My week with the Google Pixel 4a
mhobson • September 22, 2020if( has_post_thumbnail( $post_id ) ): ?>
Looking for a new phone? Don’t want to spend over four figures, but still want to take some great pics and have a great high definition display? Me too.
At just $349 in the Ting Shop, the Google Pixel 4a might just be the answer to our prayers. Lucky for me, the folks with the keys to all the phones here at Ting Mobile have let me take one for a test drive. And I’m here to tell you all about it with this honest Pixel 4a review.
My name is Miles, by the way. I spend most of my days running offers and promotions that save Ting Mobile customers even more money.
Since the moment it came out of the box, the Pixel 4a has been everything I expected.
You might have watched or read some tech reviewers’ comments on the new Pixel and heard them talk about the phone being simple or basic. It is kind of basic, I guess, but I’d argue that’s not at all a bad thing.
The phone’s plastic build isn’t anything too flashy. At $349, I’m not too fussed about that and I’m sure you won’t be either. It feels sturdy enough in my hand and the almost edge-to-edge screen looks a lot more modern than the Pixel 2 I’m currently using. In my opinion, it also is more modern-looking than some other phones in this price segment.
The screen certainly isn’t the largest out there but it’s actually a great size that allows you to easily keep the phone in your pocket all day, and still watch HD Netflix shows or YouTube videos while on the go. There’s actually even a pinch-to-zoom feature that lets you expand videos to make use of that full edge-to-edge screen (some cropping does occur) and, to me, the resolution of the Pixel’s photos and videos looked stunning on the OLED 2340 x 1080 display.
It doesn’t have tons of cool new features, but it has a pretty great camera and it runs with a pure Android experience (no unnecessary apps cluttering up menu screens). You’re also guaranteed Android OS-version and security updates until August 2023.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 4a camera sets are virtually identical on paper but Google does most of its photography magic after the lens has captured your shot. The Pixel 4a definitely seems to be able to do more of that magic than the phone from three years ago.
Night time photography is where the 4a really outshines both its predecessors and other new phones in this price range. Take a look at the photos below for some comparisons. Google’s Night Sight feature manages to brighten up the darkest parts of the photo without over-exposing the naturally brighter parts of the frame.
The camera also performs well in daylight with very good contrast and saturation even when you’re just pointing, shooting, and not making any of your own adjustments. Portrait mode also performs well, even on a tiny yellow cactus.
There’s only one front-facing and there’s one rear-facing camera on the 4a—no ultra-wide or telephoto lens like you’re starting to see on other phones.
As this is an honest Pixel 4a review, I’ll add that video is an area where the phone does fall behind some of those higher-end devices. The video stabilization isn’t perfect and it can struggle to adjust exposure when going from light to dark and vice versa.
Processing power and battery
The 4a obviously doesn’t have the same raw power as the higher price-point phones, but it’s fast enough for day-to-day app usage and web browsing.
The only time I’ve really noticed any kind of lag is when processing photos. If you’ve taken a Night Sight or Portrait mode shot and quickly flick to see what it looks like, you might have to wait for a second to see your finished masterpiece.
An aspect I have been really impressed with is battery life. Google has pushed its battery management tools for a couple of years now and I decided to just leave those at their default settings. Rather impressively, the 4a has made its relatively small 3,140mAh battery last a whopping 48 hours on one occasion. Yes, I was asleep for 16 of those hours and I’m not currently out and about as much as I normally am, but that’s still way longer than I expected.
Other cool stuff
As I’ve mentioned, there aren’t a lot of fancy new features to talk about in a Pixel 4a review, which is totally fine for this price range.
It does have some nice touches like fast charging and a fingerprint scanner. It also gets some handy Pixel-only features such as call screening, the Google Recorder app with its auto-transcribe feature and closed captioning for any video/audio you’re playing on your phone.
At the same time, it is missing some features many people prefer to see on newer phones such as wireless charging and an official IP rating for water and dust resistance.
Oh, but it does have a headphone jack, which I know is important for many people.
I’ve been eagerly anticipating the Pixel 4a for a while now. I’ve had the Pixel 2 since it launched three years ago. It’s been a great phone, but it stops receiving Android system updates in a couple of months. If not for that fact, I might have held onto it a little longer.
So, the conclusion on my Pixel 4a review? The 4a seems to be a great upgrade option for me and it may be perfect for you too if you are looking for a reasonably priced phone that does everything the average user needs it to (and a bit more). There are no surprises with this phone really, good or bad. It performs all the key features of a smartphone up to a good standard and has a great camera to boot.
It doesn’t feel like an expensive piece of tech—but who cares when it only costs $349?
I’ll be buying one. Unless of course, they forget to take back this tester one. *Shhhh.*