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.