Google Pixel 4a review: impressive camera, affordable price, one-hand-friendly
By Yvonne
2022-10-14

The Pixel 4a won't wow you with specs, but the cutesy handset has impressive photographic capabilities.

Google Pixel 4a Review

If you are looking for a small, affordable handset that can handle basic tasks, but also has the capability to take great pictures, the Pixel 4a is a good choice.

The pros

  • +

    Single-handed usage possible

  • +

    One powerful camera

  • +

    Headphone jack

Cons

  • -

    Battery life is average

  • -

    There is no 5G or wireless charging yet

  • -

    Cheaper-feeling design

Related Reading: Honor 70 review

Review in two minutes

The Google Pixel 4a review was published when it was first released. Since then we have seen both the Pixel 5a, Pixel 6a, and the Pixel 5a, along with the Pixel 5a, and Pixel 6a. If you are okay with buying an older device, then there is still much to love here.

The battery life of the iPhone is poor. It can only last about a day with a single charge. If you push it hard enough, you will need a charging cable by late afternoon.

This design is likely to cause division. It's cute and curvy and fits comfortably in your palm. The lightweight body makes it comfortable to use and easy to carry. The handset has a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, almost no screen border, and even a headphone socket.

It does feel a bit cheap and lacks the high-end gloss that other phones in the same price range.

You should carefully think about what you value when you are considering the Google Pixel 4a. The Pixel 4a will not satisfy your needs if you are looking for the best bang for your money and tons of features.

Its compact dimensions, great interface, and excellent point-and shoot camera make it a popular choice for those who are looking for a small, affordable handset that can handle social media, email browsing, and web surfing.

The Google Pixel 4a price is $349 / £349 / AU$599. The Google Pixel 4a price is $349 / PS349 / AU$599. There aren't any configuration options. You will have to give up some options in order to get the Pixel 4a at a low price.

That's a competitive price point, and one that's $50 / £50 / AU$50 cheaper than the launch price of its predecessor, the Google Pixel 3a. The Pixel 4a also offers more RAM (vs 4GB), and storage (128GB instead of 64GB). This means that Google gives you decent bang for your buck. Compared to the Google Pixel 4a 5G, which has better specs but costs more at $499 / £499 (around AU$695), the standard Pixel 4a remains a bargain.

Google Pixel 4a specifications

Weight: 143g
Dimensions 144 x 69.5 x 8.2mm
Display Size: 5.81 inches
Resolution: FullHD+ (1080 x 2340)
Pixel density: 443ppi
Chipset - Snapdragon 730G
RAM: 6GB
Storage: 128GB
Rear Camera 12.2MP
Front camera 8MP
Battery: 3,140mAh

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are both more expensive than this model.

The problem is that the Google Pixel 4a competes in a very competitive middle market. It is also up against other handsets with much more impressive specs. Devices such as the OnePlus Nord and Realme X50 5G Plus, Moto G 5G Plus, Moto G 5G Plus, Mi Note 10 Lite, which boast multiple cameras and larger screens, 5G connectivity, and OnePlus Nord can be dazzling consumers.

The handset will not differ in any way between countries, but it could be bought anywhere. On August 20, 2020 the Google Pixel 4a arrived in America. It followed on September 10, in Australia, and on October 1, in the UK.

Google Pixel 4a

Related Reading: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

Design

  • A simple, elegant design that can be easily used by one hand
  • Headphone jack included, plus stereo speakers
  • Does not have a premium finish

Cute. This is the answer for 'describe Google Pixel 4a'.

This is one of the most compact Android phones you can buy these days. It measures 144x69.4x8.2mm which makes it smaller and more portable than the Pixel 3a, while still boasting a larger screen.

It is very easy to use, one-handed. Although it is a little difficult to access the top, it fits comfortably into the hand of those with small hands.

It is also light at 143g. This makes it lighter and more portable than both the iPhone SE and Pixel 3a. (which actually weighs less than the Pixel 4a).

