To this day, compact mobiles are still few, although it seems that the trend of smartphones with a screen is slowly making a comeback. Google is one of the few manufacturers that dares to launch small mobiles for the different ranges. The Pixel 4 is a very interesting option in the high-end range, and the new Google Pixel 4a is in the mid-range. This last mobile announced a few weeks ago, has a less powerful processor than the Pixel 4, also an inferior design, which translates into a cheaper mobile. However, it offers very similar features to its high-end sibling.
The Pixel 4a has the same main camera as the Pixel 4, an OLED screen with Full HD + resolution, the latest version of Android, and other more than interesting features. I have been able to test this mobile for a few weeks and I will tell you my experience of use in this complete analysis with personal opinion.
Design: does not stand out in the beautiful but in the comfortable
One of the most important features of this new Google mobile is in the design, but not because of its materials, but because of its size. This terminal has dimensions of 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm, which makes it one of the most compact models that we can buy today. Its screen is 5.81 inches and occupies practically the entire front, there are only a few thin frames in the upper and lower area and a camera that is directly on the screen, located in the upper left.
The back is made of polycarbonate, with a smooth finish and a matte design. There we see a square-shaped camera, which is composed of a single lens and an LED flash. In this case, the module does have a glass cover and protrudes slightly from the edge. Right in the center is the fingerprint reader.
One of the main changes compared to the Pixel 4 is that the face unlock has been removed. With this, we get better use of the front and save on costs. As an alternative, we find the fingerprint reader, which works like a charm. Registration is practically immediate. We just have to place our finger on the back, give a couple of touches, and instantly the fingerprint will be registered. Unlocking using this scanner is even faster. With a light press, even when the terminal screen is off, the Pixel 4a unlocks. He does it in any position.
Leaving aside the fingerprint scanner, on the back we also see the Google logo. The frames, which are also made of polycarbonate, are fused directly with the back. It is all one piece, and this is noticeable when holding the terminal in hand. It is very comfortable, soft, and not slippery.
The frames are 8.2mm thick, enough to include a headphone jack on the top, as well as a USB C port on the bottom for charging the device. Right next to it we see the main speaker. The keypad, as usual, is on the right side. An interesting detail is that the power/lock button is now white. It contrasts very well with the black color of the device.
Google has already shown in previous models that they do not focus on the general design but the small details. A clear example is this Pixel 4a: it is not the prettiest, but it is one of the most comfortable phones that I have tried in a long time.
Google Pixel 4a, features
- Dimensions and weight: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm, 143 grams of weight
- Screen: 5.81-inch OLED with Full HD + resolution and 19.5: 9
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
- RAM: 6 GB
- Storage : 128GB
- Camera Main: 12MP f / 1.7 Dual Pixel technology and 4K video
- Camera front: 8 – megapixel
- Battery : 3,140 mAh
- Connectivity : WiFi, 4G, NFC, Bluetooth, GPS …
- Version of Android: Android 10 with Pixel Launcher
- Others: USB C, on-screen fingerprint reader
Screen: you won’t be able to stop looking at it
The Pixel 4a features a 5.81-inch panel. It is a fairly compact size, especially if we consider that most terminals are around 6.4 inches. Also, do not forget that the frames are minimal. It is a panel with OLED technology and has a Full HD + resolution, as well as an aspect ratio of 19.5: 9.
The Pixel 4a’s screen is very, very good. It stands out, above all, for its excellent sharpness and brightness. Also, it has a very good color rendering: fucking whites (although somewhat cold for my taste) and completely black blacks, both, that they are dull pixels (one of the positive points of OLED panels).
In this case, we do not have a refresh rate of 90 Hz, as Pixel 4 does include. Something understandable considering the price. Even so, and even though we cannot enjoy greater fluidity when navigating, the tactile response is very very good.
In the system settings, we find some options for the panel of this terminal. For example, we can activate the option ‘Attention on-screen’, which detects when we are looking at the panel to prevent it from turning off. We can also adjust the tonality of the colors, as well as the night light. This option makes the panel appear more yellowish tones so that it is easier to read in low light.
In short, the screen of the Pixel 4a is very good: good colors, excellent sharpness, and brightness more than decent, even outdoors. To put it mildly, the screen is blue depending on the angle of the device. Also, we don’t have that ‘True tone’ mode that adjusts the tones depending on the ambient light.
Performance and autonomy of the Google Pixel 4a
The Google Pixel 4a has a Snapdragon 730G processor, it is accompanied by 6 GB RAM, as well as 128 GB storage, a pretty good configuration considering that it is a mid-range mobile. The Snapdragon 730 is also present in other competing models, such as the Galaxy A71.
