Pixel 4A review: A feature-rich budget smartphone for $349 .. a $349 iPhone SE Competitor

Pixel 4A

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The Pixel 4A raises the bar for how good a budget phone's camera can be.

Google on Monday revealed the Pixel 4A, which will sit alongside the Pixel 4A 5G and the Pixel 5. Though the latter two will be available at a later date, you can already preorder the Pixel 4A for $349, £349 and AU$599. Unlike in previous years, the phone only comes in one color (black) and one size (as in, there's no Pixel 4A XL). And for its price, the Pixel 4A has one of the best cameras you can get on a phone.

Amid the abundance of $400 phones that are out now, which include the iPhone SE (2020) and the Galaxy A51, the Pixel 4A's two standout features are hard to dismiss. The fact that it has the same excellent main camera as the Pixel 4 (unfortunately, it doesn't have the Pixel 4's second telephoto lens) makes it the ideal phone for someone who wants to take great photos without much effort. Especially if that person doesn't care about having a sleek design or a huge screen, both of which the Pixel 4A doesn't have.

The Pixel 4A is about $50 cheaper than its closest competitors and has 128GB of storage, instead of 64GB like years past, so it really is a solid value. And these days, any amount of money that can be saved is crucial.

So does the Pixel 4A have the best camera on any phone? Which is to say does the Pixel 4 still have the best camera? Not necessarily, not like previous years. When the Pixel 2 came out in 2017, the delta between Google's camera and other Android phones at the time felt pretty wide. And when the Pixel 3 introduced Night Sight, it was witchcraft-levels of impressive. But rivals such as Apple, Samsung and OnePlus have shrunk the gap when it comes to important camera features like low-light photos and zoom. 

The better question to ask then, is: Is this the phone with the best camera you can get for $350? Considering that the Pixel 4A also receives prompt software updates from Google, has a long-lasting battery life (so far) and has a headphone jack -- all on top of its stellar camera -- I'd venture to say the answer is yes.

COMPARISON OF GOOGLE PIXEL 4A AND PIXEL 4

  Pixel 4A Pixel 4
Rear cameras The Pixel 4A doesn't have a second rear telephoto camera 2 rear cameras make for better portrait shots
Headphone jack It has a 3.5mm headphone jack The Pixel 4 doesn't have a headphone jack
Design Larger, 5.81-inch screen and hole-punch front-facing camera Smaller, 5.7-inch screen and prominent camera bump
Display refresh rate 60Hz display 90Hz display
Charging No wireless charging Does charge wirelessly
Water resistance Not water resistant Rated IP68 for water resistance
Soli motion-sensing Doesn't have Soli motion-sensing, which enables touchless gestures Pixel 4 does feature Soli motion-sensing and touchless gestures
Battery 3,140-mAh battery 2,800-mAh battery
Processor Less powerful Snapdragon 730G chipset More powerful Snapdragon 855
Storage options It has one 128GB storage option Two options: 64GB and 128GB

The Pixel 4a features a 5.81-inch display that's all screen, with a small front-facing pinhole camera at the top left, a square-shaped camera bump at the rear, and fingerprint biometrics on the back.

Design wise, the display is much larger than the ‌iPhone SE‌'s display, which is modeled after the 4.7-inch iPhone 8. The ‌iPhone SE‌ also features a fingerprint button, but it is at the front in a thick bottom bezel.

Apple is actually rumored to be working on a new version of the ‌iPhone SE‌ called the iPhone SE Plus that would have an all-display design similar to Apple's more expensive iPhones, with a fingerprint sensor built into the power button. The ‌iPhone SE‌ Plus won't be coming until 2021, though.

Pixel 4A

Pixel 4A

Google phone

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