This is due to the Pixel 4a’s polycarbonate unibody. While it reduces the phone's weight, it also means that the device doesn't feel or look premium.

Even though you may not consider it a problem, considering its affordable cost, there are metal- or glass-covered smartphones that feel and look much better. There's less glass that can be broken and the finish is polycarbonate feels sturdy and long-lasting.

The power/lock button with mint green accents is located under the thumb or finger to the right. There's also a volume rocker below. While the SIM tray can hold one SIM card, the Google Pixel 4a comes with an eSIM card.

An embedded SIM (embedded SIM), is a digital copy of your SIM card used to connect to a network provider. You can program the chip to work with any carrier; not all carriers are compatible with eSIM. Therefore, you will need to verify that your provider supports eSIM in the Pixel 4a.

Notable is also the fact that eSIM functionality can only be enabled in a few countries, including: Japan, Australia, Canada and Spain.

  • Why would an eSIM be necessary?

The bottom of the Pixel 4a has a USB-C 3.0 port. It is flanked with microphones and grilles. Stereo sound is provided by the second speaker, which works in conjunction with the down-firing speaker.

The Google Pixel 4a features a 3.5mm headset jack, which is something that the previous model didn't. This jack is located at the top of the phone and allows you to connect your wired headphones.

It doesn't come with a pair or headphones in the box, unless you are in France and Australia where they do. However, if you already have them you will be able to use the Pixel 4a with your existing cans without the need for an adapter.

The rear fingerprint scanner is another feature that was borrowed from the Pixel 3a. Google has dropped fingerprint scanning on the Pixel 4 and 4 XL for facial recognition. However, we are pleased with the return of the digit-based sensor on the Pixel 4a.

The forefinger is covered by it, so recognition of the item is quick. We didn't encounter any errors in our review.

Google Pixel 4a

Rear-mounted fingerprint scanners have one minor problem. They can't work when placed on a table or desk. This means that you will need to tap or hold the Pixel 4a to access the sensor. Face unlock is not supported.

The Pixel 4a is minimalist in design. It has the square camera block at the top-left corner and the fingerprint scanner located centrally.

The phone only has one rear-facing camera so the block is quite large. However, it appears to be a Google design choice as the bump looks similar to the Square Bump on the Pixel 4 or 4 XL.

The bump doesn't rise very far from the back of the phone. This means that you can easily place the phone on any surface and then tap away at it with little wobble.

The compact design of the Pixel 4a is appealing to many. However, we got the bigger Pixel 3a XL in 2019, which had the exact same specs but a 6-inch screen (vs 5.6 inches) and a larger battery.

The screen was larger by 4.5%, but the device overall size dropped 5.8% (compared to the Pixel 3a). This is due to a better industrial design.

You'll need to decide if 5.8 inches will suffice for your smartphone pursuits. However, if you plan to use intensive apps or play intense games on the device, a bigger screen may be more appealing.

Related Reading: Sony Xperia 10 IV review

Display

  • OLED 5.81 inch display featuring Full HD+ resolution with HDR support
  • The Original all-screen Pixel phone
  • Bright, responsive

Let's have a look at the Google Pixel 4a screen. It's bigger than the Pixel 3a screen by 0.2 inches, however, Google took it a step further and removed almost all the bezels from the Pixel 4a.

The Pixel phone is the first to feature an all-screen display with no bezels.

Google claims that the Pixel 4a has been stripped of its bezels, but if you take a closer look there is still some display at the bottom and the edge of the screen is thicker than on other Pixel 4a models.

It is still aesthetically pleasing and it does not reduce the number icons that are displayed.

Google also includes custom wallpapers that take into consideration the camera's location. To check out these wallpapers, long press on the home screen.

Similar wallpapers have been seen on Galaxy S10 and S10+ models, so we expect more fan-made choices to be available.

