Pixel 4a: Great cam, balanced specs in budget for West. Mostly misunderstood in East.

Yes, like many of you I lost all hope regarding the release of the much awaited Google phone. Pixel 4a of the only phones in under 400 USD price bracket to have a great camera system and state-of-the-art Google’s Android OS. The Android OS and vendor updates is handled directly by Google’s very own Pixel team and not outsourced at all. It would not be incorrect to call it the iPhone of Android with a few caveats.

Everything about this phone was already leaked and almost confirmed except for a series of disappointing and irrational delays. A lot of market analysts called it dead on arrival owing to fierce competition by iPhone SE 2020 edition.

Specification and Price

Google made a smart move by announcing a single model of their latest generation of budget Pixel phones i.e. Pixel 4a. Lower-case letter ‘a’ use to stand for affordable until 3a. In my personal opinion, it stands for ‘able’ now.

Pixel 4a’s non-5G variant released by Google has following specs:

FHD+ 5.8″ OLED display with 443 ppi and punch-hole style cut-out for front camera | 3140 mAh All-day battery | 6 GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128 GB storage | 64-bit Octa-Core Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 730 Processor | USB-C® 18 W adaptor with USB-PD 2.0 | Dual, stereo speakers | 3.5 mm audio jack | Volume controls and Power button | Titan M security module | Polycarbonate unibody | Just Black only!

If you go through the technical specification and compare 4a with 3a and Pixel 4, 4a comes out with flying colors even with a single color option i.e. Just Black. It has all the things that you need including mid-tier specifications from an optimized smart-phone directly maintained by team Pixel at Google. Google’s decision to not include an irritating notch and go with a punch-hole style front camera breaks the conventional design of Pixel phones. The new design is aligns with other modern devices from other OEMs. 4a is actually smaller in height and width in comparison to its predecessor. It is one of the most compact phones available in the market right now.

Pixel 4a comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128GB storage, this combination is the desired sweet spot for smart-phones. This is the perfect amount of RAM and storage a regular user would ever need in coming two to three years. Google has got this right with utmost precision.

The Pixel 4a ships with an 18W fast charger that takes 90 minutes to fully charge the phone, hitting 50% in half an hour.

If you ignore the 2nd camera on the back of Pixel 4, 4a borrows the beautiful camera system and every technology therein from its big brother. It is just the miniature version of the flagship Pixel 4 which is already discontinued for obvious reasons.

“The one thing you got to give to a Pixel camera is fire and forget reliability” – MrMobile [Michael Fisher]

Although, 4a ships with comparatively bigger battery. But it is by no means adequate as per 2020’s market trend where 3500 to 4000+ mAh is the new normal in realm of Android.

Plastic Unibody build is actually reliable and durable enough as it is not glass and hence it won’t shatter when it takes a hit. Obviously real life and artificial durability tests from various sources including a popular Youtube channel called ‘JerryRigEverything’ will help you decide further.

Google has priced Pixel 4a too aggressively at 349 USD only versus 399 USD for the budget iPhone SE 2020’s base 64GB storage variant. This is an apparent move by Google to compensate the irrational delay and take a bite out of Apple’s market share in a lot of countries. Google has made the purchase decision for a user quite simple with this price cut other than many advantages that Android has out of the box versus wall-gardened iOS.

Wah Wah in West!

If you are in North America or some parts of Europe, these budget phones are overall a great deal for you when you buy them in installments or along with a plan from a mobile network or carrier company. You can actually pre-order a Pixel 4a in States with an easy payment plan of 14.54 USD a month right now or at 10 USD a month using a special offer plan by Verizon.

Budget phones from reliable manufacturers in markets where much cheaper Chinese brands are not available or trusted or lack the market share as of yet, iPhone and Google Pixel phones are really important. When Google introduces a 349 dollar phone, it basically represents that it is not letting Apple win without a fight. Products like iPhone SE and Pixel 4a gives a strong message to cheaper non-American options that Americans know how to make budget smart-phones too.

Other than that, budget phones in West has an audience who do not really want a speced out smart-phone. They just want to get the basics right. People in the West like to settle for less or humble options depending on their use case. This is exactly why the budget iPhone SE 2020 with a shockingly smaller battery, single camera and smallest screen for a smart-phone in 2020 still exist as a product and doing good.

Sadly, origin and nationality of products or their companies are being considered now a days owing to a couple of disputes that the world has with the biggest factory of the world, China. So, a budget Android smart-phone like Pixel 4a makes a lot of sense and adds up to a user in the west. It definitely steals a lot of market share from other Chinese or Korean Android smartphone OEMs as well as from low-cost iPhone SE. The whole ecosystem thing matters a lot to people in the west. Pixel 4a has the potential to be numero uno in terms of sales in the history of Google Pixel phones.

Baffling budget Android phone for East. India does-the-math!

Budget phones from West don’t really translate to a budget phone in East.

For example Pixel 3a was released in May 2019 at 39,999 INR, which was basically ~568 USD according to concurrency rates on 15th May 2019 as per XE.com. As you can see, there is a huge difference in pricing when it comes to budget phones when you finally reach the stores in the East.

Similar things happened with iPhone SE 2020, the base model is priced at 42,500 INR by Apple, which is about ~566 USD as per current rates on XE.com. As you can see, how easy it is for a budget phone to enter premium segment depending on the market. The conversation about a cheap, low-cost or budget device can change so fast to vanish al-together as you move from West to the East. A user from India could buy a premium OnePlus, Mi or Oppo smart-phone for the price of budget Pixel or iPhone in the local market.

Also for folks who are use to getting almost everything for this price in Android world are not sure and totally confused about buying a Pixel. iPhone SE has a fair point, it is the budget iOS devices for developers, students and elders who love the ecosystem owing to family members.

In nutshell, Pixel phones did not have any ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ for folks in India till Pixel 3a. Its audience in India were basically developers and secure custom Android ROM enthusiasts who wanted features like locked boot-loader etc. Previous generation Nexus/Pixel hardware users still enjoy robust support of after-market ROMs like deGoogled Android ROM called /e/OS and popular LineageOS. Also, it is worth mentioning that the developers of secure hardened Android based ROMs, Copperhead and GrapheneOS exclusively support Nexus/Pixel smart-phones thanks to available resources to offer verified boot and much more.

Also, Google should realize East do not care for an expensive phone for neat or pure Android experience with added features. They already enjoy the same using multiple Android One devices that are available in the local markets. Also, OnePlus’s OxygenOS is not bloated enough to be a nagware and aims to offer near-stock Android OS experience too.

Now with Pixel 4a, Google finally has a fair chance to get a big chunk of pie owing to growing anti-China sentiments in markets like India. They can apologize to India for skipping Pixel 4 with a special price for the rapidly thriving smart-phone market here. If they cannot beat OnePlus Nord at pricing, they should at least come close and try their level best. I hope Google listens.

Conclusion

With powerful enough specs to handle all needs of most users, Google’s Pixel 4a has a good chance to be a balanced mid-ranger with a great camera. If you are in West, it is the best budget phone you should buy. If I did not care for the ecosystem, I would pick 4a over SE base variant any day.

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