The Google Pixel 4A 5G is the latest addition to Google’s budget A range of smartphones, which typically pack most of the features of the previous year’s flagship model, with a few cost cutting measures made to bring it down below the $500 mark. This 5G model launched a couple of months after the original Google Pixel 4A, but weirdly it’s not just a straight copy of the 4A with 5G slapped on top. So, what’s different about the Google Pixel 4A 5G and is it worth considering as one of the best smartphones (opens in new tab) for consumers on a budget.
Truth be told, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the Google Pixel 4A 5G and the normal version, and both of them are largely identical to the original Google Pixel 4 that launched last year as Google’s flagship premium smartphone, so you’re certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck. The main downgrade in this cheap smartphone is the Snapdragon 730G, which is a noticeable downgrade from the Snapdragon 855 that you found in the Google Pixel 4. The case is also made of plastic, while the premium phone had a metal and glass outer shell. You also lose the optical zoom lens on the camera array.
OK, so that’s what you’ve lost by dropping down the budget model. But here’s what you’re saving - $300. The Google Pixel 4A 5G costs just $499 while the Google Pixel 4 just a year earlier would set you back $799. That is a chunky saving for very little sacrifice (and you’re gaining 5G, which the Pixel 4 didn’t have either.
But comparing the Google Pixel 4A 5G to last year’s phones is, well, so last year. We’ve run it through its paces to see how this budget 5G smartphone stacks up against its competitors, namely the iPhone SE (opens in new tab) and OnePlus Nord N10 (opens in new tab) to see if it’s worth your time and money.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Networks
You can pick up the Google Pixel 4A 5G on several of the best cell phone providers out there, including Google’s own service, Google Fi, along with the big names including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
On Google Fi the Google Pixel 4A 5G will currently $20.79 per month for 24 months (opens in new tab). That’s a total cost of $499, so no real savings on the MSRP there.
You can get the Google Pixel 4A 5G on T-Mobile for $20.84 per month for 24 months (opens in new tab) for a total cost of $500. If you’d prefer to go with AT&T, the Google Pixel 4A 5G is available for $17.50 per month for 30 months (opens in new tab), for a total of $529.99 (though at time of writing it’s currently on offer for just $10 per month).
The Verizon version of the Google Pixel 4A 5G will cost you a little more due to the proprietary 5G network that it uses, so the total handset cost is more expensive with an MSRP of $599. You can get the Google Pixel 4A 5G on Verizon through the Google Store for $24.96 per month for 24 months (opens in new tab).
If none of the big networks are your thing, you can buy the handset outright for $499 and then check out one of the best prepaid cell phone plans (opens in new tab) for a cheap deal.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Design
The Google Pixel 4A 5G comes in two color options: Just Black and Clearly White. It has a polycarbonate unibody shell with a tough glass front cover. Polycarbonate is a fancy way of saying plastic, but this doesn’t feel or look as tacky as most plastic bodied phones do. It has a rather matte appearance and it feels, for lack of a better word, nicer to hold. You get the unlock and volume controls on the right hand side, the SIM card slot on the left, USB-C slot for charging on the bottom, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top.
Measuring in at 6.1 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches and weighing 0.37 lbs, the Google Pixel 4A 5G fits snuggly into the middle of the pack in terms of its size. We found it to be comfortable and easy to use, never struggling to reach the far corners of the screen. The fingerprint sensor is positioned centrally on the back of the device, basically where your finger would naturally rest when holding the phone so it’s easy to use.
The rear-facing camera array is positioned in the top right corner of the Google Pixel 4A 5G, with the lenses arranged in a diamond formation and the whole array protruding from the back slightly.
We do have a couple of complaints about design though. Despite all the yappering about Gorilla glass, the screen is extremely prone to picking up scratches, even with the mollycoddling that we gave this review unit. Basically everyone uses a screen protector these days so that isn’t a huge concern, but it can be an annoyance
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Performance
The Google Pixel 4A 5G is running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Octa-Core processor, which is the same chip that’s running Google’s flagship smartphone, the Google Pixel 5. It also has 6GB of RAM and a 128GB storage capacity. There aren’t any upgrades to this, though you do get unlimited cloud storage of your photos with Google Photos.
So, how does the Google Pixel 4A 5G fair in action? Pretty well, we’re happy to report. The Snapdragon 765G isn’t the strongest chipset out there, but it’s more than capable of running mobile apps smoothly and can handle popular mobile games too. We’ve tried several games on the Google Pixel 4A 5G from less intensive titles like Forza Street and Pokémon Go, all the way over to more demanding titles like Fortnite and PUBG with great results.