Google Pixel 4a

Gorilla Glass 3 protects the screen from scratches and small bumps. The OnePlus Nord uses fifth-generation glass for its rear and front, while the Sony Xperia 1 II has sixth-generation glass.

Google's older glass can be used to save money, however it is best to use the device with care.

This OLED panel measures 5.81 inches and has a Full HD+ resolution of 1080x2340. It also features a 443ppi pixel density, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and an OLED panel measuring 580x2340 pixels.

It provides vivid, bright and clear visuals. The handset is small enough to fit in almost every corner of the screen.

The HDR-enabled Space Force was a pleasant experience. It had excellent color reproduction and detail. However, after moving from the OnePlus Nord screen to the Google Pixel 4a it felt a bit small.

Google Pixel 4a has an Always-On Display that displays the current time, date and weather. It can also display information based on your situation, such as the next alarm set, the track name, artist, or alarms.

You will see notification icons that alert you to important messages.

Google Pixel 4a

Camera

  • Only two cameras, 12.2MP rear and 8MP front
  • High-quality photos created by Impressive photo processing
  • Night Sight produces decent low-light shots

Google Pixel 4a has two cameras: one at the back, one at the front.

It's rare to find a phone with as few cameras in the mid-tier. Manufacturers tend to scatter the cameras like confetti to make their phones stand out. The new iPhone SE, however, is one exception.

The back features a 12.2MP camera, a f/1.7 aperture, and an 84 degree field of view. You can capture 4K video at 30fps. It also has the ability to shoot 1080p at 30fps. 60fps. and 120fps.

It may not appear like much, particularly when you compare it to the four and three-camera sets on many Google Pixel 4a rivals. However, the main camera is still capable of holding its own.

You can take great photos with the Pixel 4a. Simply point and shoot.

Google Pixel 4a

If you're looking for something a little different there are several options. These include panorama or portrait. The latter produces background blur effects using AI alone, since the Pixel 4a doesn't have a depth sensor.

Both modes produce good results, with portrait mode being especially remarkable considering the hardware available.

You can sometimes see the stitching in panoramics if you aren't looking closely. The background blur may not be as accurate around your subject depending on the complexity of the shape.

However, even at such a low price, the handset's photography abilities are still quite impressive.

Did you forget to change to portrait mode? To apply the bokeh effect on photos you have already taken, even those taken years ago with another device, simply go to Photos and tap edit. The blur slider will then be used to achieve the effect.

It worked with a few photos we had taken during our review of the OnePlus Nord a few weeks ago. The background blur was applied easily by the Pixel 4a.

You can tap the problematic areas of an image and bring up dual exposure controls to adjust brightness. This is part of Pixel 4a’s Live HDR+ Plus feature. You can see the finished shot in real time.

Google Pixel 4a

Dual exposure control in Pixel 4a's camera app. 

This allows for more balanced shots and can be especially helpful if the subject is backlit, which is a scenario where they could easily become shadowed.

If the phone detects low lighting, you'll be asked to change modes. The camera app will suggest Night Sight as an alternative.

Night Sight, one of our favorite night mode, is available on all Android smartphones. While the Pixel 4a's hardware and processor power aren't as powerful, they still do a great job when the sun goes down.

The Night Sight camera mode is dramatically different from the regular one. Photos are brightened but not too artificially. The Pixel 4a must be held still for several seconds because Night Sight takes photos at various exposure levels. We recommend that you rest it against something or use a tripod to get the best results.

You can take clear photos outdoors, but the details can sometimes be blurred. Even though Night Sight is also possible indoors, images will look grainier.

Google Pixel 4a

Night Sight transforms views such as these into night vision.

Night Sight also has astrophotography built in. This mode debuted on Pixel 4 and requires you to fulfill certain criteria.

You'll first need to go outside at night. It must be dark, we really mean dark. Due to the light pollution in our area at night, the Astrophotography Mode was not triggered.

