Google Pixel 4A
Image: Google

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, 2340×1080, 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

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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: The Pixel 4A 5G. For just $150 more, those interested in a budget Pixel smartphone can get one with 5G, a larger screen (6.2″ compared to the 4A’s 5.8″ screen), and an additional 16MP ultra-wide camera lens on the back. Anyone considering a mid-tier Android device who is interested in the Pixel 4A may be better served by waiting for the Pixel 4A with 5G.

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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.

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides

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.

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When and where will the Pixel 4A be available?

The Google Pixel 4A is available from Google now, and will ship out now and is 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.

The Pixel 4A 5G will launch in Japan on Oct. 15, 2020, and in November in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, the US, and the UK.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the latest information, including the Pixel 4A 5G.