When I reviewed the Pixel 4a 5G back in October, I ran the headline that Google had priced itself into a corner. The Pixel 4a was already such a spectacular deal for anyone who simply wanted a good phone at a fair price. Meanwhile, enthusiasts who wanted the best Android phone Google could offer would be better served with the top-end Pixel 5.
I've touched on this topic quite a few times with AC's managing editor Daniel Bader on the Android Central Podcast. He's continually maintained that the Pixel 5 is just a touch overpriced and that the Pixel 4a 5G is the better deal for most consumers. And you know what? I'm starting to think he's right.
I've been using the Pixel 5 every day since wrapping up our Pixel coverage for the season, and have been astounded by both the performance of the Snapdragon 765G and the battery life — yes, finally, a Pixel phone has not just good, but fantastic battery life. And yet, that's just as true on the Pixel 4a 5G. In fact, almost everything about the 4a 5G mirrors the pricier Pixel 5, save for some tradeoffs made to the hardware design.
I love the Pixel 5's aluminum body, and the way Google cleverly integrated just enough of a plastic opening under the bio-resin coating to still support wireless charging, but despite consisting entirely of plastic, the Pixel 4a 5G feels strangely just as well-made. It drops that wireless charging support, along with the Pixel 5's IP68 water resistance certification, but it's just as rigid and weighty.
For better or worse, even the cameras are the same. We gave both the Pixel 5 and the 4a 5G some flack for yet again resting on the laurels of the same main sensor Google's used on every device since the Pixel 2. It's still a great camera, of course, but other manufacturers have finally started to catch up to the wide lead Google has enjoyed for years, thanks to larger sensors and improved AI-based photography.
If you can live without wireless charging and water resistance, however, there's really not much reason to spend the extra money on the Pixel 5. Sure, its 90Hz refresh rate is smoother than the Pixel 4a 5G's 60Hz panel, but at least as far as I'm concerned, that's hardly a make-or-break feature. The 4a 5G cuts some of the Pixel 5's unnecessary perks in exchange for a $150 saving.
Conversely, if you're looking for the best deal and considering the Pixel 4a, the 4a 5G does have a few niceties that make it worth the extra dough. For one, of course, it supports 5G networks — still hardly a necessity, but it's nice to be future-proofed if you plan on keeping this phone around for a few years. The 4a also features just a single camera, while the 4a 5G adds a 0.6X ultra-wide lens, and ups the overall image processing with its newer, faster processor.
You'll also get a larger display for your money — 6.2 inches on the 4a 5G versus 5.8 on the Pixel 4a. I'm personally a fan of smaller phones, so I'm not sure that's necessarily a perk for everyone, but a larger screen is always nice to have for watching videos or even running two apps in split-screen view.
I really like all three phones in Google's 2020 lineup; each device makes the appropriate sacrifices to reach its price expectation without detracting from the overall user experience. But as much as I enjoy the Pixel 5, I think if you're buying a new Pixel this year, the Pixel 4a 5G is the perfect balance between the 4a's price-based concessions and the Pixel 5's high-end features.
Google Pixel 4a 5G
Toeing the line between affordability and power
Priced between the cheaper Pixel 4a and the more premium Pixel 5, the 4a 5G offers a terrific blend of value and performance. Its cameras are competitive with phones more than double the price, and its ultra-modern Android 11 software flies on the Snapdragon 765G processor.
Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.
I am liking my Pixel 4a 5G, it's a good bang for the buck phone.
I was able to get the 4a 5G from Sprint/T-Mobile for $250 after trading in my 3a XL, for that price, it was a no-brainer. So far, it's been great.
I got you beat on this one. I got it from Fi for a total of $74 with trade-in.
Just traded in my Pixel 2 for $235 from Google and got a 4a 5G. A great deal for me.
I got the $235 trade-in offer for my Pixel 2. Really need to upgrade that obsolete phone and this is a great deal. Hope that Google doesn't renege on that trade-in value. If I had to pay the full $500 price, I would probably buy the Samsung S20 FE for $550 instead.
I'm getting 10 hours of screen on time per charge on my 4a 5G, loving it.
Damn, amazing battery life. I'm truly jealous.
I was saying this when it first arrived. It's one of the best phones you can buy new in the sub $500 market. 5 Watt wireless charging and IP53 rated water resistance could've made this the absolute best value.
Well, best value right now is prob the Moto G Power for $50 or Samsung A71 5G for $249 on Google Fi. It's crazy! I think Fi is trying to create buzz and expand user base.
This is a great phone. I have a 4a, keeping it for a backup. To think I spent $1400 on an S20 Ultra. Glad I sent it back. I think consumers and manufacturers are realizing that midrange is cool. The phone is cool and the price is cool. You don't have to finance the phone for 5 years or keep it forever because it cost you so much.
I would've settled for the 4a if it dropped at a reasonable rate during Black Friday. With the Trade In deal for the 4a 5G, I pulled the trigger and I'm glad that I have the futureproofed 5G for sure. Hoping that my case arrives before I crack the screen though
Get the best of Android Central in in your inbox, every day!
Thank you for signing up to Android Central. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.