You'll also need somewhere to place the Pixel 4a so it can point at the stars. If you plan on using Night Sight and especially astrophotography modes often, a tripod is a good investment. The phone cannot be used hand-held for astrophotography as it needs to be steady and with no hand shaking.

Third, patience is a must. After you have found a dark spot, set the Pixel 4a up so that it points at the sky. The screen will show 'Astrophotography On' after only a few seconds. The handset will begin to take your photo when you press the shutter button. This can take anywhere from one to five minutes so be patient.

The Pixel 4a was not suitable for dark locations during its initial review. However, we are planning to visit a remote area and will update our review with our astro mode results.

The Pixel 4a has only one rear camera. It doesn't have an optical zoom or hybrid zoom. Instead, it relies on its imaging skills to provide a maximum of a 7x digital zoom. Although this may seem digital at 2x, you would be hard-pressed to know unless you looked closely at the photos.

Although the quality degradation is more obvious at 7x magnification, the Pixel 4a can still take some nice zoomed in shots if there is good outdoor lighting and a steady hand.

The single camera means that there is no wider-angle option and there is not a macro camera. You can't do much to change the absence of a wide angle camera.

The latter can be used to take stunning photos or share them with a group of people, but it is not as easy as using a dedicated wide angle camera. This won't matter to most users. However, if you want maximum flexibility in your photography, there are many other phones within the Pixel 4a price range.

The lack of macro cameras is not likely to pose a problem for most users. However, the Pixel 4a camera can do a decent job at close-up photography. This allows you to photograph very closely to your subjects while still capturing a lot of detail.

Google Pixel 4a

The Google Pixel 4a has a single camera at the front. It's an 8MP, F/2.0 snapper with an 84 degree field of view. And it can also shoot 1080p video at 30fps.

The obligatory portrait mode can be used to blur the background for artistic self-portraits. Night Sight, on the front camera, is also available. We found that this was useful when trying to take a selfie with less-than-ideal lighting, provided it wasn't too dark.

The front-facing camera of the Google Pixel 4a produces great selfies and good detail and color.

Battery life

  • should last for a whole day on average
  • Fast 18W charger included in the box
  • Video playback and Gaming significantly reduce battery

Google Pixel 4a has a non-removable 3,140mAh battery. This is more than its predecessor and significantly larger than the iPhone SE's 1,812mAh battery.

Google says you can get as much as 24 hours battery life with a single recharge thanks to its Adaptive Battery technology. We didn't manage that.

The Pixel 4a was able to last a day with moderate use. However, we would often return to bed with the battery levels in the teens or even the single digits.

The always-on display was activated. However, switching off the battery did improve the life of the device, but we still ended the day at 20%. The Pixel 4a will be a smartphone that you need to charge every night.

Google Pixel 4a

The Pixel 4a battery will last for less than 24 hours.

The battery can take some beating during video and gaming. The Pixel 4a was exhausted by three hours gaming and three hours listening to music via Spotify using Bluetooth headphones. We had to charge the battery before it went flat.

We found it very helpful to see the approximate time the battery will die in the notification bar. The notification bar doesn't display it permanently. Instead, you see the battery icon with a percentage remaining next to it. But pull down the notification shade and that percentage will be replaced by the expected time the Pixel 4a will go out of juice.

Google Pixel 4a

It's useful: An estimate of the time your smartphone battery will go dead.

This is a much more valuable metric and will give you an idea of how long you can keep the phone charged.

The Pixel 4a does not have wireless charging, which is not surprising considering the price. However, the package includes an 18W charger block that provides fast charging and quick charging.

Our tests showed that the Google Pixel 4a was able to recover around 20% battery after a quick 15-minute charge, and around 35% when it took 30 minutes to top up. Although it's quite reasonable, we haven't seen the same results with other smartphones.

