Google's Pixel 4A smartphone is a budget model priced at $349 with enough important features for pro users to make it an ideal company-issue device.
Google's latest smartphone isn't a new flagship device: It's the Pixel 4A, the budget version of last year's Pixel 4. Owners of flagship smartphones won't be wowed by its features (which are minimal) or its design (which is simple), but the Pixel 4A isn't designed with flagship device users in mind. The Pixel 4A is geared toward people who are budget conscious or don't need or want all the bells and whistles, or companies that want a fleet of basic, yet modern, business smartphones.
At only $349, the Pixel 4A is priced to compete with other mid-tier smartphones from major manufacturers, but with the added benefit of having "...one of the best cameras you can get on a smartphone," according to Lynn La in her review on TechRepublic sister site CNET.
Despite some drawbacks, the Pixel 4A has solid specs for a good price, and it's worth considering as a business smartphone.
SEE: Google Pixel 4A: Cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
What is the Google Pixel 4A, and how does it compare to the Pixel 4?
The Pixel 4A is Google's latest mid-tier Android smartphone. It takes design cues from 2019's Pixel 4 flagship device and serves as the replacement for the Pixel 3A, which Google discontinued in mid-July 2020.
The Pixel 4A is undoubtedly not a flagship device, especially compared to the Pixel 4, its closest flagship relative in Google's smartphone lineup. In contrast to the Pixel 4, the 4A:
- Only has one rear camera (no telephoto lens);
- Only has a 60Hz display (the Pixel 4 has a 90Hz display);
- Doesn't have wireless charging;
- Doesn't have an IP rating (it isn't water or dust resistant);
- Doesn't have Soli motion sensing;
- Has a less-powerful chipset than the Pixel 4; and
- Doesn't have configuration options.
CNET said that the Pixel 4A looks and feels cheap despite its design. "Its plain polycarbonate body lacks the glossiness of the Galaxy A51, the elegance of the iPhone SE and the fun Pop Art aesthetic of its Pixel 4 brother," said CNET's Lynn La in her review of the 4A.
SEE: Managing and troubleshooting Android devices checklist (TechRepublic Premium)
On the positive side of things, the Pixel 4A does have elements in its favor over the Pixel 4:
- It has a headphone jack;
- A larger display;
- A larger battery;
- and the exact same rear camera as the Pixel 4's main lens for a far lower price.
As CNET's Lynn La said in her review of the Pixel 4A, "it takes very little effort to get the Pixel 4A to spit out a good photo." That can be a big plus for business users who need to take photographs for documentation purposes, social media, special events, or other workday uses.
Google Pixel 4A specs
Display: 5.81" OLED, 2340x1080, always on, 24-bit color
Dimensions: 5.7" x 2.7" x 0.3" (144 x 69.4 x 8.2 mm), 5.04 oz (148g)
Operating System: Android 10
Storage: 128 GB
Memory: 6 GB
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
Cameras: 12.2MP rear, 8MP front, 4K video capture
Battery: 3,140 mAh
Login security: rear fingerprint reader
Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, dual SIM (nano and e-SIM)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi (no Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, Google Cast, LTE cellular
- The best Google Pixel 4A deals (CNET)
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- 9 essential apps for Android users (TechRepublic)
What are the Pixel 4A main competitors?
The Pixel 4A is competing against any mid-tier smartphone, but in particular two competitors stand out: The Samsung Galaxy A51 and the newest iPhone SE model. Of those two, the biggest challenger for Pixel 4A market share is the Galaxy A51.
In its Pixel 4A announcement post, CNET pointed out that Google has had a bit of a struggle in the smartphone market as of late, with team conflicts, the departure of key smartphone engineers, and the several month delay of the Pixel 4A.
Samsung continues to dominate the Android device market, and Google's failure to make inroads isn't likely to let up with competition coming from the Samsung A51, which from photos looks like a much higher-end device. That may not be the case, but looks count when it comes to mobile devices, especially when the Pixel 4A has already been described by CNET as feeling cheap.
SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Samsung and Google both have reasons for investing in the Pixel and Galaxy lines for business, but Google is the one facing an uphill battle against Samsung's dominance in the smartphone industry.
There's another big competitor that could drive down sales of the Pixel 4A, and it's Google's next mid-tier Pixel device due out this fall: The 4A 5G. Not a lot is known about the 5G version of the Pixel 4A, but it's only going to cost $150 more than the just-released Pixel 4A. Anyone considering a mid-tier Android device who is interested in the Pixel 4A may be better served by waiting a few more months for the Pixel 4A with 5G.
- Pixel 3 sales by the numbers: Google's flagship phone was a flop (ZDNet)
- Sorry Samsung, the Google Pixel 3A is 2019's most important phone (CNET)
- Give it up, Google. Nix the Pixel and get yourself an Android One partner (ZDNet)
Why should businesses and professionals consider the Pixel 4A?
Despite some downsides, there are a lot of reasons why the Google Pixel 4A would make a good business device for both individual users and organizations looking for a new bulk buy option for employees.
First off, there's Google's Titan M security chip, which is at the core of the Pixel 4A. Google describes the Titan M as "enterprise grade," and it goes a long way toward securing devices. The Titan M is integrated into the bootloader to verify the OS hasn't been maliciously modified and encrypt the device when it's locked, and it uses secure APIs to ensure only trusted apps are running on the device.
The Pixel 4A comes with Google's Personal Safety app, which can do things like automatically call 911 when a vehicle accident is detected, or schedule safety checks that automatically notify emergency contacts when the safety check notification isn't acknowledged. Both of those features can be great for employees working in the field or in remote areas.
Call screening is built into the Pixel 4A, and because it's manufactured by Google, the device will always be one of the first to receive Android updates, which can mean vital security patches get to sensitive devices more quickly.
Lastly, there aren't any customization options. That may sound like a drawback, but when the only Pixel 4A you can get is black, with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage, there are no special orders to fill--it's one-device-fits-all, which makes things easier for purchasing.
The Pixel 4A is supposed to get "all day battery life." Google didn't qualify what that means, but in CNET's testing, the Pixel 4A averaged around 18 hours and 45 minutes of battery life.
- How Android can assist your work from home experience (TechRepublic)
- 3 tips for choosing Chrome or Android devices for work (TechRepublic)
- How to enable the Android Screen Attention feature on a Google Pixel phone (TechRepublic)
When and where will the Pixel 4A be available?
The Google Pixel 4A is available for preorders from Google now, and will ship out beginning on August 20, 2020. It will be available on Verizon, Google Fi, or unlocked without a carrier.
The Pixel 4A will be available for purchase at launch in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and the US. Google plans to release the Pixel 4A in India soon.
- Google Pixel sales doubled thanks to budget Pixel 3A (CNET)
- Google Pixel 4A arrives: Everything you need to know (ZDNet)
- Smartphones and mobile tech: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)