The Google Pixel 4A is a winner for the masses
While flagship smartphones continue to push their price tags past the USD 1,000 mark, with the inevitable march of technology, the midrange segment of the smartphone market continues to grow more and more formidable. It is possible to get a lot more phone for your hard-earned money now than it ever was before, and the law of diminishing returns has never been in stronger effect than it is now. Midrange phones of yore were hapless and largely hopeless offerings doomed to an existence of mediocrity, but all that has changed now. With Chinese brands like Xiaomi, Realme and Oppo paving the way, it’s never been easier to get a phone that offers excellent value for money, and as of late, bigger brands like Apple and Samsung have also been forced to rise to the challenge and create midrangers of their own, with mixed degrees of success. The Next Best Pixel
Google’s first attempt at entering the midrange market, last year’s Pixel 3a, was a surprise success, even with its dated looks and a fairly extensive list of cut corners. However, its excellent camera more than made up for those. And this year, Google has upped the ante with an even more aggressively priced successor to the 3a – the Pixel 4a, with a jaw-dropping price tag of only USD 349. And yes, spoiler alert – the rear camera is still mind-blowing, even with only a single lens to show for it. The Next Best Pixel
While the flagship Pixel 4 suffers from a woefully tragic battery life because of its small battery, the Pixel 4a changes this by bringing a 3,140 mAh battery to the table. While still not as large as the 4,000+ mAh batteries found in rival midrange phones, thanks to its efficient Snapdragon 730G processor, the Pixel 4a manages to hold out for over 24 hours quite comfortably on a single charge, ever under quite extensive use. It also helps that the phone runs the stock flavour of Android 10, with none of the bloat typically associated with third-party OEM modifications of the OS, keeping things elegant, lean and fluid while being stable and feature-packed. Being a Google phone, it is also due to receive software updates promptly with each new release for at least a couple of years.
While the plain (but not cheap-feeling) black (no colour options this year, but there are always cases or covers for that) plastic shell of the Pixel 4a feels rather utilitarian rather than glamorous, it makes the phone very easy to grip. While the plastic construction of the phone can shrug off knocks and bumps just fine, there is no official water or dust resistance rating of any sort, so that is one factor to keep in mind for buyers with more active lifestyles. It is also interesting to note that the phone is relatively on the smaller side, especially compared to the behemoths that are in line with the current trend of modern smartphones, making it ideal for people who prefer smaller phones or have smaller hands.
The front of the phone, however, is gorgeously all business. Gone are the wide forehead and chin of the Pixel 3a, with a large 5.8” AMOLED display, reinforced with Gorilla Glass 3, dominating the face of the phone, with almost no bezel to speak of. Instead of opting for an unsightly notch or a fancy-schmancy motorized pop-up mechanism, Google has chosen to go with a small and tastefully placed holepunch for the front camera. The camera placement is remarkably unobtrusive, requiring double or triple takes to notice it the first time.
Along with the decent Snapdragon 730G CPU, the internals of the phone are nothing to sneeze at, with a generous 128 GB of storage and 6 GB of memory. The former of these is especially welcome because of the still-ridiculous omission of memory card slots on the Pixel range, and the latter ensures that the phone doesn’t go laggy and unresponsive even with a plethora of apps running on it simultaneously. Also, unlike the Pixel 4, the 4a still comes with dual speakers and a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a wonderfully practical rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. Say what you will, but with their ungainly and unergonomic placement and slow response times, in-display fingerprint readers are and always will be pointless gimmicks that are more stylish than actually useful, and it is a welcome relief to see the Pixel 4a embrace the classic approach.
The icing on the cake, of course, is the camera. Even with only a single sensor on the bulky camera module, it churns out incredible 12.2-megapixel photos, enhanced by optical image stabilization and dual pixel phase detection autofocus, Photos taken using the Pixel 4a are characteristically beautiful, with outstanding clarity, contrast, detail and colour reproduction. There is no optical zoom, but then again, no one expects that at this price range. Google’s Night Sight continues to remain a thing of wonder, producing ridiculously great photos even under terrible lighting conditions. There is no lag either, allowing users to snap away to their hearts’ content. The camera can also shoot reasonably high-quality 4K video at 30 frames per second, or 1080p at up to an incredible 120 FPS. The front camera is also a fairly decent piece of work, allowing for excellent Portrait Mode photos.
While wireless charging or 5G support is out of the question with the Pixel 4a, it still brings a host of features to the table, and it does so without feeling mediocre at any point. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc upon the world’s economy, money is tight for a lot of people, and with high-end flagships well beyond the reach of most people’s purchasing abilities, there has never been a better time for midrange phones to take their place in the hands of the masses. And with a heavy-hitting name like Google entering the fray with their own excellent – and very competitively priced – offering, the competition is only going to get better. No matters who wins this battle royale, the consumer is the winner at the end of the day.