I bought the Pixel 4A 5g, as my older Moto G5S Plus was on its end points. The phone stuttered with day-today tasks and was 4 years late on the latest software.
Personally speaking, there are 5 things in a phone that stand out for me (in no particular order): the camera, the screen, the overall experience and the battery. Google nails all these pillars not towards the left nor towards the right, in the middle, at the safe point. This phrase itself is a great metaphor for this device, it is a great safe, no-bet smartphone with nothing that requires you to do a lot of fiddling with or blows you out of the water, but rather, emphasizes on ease of use, functionality and subtle features that make you go “Huh, that’s really smart! It’s good they thought about that.”
Let’s start with the best the phone has to offer: The Camera.
The camera is awesome. Photos are stellar, well lit and focus is on point. In fact, it is even comparable to higher level cameras such as those of the iPhone 12 series, the Samsung S21 and Note20 and the OnePlus 9 series, and dare I say, it even outperforms a lot of them, whilst costing less than half the price of most. The phone also sports a wide-angle lens which adds more perspective to shots in certain situations. Google’s Night Sight is also fabulous and Astrophotography and Portrait mode are just a bit of sprinkling on top of this already top-notch camera. Any image produced by this phone is confident in its style and if you have ever researched for the best cameras in modern smartphones, the Pixel has surely hit your screen multiple times. The photos speak for themselves:
Next stop: the Screen. Pixel 4A 5G sports a 6.2" OLED display that is crisp, vibrant and of course, being an OLED, the blacks are pitch-black. The peak maximum brightness is also wonderfully high, making me use the phone at around 70% brightness on average, and hence, using it in strong daylight is no problem. Despite being “only” 60 Hz, it does not bother me as the touch sampling rate combined with Google’s hardware-software integration makes using the phone pretty smooth and natural.
The front of the phone is also beautifully engineered with an almost full screen and only a tiny hole-punch on the top left corner to interrupt, which it does very rarely, for me, only during the occasional game which I, again fixed by the internal settings of the game. Bezels all around the phone are almost symmetrical with a slight chin and all of this makes using the phone an absolute joy.
The experience is what Google seems to have focused the most on for this phone. No, there aren’t too many features to fiddle with, nor does the camera comes with a manual mode with sliders for every adjustment. Customization is bare and yet, none of this seems to bother me, someone who is engrossed in every latest feature that ships with the greatest and most expensive high end smartphones and wants control over every minor detail.
Tiny, but key adjustments is what Google has made to keep the phone feeling fresh and smooth out of the box and much later as well. From a really good quality, tight haptics to subtle animations and really intuitive gestures, all these features add up to a well tailored experience. The phone seems to help you when you need and yet, even when don’t, it just helps you anyways with features like Now Playing which automatically, and locally identifies songs playing in the background and the clean and simple Ambient Display which show you the time, date, weather and notification all the time without massively attacking the battery. Speaking of which…
The battery life is also really good. I have averaged around 6–7 hours of screen on time on moderate usage and on heavy days photographing a lot and playing for hours, 5–6. However, it easy to make this a two-day phone if you turn on the Extreme-Battery saver option which disables blacklisted apps, and limit usage as much as you can.
Despite getting the basics just right, Google still doesn’t include other features like waterproofing or wireless charging. Honestly speaking, this does not bother me and probably several other users who “just” want a phone that is a worthy upgrade to their three or four year old phone or perhaps, if you’re a geek fanatic like me, it might even surprise you. Whilst being an A-series Pixel, which is supposed to be inferior to the main line-up, I can go as far as to say that the phone is even a worthy upgrade from the flagship Pixel 4 (which was launched last year) with a better (and personally, more useful) wide-angle camera, better battery, a much better unobtrusive front, and also, a headphone jack.
Watch my video on my experience using the Pixel 4a 5g on YouTube: