-4x what I usually spend on a phone ?
  • What phone do you have now?
  • Really? Well fúck you!
  • Give this person a v60 forum section for fu@ks sake! This mofo is bipolar about the v60! #acthemakingofaserialkiller
  • Personally I couldn't care less about the Pixel 4a or the One Plus since I'm a Samsung fan. Those other phones are not on my radar regardless of their pricing or the economy. I buy what I want.
  • I doubt anyone will buy the pixel. Its a garbage phone. Ive never even seen anyone with it. Google will kill it very soon.
  • And here I thought the author was an idiot for the headline. You've outdone her!
  • I don't entirely agree with this article. For me it's not about the initial price. It's about value and longevity for my money. A phone is an investment, and right now, a potential long term one. If I invest in a phone it needs to not only have great performance, it also needs to have great battery life and some future proofing so that I'm not needing to upgrade again in a year because the battery life is so bad. Spend a little more and keep your phone longer.
  • I look at them as an investment as well, and have no problem paying... as long as it's worth it.
    It's kinda like shopping for a car, and I have to consider if I'll be happy in the long term skipping out on the turbo and getting hand crank windows.
  • "The only phones some should care about", there fixed for you. In reality people do what they want with their own money rather it be money in the bank or debt. Also if you have the means buy buy buy!! The economy needs it!
  • Is the Pixel 4a camera experience IDENTICAL to the Pixel 4?
    Just asking because I want to add a Pixel to my collection, even if it's for a few days, to do some camera shootouts.
  • While I don't agree with the writer, I understand what she is trying to convey. Going with her theme here, I would also include Apples new budget phone. I know this is an android site but that is the phone these two will be competing against.
  • Agree as well that the cheaper iPhones make a decent choice. I bought the iPhone 11 six months months ago, and it's been nice aside from the softer glass. The camera is excellent, probably the third best out there. They are also releasing the 2020 version of the SE, but it looks like it will have the same camera as the iPhone 8, which is decent but not great.
  • You should never EVER buy a crappy iPixel, under any circumstances.
    You'd do better throwing the money in the fireplace than to spend it on another Google flop phone with the worst version of Android possible, no expandable storage and a camera-for-dummies.
  • Me (former Samsung-er) sitting here with a Pixel 2XL and reflecting on how my 'iPixel' experience is so radically different from yours. Didn't go for the 3XL though: too ugly. Didn't go for the 4XL: the camera changes were not enough to win me over. Astrophotography what? Facial recognition from anyone can also be a time tax: I most frequently reach across and 'print' my phone into ready state before looking at it. I'm not a budget phone guy. Looking forward to the 5XL. After going stock Android, I'm having a hard time going back. I'm not into the 'stock is such a pure experience' nonsense. Just having the latest software ASAP is what matters. Can Sammy win me back? Maybe.
  • Then don't report on any other phone nor review any other phone on your site since those are the only two phones everyone has to buy. What do you say? 😋
  • People here have been salty about this article. If you think she's saying what you should buy. Walk around the block, you need some air. I can appreciate trying to give suggestions as to what you would look for considering what's going on. Yes yes the Sammy Knights gonna lambaste anything that's not Sammy. Theses are two options that for many will be great. I'm looking at both the 4a and the new SE. One reason why is a phone over 1K in price is a hard stop for me. These two at least will give good performance at a reasonable price.
  • the pixel 4a is going to be an overpriced midrange phone and it's going to be killed by the iphone se which will have the same performance of the iphone 11 and for the same $400 price as the pixel 4a
  • So... which camera is better? Pixel 4a, or Pixel 4?