The Google Pixel 4a was released without much fanfare as it became available to order on the Google website rather than through the usual pomp of a phone release ceremony. While we missed out on the usual glamorous affair of a smartphone manufacturer presentation, all the specs are available to view online, meaning that you can still decide easily whether this is the phone for you. Without further ado, here are our first impressions of Google’s latest budget handset.
One of the main selling points of this smartphone is its price. The Google Pixel 4a only costs £349, making it an appealing handset and one of the cheapest handsets on the market with stock Android out of the box.
A word that can be used to describe the Google Pixel 4a is ‘cute’. This might seem like a strange way of describing a smartphone, but this is truly one of the most accurate ways of describing it. Firstly, it is a compact device. This makes it easy to hold in one hand, and things that are small and simple to use tend to have this cutesy quality about them. It is smaller than the Pixel 3a, but with a larger screen. It is also light, as it only weighs around 143g, making it a lighter device than its predecessor (the Google Pixel 3a) and the iPhone SE; Apple’s low budget device.
While the Google Pixel 4a is light, which is useful, the reason it is so light is because of its polycarbonate body. If you are not fussed by a plastic-looking device, then this is an acceptable choice of material. The Pixel 4a could get scratched easily due to the cover glass being Gorilla® Glass 3, which feels like a throwback as we are on the Gorilla® Glass 7 now, but the phone should survive sharing a pocket with your keys.
Given that most phone users are used to a premium look on their smartphones now though, many are likely to be unsatisfied with the Google Pixel 4a. This is especially when you take into consideration the fact that you can get the OnePlus Nord for a similar price (£379) that comes with a very state-of-the-art looking finish.
The Google Pixel 4a display is all-screen and bezel-less. This is not an absolute essential, but this is what makes the Google Pixel 4a arguably a more attractive looking device for those who care about their devices’ aesthetics and do not want to have a notch ruining the top of the screen. This is a 5.81-inch OLED display with full HD+ resolution, which makes the images suitably crisp and clear.
Speaking of display refresh rates, Google has kept the Pixel 4a low budget by keeping the screen refresh rate at 60Hz. The Pixel 4a therefore will not have a smooth scrolling experience, but it does meet the basic requirements of a smartphone in 2020.
The Google Pixel camera setup is known for being one of the best on the market, and the Google Pixel 4a meets this standard. Unfortunately, there are only two cameras on this handset, which are the 12.2MP lens with a f/1.7 aperture and a 84-degree field of view, and an 8MP lens, but these are capable of creating high quality images. What makes the Google Pixel cameras perform so well is not the lenses themselves, but rather the software that Google installs in their devices. Smartphone users can simply point their phone at the desired subject and take a high quality photo. The reason for this is that Google uses image software processing technology which allows the user to take excellent photos both during daylight hours and during night hours.
The Google Pixel 4a comes with all the photography bells and whistles that we have come to expect, including panorama shots, portraits, background blur and bokeh effect, so this handset is a desirable one if you are looking for a smartphone that can take photos of a high standard without an eye-watering price tag like some of the more premium handsets on the market.
Google promises a full day of battery life and the 3,140 mAh battery cell looks as though it will be capable of delivering given its display specifications and potential software optimisations in the future. The Pixel 4a is powered by the Snapdragon™ 730 chipset which does not support 5G.
You will not find the wireless charging coil which is an expected feature in a 2020 smartphone, but for the £349 price tag this will not be an issue. There is also no official IP rating, so you will need to prevent your Pixel 4a from getting water damage.
Google, like many other smartphone companies, fail to publish comprehensive information regarding the sustainability of all their devices (there are some that you can view here however). Having said this, there is some information available which discloses just how sustainable the Google Pixel 4a is specifically. Google has been making a concerted effort to make their supply chain sustainable, and this can be seen in the Google Pixel 4a and its case.
The Google Pixel 4a contains around 45% of post-consumer recycled material in its plastic mechanical parts, which is a reflection of Google’s focus on including recyclable materials in all of its products from 2022. The case is also sustainable, as it is made of over 70% recycled plastic.
While Google certainly has a long way to go to reach the likes of Apple in integrating sustainability across the entire manufacturing process and supply chain, their efforts will have a positive impact and will set them apart from smartphone manufacturers that make next to no effort to be sustainable. Considering that the first Pixel model only came out in 2016 though, Google has a bright future ahead as a sustainable manufacturer.
If you want to get your hands on the Google Pixel 4a, unfortunately you are going to have to wait a little while longer from now. If you can wait this long, the Google Pixel 4a is due to be released on Thursday the 1st of October in the UK, but with all the delays that have been caused by COVID-19 already, this remains to be seen. Another option is to join Google's waiting list so that you can get the Google Pixel 4a sooner.
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