I have tested both devices, and although I have not been able to make a comparison, I have noticed that the performance of the Google Pixel 4 is much better, despite having practically the same configuration. The Google mobile is perfectly optimized with the system, everything moves wonderfully, resembling more the performance of a high-end mobile than a mid-range. The animations are fluid and the applications open practically instantly, and, as I always say, there is nothing like pure Android.
Therefore, and if you are a user who cares about performance, I can assure you that the Pixel 4a will work perfectly when browsing the internet, social networks, etc. In games the situation changes, although you can move them smoothly, here we note that the 730 processor does not perform as well as an 865, and that good software optimization does not help much in this case. In the most powerful ones, we notice some lag and jerks if we play with the graphics to the maximum, a little fewer cuts if we do it with average quality. Personally, and considering the size, I don’t think the Pixel 4a is the best option for playing PUBG or Fortnite style games.
What about the battery? In this case, we have 3,140 mAh. It is a pretty decent battery, which allows you to reach the end of the day without any problem, even with medium-intensive use. Also, the dark mode of Android 10 helps to optimize the autonomy a little more and gives us a little more time before it runs out. The terminal is compatible with fast charging, its box includes an 18W charger, which charges 50% in about 20 minutes and 100% in just under 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Camera: The best in an Android mobile? Yes
The photographic section is one of the most interesting points of the Pixel 4a and the one that has surprised me the most. The device has a single 12.2-megapixel main camera. It has an aperture f / 1.7 and has Dual Pixel technology. It is the same as the Google Pixel 4. In this case, the telephoto sensor is eliminated, we only have one camera, but what a camera.
The sensor that is included makes the Pixel 4a have one of the best cameras in a mobile, competing against the Huawei P40 Pro and P40 Pro Plus, the Samsung Galaxy S20, or the iPhone 11 Pro. All of the terminals of more than 800 euros. The Pixel 4a costs 390 euros.
During the day, the camera manages to capture impressive results, both in terms of detail, color, and exposure. It’s hard to believe that a simple 12-megapixel lens in a terminal of fewer than 400 euros takes these pictures. The Google processing and the camera’s HDR + work like a charm, and every photo I’ve taken is worthy of admiration.
The Pixel 4a’s camera lets you focus on people at all times, even on the move.
One aspect that has surprised me a lot is the focus of the camera, it is not only fast, but it is very precise. At the minimum, even when the lens is very close to the subject or object in question, it takes focus and the picture is spectacular. In part, this is thanks to the new tracking mode that it incorporates, which allows you to focus on the person or object even when it is in motion.
The same thing happens indoors. Although there is a loss of detail concerning the photographs we take outdoors, this is minimal and the results are still very, very good. Both in terms of color, exposure, angle, etc.
What about night shots? In a mobile camera, we can expect results at night or in dark situations to worsen considerably. It is not the case. The results remain on a very good note. The detail is very good and it manages to capture the colors perfectly, increasing the brightness in the scene without exposing the areas with artificial light and without pronounced noise.
The night mode manages to maximize these results with a little more color and brightness in the image, maintaining good detail and greatly increasing the light in very dark scenes. Sometimes the image even looks like it was taken during the day or with a lot of artificial light, when it isn’t, as in the example below.
The Pixel 4a’s camera modes
The Google Pixel 4a camera has portrait mode. Since we only have one camera, Google’s software optimizes the scene and blurs the background. The results are better than even on mobiles that have a specific sensor to aid in blurring. With the same quality that we see in the main camera but with a very well cut bokeh effect, although in some cases, especially on the edges, it is difficult to find the focus cut-off.
While the Pixel 4a doesn’t have a telephoto lens, as the Google Pixel 4 does, it does have up to 7x digital zoom. Google has included a technology called Super High Res Zoom. Through the software, they manage to improve the quality of the zoom without the need for a telephoto lens with optical magnification. The results are pretty good. Although at 7x we notice a notable loss of quality compared to photographs without zoom, with 2x or 3x the results are quite good, both in detail and in color.
Video and selfie recording
The Google Pixel 4a can record in 4K at 60fps. Also, it has optical stabilization. The quality of the videos, even in 1080p, is very good. Excellent colors and a very good sharpness at all times. Also, stabilization does a very good job and at all times the movements are very fluid.
As for the selfie, the camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels. It boils down to good results, especially in good light conditions, although somewhat low indoors. For one-off selfies and video calls, it is perfect, no more is needed. Although, well, Google has added some very interesting extra details. Among them, the portrait mode or the ‘Night Vision’ mode within the main camera.
The Pixel 4a has the same camera application as the rest of Google’s terminals. The most interesting thing is the good processing it does, but the interface is not bad either. It is quite intuitive and minimalist, with the modes at the bottom and different quick controls in the upper area. What stands out the most about the application is the possibility to customize some aspects quickly, such as the timer, the aspect ratio in the image, or the option of ‘moving’ photographs, which automatically takes a small clip from a photograph.