The lack of larger storage options is a little disappointing, but given that most people are using their phone’s storage to store photos and videos these days, it’s not a deal breaker when you consider the infinite cloud storage.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Display and audio
Screen quality is often one of the areas that budget smartphones usually skimp on, but we’re pleasantly surprised to say that isn’t the case with the Google Pixel 4A 5G. It has a Full HD+ (1080 x 2340 pixels) 6.2-inch OLED screen with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. With a pixel per inch (ppi) count of 413, this means the screen is only very slightly lower quality than the one you find in the Pixel 5.
The major difference between the flagship Pixel 5 and the Google Pixel 4A 5G is the refresh rate, which is only 60Hz on the cheaper model. Maybe that’s to be expected, but when even cheaper phones line the OnePlus Nord N10 can squeeze in a 90Hz refresh rate, it’s a little disappointing. Comparing the two phones side by side, the Nord offers much smoother screen transitions and movements. The Pixel doesn’t look bad by any means, but it could look better.
When browsing the web or watching videos, the screen itself is great in action though, and we found it produced vibrant colors and offered great contrast. That’s to be expected with Google quoting a 100:000 1 contrast ratio and HDR support, but it’s great to see that it translates from the spec sheet into great visuals.
Audio output is handled primarily by a pair of stereo speakers positioned at the bottom of the phone, either side of the charging port. These offer great volume and clarity as far as phone speakers go. While the speakers offer a great headline, we know you’re really here for the support act - the 3.5mm headphone jack. These are a dying breed, so this is a welcome addition for anyone still rocking a pair of wired headphones.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Cameras
The Google Pixel 4A 5G has a dual lens rear camera array that includes a 12.2 MP main camera and a 16MP ultrawide lens. Alongside this you also get an 8MP selfie camera. This is actually the same camera array that you'll find in Google's current flagship model, the Google Pixel 5. Those specs aren't nearly as flashy as you might see on other smartphones, but Google's smartphone cameras have always leaned on software, rather than hardware, to get the most out of your photos. You can use a lot of post-processing features to edit you snaps, converting them to monochrome, cropping the images down and adding filters.
We were pretty impressed with the snaps that this smartphone is capable of capturing, especially for a budget smartphone. The main lens can grab some beautiful pictures of scenic shots, like the images we took below a local park and the surrounding urban areas.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Battery
- Battery life is decent for all but heavy users
- Fast charging
The Google Pixel 4A 5G comes with a 3885 mAh battery, which is slightly smaller than the powerpack in the Pixel 5, but it’s still an upgrade over the original 4A model. Google states that it has an “all day battery” and after our testing, we’re inclined to agree. In fact, if you’re a light user the Google Pixel 4A 5G will comfortably go several days without needing to recharge. Heavy users may have issues though, with our colleagues over at Tom’s Guide (opens in new tab) noting that it only managed 8 hours and 12 minutes of continual web surfing. Tom’s did note that it fared well in general use though, but it’s something to consider if you’re constantly glued to your phone.
When you do need to recharge your batteries, the Google Pixel 4A 5G also has fast charging technology which means it will go from zero to 50% battery in around 35 minutes based on our testing.
Google Pixel 4A 5G review: Price
If you’re looking to buy the handset outright then the Google Pixel 4A 5G will cost you $499, which is quite expensive as budget smartphones go these days. For comparison, the iPhone SE costs $399 and the OnePlus Nord N10 costs just $349.
You aren’t getting ripped off here though, as the Google Pixel 4A is packing a few features that each of these phones skimp on. The Google Pixel 4A 5G is, as the name suggests, a 5G smartphone while the iPhone SE forgoes this. Likewise, you’re getting an OLED display here, while the Nord N10 is only using an LCD display.
If you’re wanting to save more money and don’t care about 5G, the regular Google Pixel 4A is only $349.99, which is excellent value for a largely identical phone minus the 5G capabilities and a slightly smaller screen.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 4A 5G?
The Google Pixel 4A 5G is fine… good even, but it does very little to excite us. Maybe that’s on us, expecting too much from a budget smartphone, but we can’t help but feel that other competing models offer more bang for your buck. The Google Pixel 4A 5G is $499, and you can get something comparable like the OnePlus Nord N10 or iPhone SE for at least $100 less than that.
The camera array is good, the screen is good and the performance is, you guessed it, good. But the Google Pixel 4A 5G doesn’t have a standout feature that helps set it apart from the competition. We think this simplicity could work to it’s advantage though, and it might be a great option if you’re looking for the best smartphones for seniors (opens in new tab). It does everything you need it to, without ever overcomplicating things.