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.
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 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.
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.
If you have to buy a phone right now, get this.
With a better camera experience than every other mid-range phone on the market, the best software support found on an Android phone and an affordable price that get discounted regularly, the Pixel 3a is the best value in the market right now.
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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.