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The Pixel 4a is the iPhone SE competitor you're looking for

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

Google has announced the Pixel 4a today, and now there is nothing left to guess about.

We already knew almost everything there was to know about the 4a thanks to leaks and folks willing to share them. Perhaps the best news from today was the price. Coming in just $350 means this is a phone that we should be looking at.

The Pixel 4a isn't a "flagship' (for lack of a better word) phone. It's very mid-range like its predecessor the Pixel 3a and its design reflects this. The phone has a plastic body and an overall size that's actually smaller than the Pixel 3a, even with a larger 5.8-inch screen. It's also sporting a Snapdragon 730 processor, which makes it slightly weaker than the OnePlus Nord in terms of performance. As mentioned in our review, though, it's still plenty capable.

The things the 4a does come with are what makes it interesting, though. Reviewers received their phones running Android 10 with all the Pixel features that make the brand stand out. On-device Google Assistant for faster results and better privacy is there. The great Pixel call screening features are there to help weed out those telemarketers. Live captions, Personal Safety, Now Playing music ID, and all the rest are there, too. All this, paired with one of the best cameras available at any price, makes the Pixel 4a stand out.

How the Pixel software gets better is arguably even more important. We've seen Pixel Drops throughout 2020, and we can expect to see small but significant features keep coming to the Pixel 4a. And when Android 11 is released, you'll see it on the Pixel 4a on day one. The same goes for Android 12, and probably Android 13.

I think the best feature of the Pixel 4a is also the best feature of the iPhone SE — guaranteed updates when they are released. Granted, the SE will see more of those updates, but Google says the Pixel 4a will see three full years of software support. That means platform updates like the next version of Android, as well as the more critical security updates we see every month. Until we see the Pixel 5, the 4a is the best deal available when it comes to Android updates and software support.

The best thing about the Pixel 4a is the software support. You're getting the best for the least amount of money ever.

You are giving up a few things with the Pixel 4a, and we can't pretend you're not. The display runs at 60Hz, and if you've used a phone with a 90Hz or higher display refresh rate, you might not want to go back. The Snapdragon 730 processor will get bogged down by extremely heavy apps once in a while, even if your favorite reviewer doesn't see it happen. And though the Pixel 4a works on almost every network in the world, there is no 5G support right now — that comes later in the year with the Pixel 4a 5G.

These things may be a good reason for you not to want the Pixel 4a, and that's cool because there are plenty of other Android phones you can buy. But for most of us, who don't need a 5G network or aren't going to try and play the latest and greatest 3D game on a small screen, the $350 price, great software support, and guaranteed future-proofing make the Pixel 4a the perfect phone.

The Pixel 4a is a basic phone with a basement price tag. It's the 2020 iPhone SE for every Android fan.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

20 Comments
  • And only 5 months too late to compete! And that's me being generous.
  • It's also a low/midrange processor where as the iPhone SE is flagship.
  • LOL five months is a stretch by a long ways. Maybe 3 tops. And it competes quite well. For the money there is no reason to choose the iPhone SE unless you want iOS.
    More memory and storage, bigger OLED screen, far far better battery life, headphone jack, fingerprint scanner. Yeah its has a midrange processor but if you have seen any performance reviews its more than enough and plenty fast.
  • The iPhone SE was available in April, this is September... What calendar ate you using where that is 3 months?
  • You did not specify that you were talking about Apple's launch. The 4a was not supposed to launch until May. June, July, August = 3 months. But yes that timeframe is longer if you meant SE launch
  • I've been buying Google phones for years. But with no fingerprint scanner, they are off my list for replacement of my Pixel 3. May have to abandon Google Fi.
  • There's a fingerprint sensor on the back.
  • The Pixel 4a is decidedly mid-range in everything but camera while the iPhone SE is flagship in everything but screen and physical size and worth the extra money over the Pixel 4a and that's without mentioning the superior software support and better quality selection of apps on iOS. But I'd pick the iPhone 11 Pro Max (which I'm getting on Friday) over both the SE and 4a because I like premium big iPhones and long battery life
  • Worse battery and camera, but otherwise sure
  • Why do you continually hang out on AC when you are an Apple fan boy? Is life on that side so boring that you always have to come here and interject your negativity towards Android products? Remember, not everyone gets into micro sized and pixelated screens along with giant bezels, nor do they buy their phones to continuously run benchmarks. I hope you enjoy your new one year old Pro Max when it comes. My son in law has one and everytime I see him he asks to look at my Note 10+ and S20 5g and he said he's ditching the iPhone and getting a Note 20 Ultra. He said he's had it with the games Apple continuously plays along with liking my N10+ better. Cheers!
  • Yes that's rh only reason I'm on Android central as news is slow on iMore which is a better site than Android central in the same way I think iPhone and iOS is better than Android. Your son's probably not in the Apple ecosystem otherwise he wouldn't leave and I plan on being in the Apple ecosystem and don't plan on ever leaving. I've never cared for customisation or extra features, I've always preferred simplicity and that's a major reason why I'm going back to iPhone, I just wish it didn't take me this long to figure that out.
  • Beno,
    Let us all know when you get your android killer iPhone 11ProMax.
  • Yeah no. Oneplus 7T kills this in practically every way and includes features that some flagships don't even have (90hz screen which Samsung S10/N10 series doesn't even have).
  • The Pixel 3a is cheaper than the 7T and it's mid range specs reflect that but I've made my choice and am going back to iPhone with an iPhone 11 Pro Max(I don't care about highier refresh rates) because I realised I don't care about customisation and want simplicity, quality over quantity, iMessage, FaceTime, the fattest SoC in a smartphone in the A13 bionic chip and nothing compares with the Apple ecosystem which I want to be apart of and never want to leave. I also have a 7T and it's a good phone but I don't care about the 90hz refresh rate as I cannot tell the difference and it's just a battery draining Android gimmick.
  • You moving to Apple Beno? you've never mentioned it before 😂😂
  • Sounds like you were never part of the android fam to begin with.
    You're one of those people who sees an awesome feature on a competitor phone and say, "Apple invented it, Samsung just stole it!" Or "I'll wait till Apple's version comes out."
    Now desperately trying to again fit in with your friends who refuse to use any service other than stock Apple wares.
    iPhone SE series is specifically a low end, cheaper version of their phones from years past, slightly updated. NOT flagship, unless you mean from 2016. The original iPhone SE was basically a rebranded iPhone 5 from 2013...their keynote was up talking recycling the entire event. Facts.
    Apple names are not sounding ridiculous like Samsung's...is it REALLY pro/max?
    I'm surprised they haven't added an extra "x" like many other Verizon phones. iPhone 11s Pro Maxxxxx 6.1in Airport Express Extreme 5G featuring Siri in 3d, that's literally the name...if you forget to mention "5G" or "Siri in 3d" you don't get it, it's an extra chipset not software.
  • What are you babbling about? You're right me never being a true Android fan, it has always been Apple for me, it just took me 2 and a half wasted years of using Android to figure it out and now I've decided to go back to iPhone and I intend to stay there this time, no longer will i be going back and forth. And the iPhone SE is definitely a pocket flagship with the A13 bionic, wireless charging and IP67 water resistance which no mid range Android phone has had and every mid-range Android phone gets crushed by iPhone in software support and app quality selection.
  • Anybody else reminded bout the six million dollar Man everytime they read the word bionic?
  • Yup!
    Can't forget the sexy bionic woman either....
  • Lindsey Carter/Wagner? If I'm not mistaken?