The Google Pixel 4a: A Look Back at Google’s Budget Champion

Android, Google, Miscellaneous, Pixel, Smartphones

For the past year the Pixel 4a has proved to be one of the best mid-range Android devices that we’ve had in a while, building up on Google’s success with the Pixel 3a back in 2019. In a world dominated by large-screened behemoths with insane spec sheets, I’d like to think that the Pixel 4a still comes with some impressive specs that would suit most people looking for a perfectly capable and affordable Android phone, flavored with Google’s own personal take on the OS.

Camera

Let’s talk about that camera — the image processing software that Google has built into this phone can make you forget that you’re using a mid-range device. Now the hardware might look unimpressive because of the single 12-megapixel lens, but don’t let this fool you. The Pixel 4a manages to get some great photos, and compared to a lot of midrange devices out there with larger megapixel counts — it’s amazing that the Pixel 4a can do so much with so little.

Of course, that’s not to say that every single shot is perfect — camera software can only get you so far, and sometimes I do wish that there was an ultrawide or telephoto lens on this phone. Of course, there’s a rich array of features that I think make up for the camera limitations — special camera modes like ‘the Night sight feature, Astrophotography, and my personal favourite Portrait mode are definitely great additions to the Pixel’s secret weapon. Video on the Pixel 4a however will draw mixed reactions. Personally I’m pretty impressed by the image stabilization on the Pixel 4a camera, and special modes like Cinematic Pan, slow motion and time lapse, as well as 4K video are enough to satisfy my casual needs, although users looking for a more customizable video experience may prefer something else.

Overall though camera performance is terrific considering that you get a somewhat basic hardware set-up, and I’m definitely a big fan of how Google has equipped this device to become one of the best camera phones on the market right now. Check out these sample shots:

Performance

Let’s move onto performance. The Pixel 4a comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G SoC which is something that we usually get on mid-range devices. This comes with 6GB of RAM and I gotta say that overall performance is impressive. As someone who’s spent time with budget and high-end smartphones, the Pixel 4a does a great job of giving you an experience similar to that on more expensive devices. General tasks like navigating through the user interface, loading up your apps and going through web pages are smooth and fast enough, and for a moderate user like me it’s a pretty efficient experience.

Also, playing games is a blast on this device. The internal hardware does its best to give you a proper gaming experience even on some graphically-intensive games, and while you don’t get all the fancy bells and whistles of devices like the ROG Phones, gaming on the Pixel 4a is enjoyable and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Software Optimization

The thing with Android is that over the years, countless manufacturers and companies have developed their own take on the operating system, putting in countless features, modifications, and sometimes just downright bloating up the OS at the expense of fluidity and performance. However, Google has made sure that Pixel owners only get the best that Android has to offer, without the extra weight.

As a result, you get a fully-optimized software experience as intended by Google. There’s the full suite of pre-installed Google apps and some exclusive software features that make the experience a bit more special compared to most Android phones out there. Constant security and software updates are always present, and in my experience have only improved my usage with my Pixel 4a. For example, new features like the cinematic pan mode (which I mentioned earlier) have added variety to how I use my phone, which is something that I’m sure a lot of people look for in their devices.

Add the upcoming Android 12 update to that and you have a device that manages to keep feeling fresh despite being almost a year old.

Battery Endurance

As with any smartphone, battery endurance is one major consideration when getting a smartphone. Now the Pixel 4a does come with a 3100 mAh battery which is pretty common on a lot of smartphones. I’ve gotten some pretty great endurance and screen time with the Pixel 4a, especially when using the phone for moderate smartphone tasks, with around 7–8 hours of screentime. Of course, heavier apps and games will take their toll on the battery, but of course that’s to be expected. But because of Google’s optimized software, the Pixel 4a’s battery performance is overall impressive.

Google also gives you additional features to get the most of your battery like extreme battery saver, adaptive battery, and adaptive charging, making sure that you have all the help you need to get your device through a busy day.

What Now?

In closing, I do believe that the Pixel 4a delivers on performance. It’s been a reliable device for me, and if you ask me how I feel about this phone, I’d have to steal a popular phrase and say that — “it just works.” There are a lot more things that make it a standout mid-range device, but I feel that the key points in this video are what strengthen the Pixel 4a’s appeal.

Of course, each device has its own drawbacks. For example, I wish that the Pixel 4a featured a micro SD card slot as it’s something I’ve gotten used to on most of my devices. Also, having 5G would have been a nice feature, but if you want the 5G experience, you’ll have to spend a bit more to get the Pixel 4a 5G, which does come with a larger battery, a 6–2-inch display, and additional cameras.

But for its price (which has gone down a bit now) and feature set, the Pixel 4a manages to get things done. It strikes a certain balance and for that, I do think that it’s still a great smartphone.