In the configuration of the app, we also find very interesting options. For example, share images quickly, without having to access the gallery. Or also perform actions by pressing the buttons. For example, press the volume key once to take a photo or twice to zoom.
Software: Android 11 and more to come
I have been able to test this Pixel 4a with Android 11, the latest version of Google’s operating system. The company includes an interface called ‘Pixel Launcher’ in its terminals. It is practically Pure Android, but with some exclusive advantages for Pixel mobiles.
The interface does not change considerably concerning Android 10. The design of the icons and the option of the application drawer are maintained, where all downloaded apps are stored. The aesthetics of Android is very beautiful, with minimalist icons, pastel colors, soft tones, and apps with well-ordered menus. All our applications, even the majority that we download from Google Play, have a very similar interface, which makes it much easier to use in apps that we do not know much about.
A very important novelty at the start of Android 11 is that now the system can recommend applications based on our uses. In this way, the apps that are anchored at the bottom will change depending on which ones we use the most or which we want to manage at that time.
In Android 11, navigation is done through gestures, which are very similar to those found on the iPhone or any other device. To go back we just have to press on the side of the screen. To go to the beginning we slide from the upper area and if we want to see all the open applications, we keep in the center. Also, to summon the Google Assistant we have to slide from one of the lower corners upwards. A much more practical gesture than holding down the power button. By the way, the latter receives a new function.
With Android 11, Google has completely transformed the menu when pressing the home button. In previous versions, only the power off and on options appeared. Now, it shows a much more practical control center. Not only with the shutdown menus, but also with quick access to our Google Play cards or the accessories that we have connected from the Home app. In this way, it is not necessary to enter the application to lower the brightness of the light or turn on the television. We can control it from this new menu.
Another novelty of Android 11 that is also present in Pixel 4 is the new notification panel. Now they are sorted by category or we can prioritize notifications so that they are located in the upper area. It is also possible to activate a history in case we delete a notification inadvertently.
On the other hand, it is important to highlight the new permission gestures, which allows us to establish single access to the permissions in the applications.
Of course, Android 11 also has the Google Assistant. One of the most complete. We can ask practically anything, Google Assistant always answers. Also, it has its interface that displays information on the screen. The Google Assistant is complemented by a Feed on the home screen that shows the news of our interest.
Price and conclusions, is the Pixel 4a worth it?
The Google Pixel 4a price is $349 for a single version with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage and is available in black.
The Pixel 4a stands out in many of its sections. Mainly on camera. Although it only has one sensor, the results are impressive, worthy of a high-end mobile. The camera is from a high-end mobile, so we can achieve results very similar to those of the Pixel 4, Huawei P40 Pro, and more. Of course, I have missed a wide-angle sensor or a telephoto lens. Many of the mid-range mobiles already have both options.
Another point that I liked about this mobile is its screen. On the one hand, because of how compact it is and how comfortable it is to navigate in it. With just one hand we can reach all four edges perfectly. On the other, because it offers very good quality. Well rendered colors, more than sufficient brightness, and excellent sharpness.
Of course, the software also has positive points. The Pixels stand out for the integration of Pure Android, without any addition other than the occasional exclusive option for these terminals. This makes the system move seamlessly, without any cut or lag. Also, the applications are very well optimized and it has extensive update support.
With the Google Pixel 4a, there is no need to worry about updates, they are guaranteed until 2023.
Where does this Pixel 4a lag the most? The physical aspect is one of these negative points. Although it is not an ugly mobile and is very comfortable in hand, it is somewhat below its competition, with more ‘basic’ materials and not so neat lines, except for the front, which has a very good use.
Another aspect where it could improve is in performance. Above all, if we compare it with its biggest rival: the second-generation iPhone SE. This includes a high-end processor, while the Pixel has a Snapdragon 730 that is focused on the mid-range. While it offers a good performance today, it may be somewhat fair for years to come.
In short, Pixel 4a is a very good option if you are looking for a compact Android that stands out in the photographic section and that offers good performance for daily use. Of course, we must bear in mind that there are also very interesting alternatives, such as the iPhone SE. Within Android, we do find a few compact mobile options, and this is one of the best.
Here are some interesting points of this Pixel 4a that you should also know.
- It has a headphone jack: it is in the upper area.
- Good sound: it has a stereo speaker and performs quite well
- 3 free months of YouTube Premium: if we buy the terminal in the Google store. We can also access 3 months of Google One and Google Play Pass.
Positive and Bad points
- The screen is excellent
- The camera delivers impressive results
- Compact and comfortable in the hand
- Pure Android and with future updates guaranteed
- The pretty basic design
- I miss a wide-angle camera
- Some more battery would not have been bad