For years, Google repeated the mistake of selling its Pixel-branded smartphones at a higher price point than what the product commanded. The best way to address the issue was to make a smartphone that cost less but still offered the great camera experience and solid performance the series was known for. I am glad Google chose to make the Pixel 4a, a phone that focuses on the features that matter to me as a smartphone user like the compact size, long-lasting battery and a great camera. But the real story here is the price. The Pixel 4a has a very competitive price of Rs 29,999, making it the most affordable Pixel phone ever in India. I used the Pixel 4a for a week, and here is my take on Google’s latest mid-range phone.
Google Pixel 4a price in India: Rs 29,999 (Flipkart)
Google Pixel 4a review: What’s new?
At a time when phones are getting bigger in size, I am glad that Google launched a phone in the market that is a perfect fit for my hands. Being a sucker for compact phones, the Pixel 4a’s 5.8-inch screen is neither too big nor too small. In fact, the phone feels great in the hand and easy to use one-handed. I actually prefer the size of the Pixel 4a over the OnePlus Nord, which I feel is a way too big.
The back of the phone reminds one of the flagship Pixel 4 that never made it to the Indian market. You will find a square-shaped camera module in the upper left corner with a single lens, alongside the fingerprint sensor which by the way is fast at unlocking the phone. Let me tell you that the Pixel 4a has a polycarbonate build. It feels sturdy, though.
But I am glad that Google hasn’t removed the 3.5mm headphone jack from the Pixel 4a. I am also happy to see stereo speakers, which are hard to find on mid-range phones. They get loud, but the audio quality could have been better.
Google Pixel 4a review: What’s Good?
The Pixel 4a has a 5.8-inch OLED display. It’s good to see that Google hasn’t used an LCD screen on the Pixel 4a to keep the price of the phone down. The OLED screen is bright and offers strong contrast and vibrant colours. The 2,340 x 1,080 pixels screen runs at 443ppi, and it’s quite sharp. I enjoyed watching Amazon Prime Video and browsed photos, and the viewing angles are wide enough to share your screen with another person sitting beside you.
The bezels on the Pixel 4a’s screen are slim enough, though you will find a hole cut out of the panel which houses the selfie camera — an 8MP sensor. The Pixel 4a’s display does not feature a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate and that’s okay. On the flip side, the Pixel 4a’s screen is HDR (High Dynamic Range) certified and that will make a huge difference when watching Netflix shows and movies.
The specs of the Pixel 4a are a mixed bag. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 730G – which is Qualcomm’s mid-range processor – coupled with 6GB RAM and 128GB RAM. There’s no microSD card slot for memory expansion, but you get 100GB of free Google One storage for three months.
I can’t comment on the long-term usage of the Pixel 4a, but I didn’t face any issues with performance while using the phone over the past week. Apps loaded quickly and scrolling through menus felt responsive. The Pixel 4a’s gaming performance is also satisfactory. I played Need for Speed No Limits for hours, and never found the phone struggling to run the game.
As for its battery life, the Pixel 4a is powered by a 3,140mAh battery, which lasted a day on a single charge. I think the Pixel 4a’s battery life is on par with many smartphones that have a bigger battery. The Pixel 4a ships with an 18W fast charger that takes roughly 80 odd minutes to fully charge the phone from zero to 100 per cent.
It is undeniable that Pixel phones are the best when it comes to software implementation and the Pixel 4a is no different. The phone ships with Android 11, meaning you get a stock Android experience and a few special features that only Pixel owners get. And, of course, users can expect a minimum of three years of operating system and security updates for its Pixel phones. After all, the Pixel 4a is made by Google and the company owns the operating system Android.
Display: 5.8-inch FHD+ OLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
RAM/Storage: 6GB RAM/128GB (non-expandable storage)
Camera: 12.2MP rear, 8MP selfie-camera
Software: Android 11
Colour options: Just Black
Connectivity: LTE, eSIM, 3.5mm headphone jack, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1
Dimensions: 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
Although Android 11 has a number of interesting features, my personal favourite is the Pixel’s Recorder app. If you are a journalist or a writer, the Pixel’s Recorder app is nothing less than magic. Not only it records conversations, but transcribes those as well. I also liked the Live Caption feature that transcribes videos in real-time.
If there is one reason to buy the Pixel 4a, it has to be the camera. Even though it uses a single 12.2MP primary sensor, the Pixel 4a still managed to beat smartphones that cost more than this mid-ranger. The trick here is not the hardware or the quality of the camera sensor – but Google’s software. It’s the algorithms and machine learning tricks that make the Pixel 4a’s single-camera so believable.
There’s a single 12.2MP sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, optical and electronic image stabilisation on the back. The Pixel 4a uses the same Sony IMX363 sensor that Google used when it launched the Pixel 3 in 2018. Then there’s also a single 8MP sensor on the front.
The Pixel 4a’s single shooter is fantastic. In fact, the good thing about the primary 12.2MP sensor is that it takes good shots in all conditions. The Pixel 4a takes high-quality shots with an amazing amount of detail. So, the sky looks blue, leaves of trees look green, and coffee beans look dark brown in colour. The point I am trying to make is that the Pixel 4a does a great job in capturing fine details like the shadows, the skin details, and the colours.
But even with a single-lens camera, the Pixel 4a managed to take portrait shots, all thanks to machine learning to produce portrait shots. The results are encouraging, but I did miss a dedicated telephoto lens.
Here are a few camera samples using portrait mode.
Standard camera shots
The Pixel 4a also impresses in low light. The night mode is great and the captured images scream loud why the Pixel 4a is the king of night photography. The Pixel 4a also has the astrophotography mode, though I am yet to test the feature.
The front-facing camera is decent enough in capturing selfies even at night. But I am not so impressed by the Pixel 4a’s video capturing capability. Samsung Galaxy M51 does a better job than the Pixel 4a in video capturing.
Google Pixel 4a review: What’s not good?
None of this means that the Pixel 4a is a perfect smartphone. The phone doesn’t have wireless charging or water resistance rating. I think these trade-offs Google has made makes no sense. The iPhone SE, which is also a mid-tier smartphone, supports wireless charging, and it’s rated IP67 for dust and water resistance.
Google Pixel 4a review: Should you buy it?
At Rs 29,999, the Pixel 4a might not be a flagship smartphone but it is the phone that many people might want to buy purely because of its compact size and reasonably good performance. It’s a Pixel phone at the end of the day, which means you will get a class-leading camera and guaranteed software updates for three years. With the Pixel 4a, Google tried to focus on things as basic as the battery life and that is what makes this phone a lot more appealing.