Software and performance

  • Snapdragon 730 with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage
  • Stock Android Android 10 is simple and clean
  • Google Assistant is prominently

Google Pixel 4a has enough power that you can do all you need on your phone. The Snapdragon 730 chipet is included, along with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. (Of which approximately 108GB are actually available).

The specs of the Pixel 4a are acceptable for the price. However, a problem arises when you begin to take a closer look at it.

Many similar-priced handsets offer newer chipsets and more RAM. There's also a wide range of storage options. Google won't be in the specs race and this may make the Pixel 4a less unique.

Although it can run any game or app, some may take longer than expected to load, particularly large online games and intensive apps.

Google Pixel 4a

Headphones are handy for watching videos or gaming.

PUBG runs with HD graphics at a high frame rate and a fast load speed, however, the load screen and menu take a significant amount of time.

PUBG is quite easy to use once you are in the game. We were able claim chicken dinners even though graphics weren't at their best.

Google's Android 10 stock operating system is included with the Pixel 4a. It runs smoothly and is simple to use. The gesture controls can be opted for over traditional navigation buttons on the bottom of your screen. After some practice, the former makes it easier to use one-handed.

Google promises you at least three years worth of security and operating system updates for your Pixel 4a. This means that the phone will receive the most recent Android 11 and Android 12 updates.

The Pixel 4a has a large focus on Google Assistant, as with all Pixel devices. There are multiple ways you can summon the assistant. You can trigger Assistant by using gesture controls, which can be accessed from the top corner of your screen.

Google Pixel 4a

Stock Android runs clean and smoothly on Pixel 4a.

After Assistant is activated, it can be used to open apps, set alarms, send messages, search for restaurants and provide the definition of a term. This integration allows you to use Assistant with less effort and reduces the number of taps and swipes needed for certain tasks.

Google's voice recognition software works well and the Pixel 4a understood what we said. However, you need to speak clearly as sometimes mumbled words may be misunderstood.

Pixel 4a inherits Google's Recorder app. This can live-transcribe conversations and meetings. The assistant can start or stop recording, and transcripts can easily be exported to Google Docs.

Recorder does all the transcription on-device. There's no internet connection required. Recorder can be used anywhere.

Although the transcription accuracy is excellent, it doesn't always work perfectly. If you talk quickly and don't have clear pronunciations, it could easily become confused between "three" or "free". It does capture the bulk of the conversation correctly, which makes writing up much easier.

Do I need to buy the Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a

It's a good deal if...

A phone that you can operate one-handed
The Google Pixel 4a, one of the few smartphones you can use comfortably one-handed these days, is among them. The compact form factor (by 2020 standards), soft-touch polycarbonate and rounded edges make it simple to use.

Are you invested in Google's ecosystem? Want an affordable device
The Pixel 4a is a great option for those who are fully committed to Google's ecosystem. The Pixel 4a will only be an addition to what you know from 'Okay Google' commands.

A phone with great photos
Although the two cameras in the Google Pixel 4a are not the most flexible at the price, they offer a simple point-and shoot experience that allows you to take high-quality photos often with minimal effort.

It's not worth the risk if...

Are you looking to get the most bang for your bucks
Google Pixel 4a is in a highly competitive market. It can't match the specs of any of its rivals. The Pixel 4a is missing out on features that rival handsets offer, including 5G connectivity and multiple cameras as well as larger screens and more storage.

Do you want to play a lot on your smartphone
The Google Pixel 4a can run games but there are some compromises. The 5.8 inch screen is smaller than the other Google Pixel 4a. This means that your eyes will not be able to focus on the larger area. Battery life can take a lot of abuse, as well as the fact that the device doesn't have nearly the power of its rivals, which results in slower load times.

A long-lasting battery is what you want
Google Pixel 4a can last for a whole day without requiring a second charge. You'll reach for your charger if you love gaming or if you use social media and photography a lot. The Pixel 4a will need at least one charge every night if it is your primary device.

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