The pixel line has always felt more of an outsider than you would reasonably expect from a company as massive as Google. After years of partnerships and Nexus devices, when Google finally entered the smartphone market seriously, it tried to compete in an already mature category – an even more difficult feat when most of this competition is already running your operating system.
In one important sense, the distinguishing feature of the pixel line can actually be the lack of flash – something that creates a sharp contrast from industry leaders like Samsung, Apple and Huawei. If phones were cars, it would be a sensible limousine – competent, affordable, and no one comments when you drive them to the PTA meeting. Most of it, however, appears to have made it difficult for Google to find an identity.
The turnover was mediocre. This has less than zero impact on Google’s bottom line at the end of the day, but the company clearly has bigger ambitions. With the departure of department head Mario Queiroz and camera magician Marc Levoy, the division recently experienced a seismic change in management. It was apparently a sign that Google will take a new path for its cellular line, which could ultimately make Pixel 4 and 4a the last of its kind.
I think it’s valuable to rethink your approach to the flagship. But the budget “a” really was that Google did things right at the right time. And sales reflected that after a disappointing performance by the 3rd, the 3a 3a hit the smartphone’s zeitgeist in a way that failed with previous pixels, and provided solid and affordable options as the audience, the smartphones bought, got tired of paying $ 1,000 + for a new flagship.
It was even less noticeable than other pixels and lacked under-the-hood performance, but it was specifically designed to offer one of the best and purest Android experiences on the market. Last year’s Pixel 4 had a rocky start. The device was solid, but had one extremely important flaw: a miserable battery life. Revenue suffered, although Google has reportedly made up for a difficult start from the start because the phone’s runtime was pretty solid.
All of this brings us to Pixel 4a, which primarily addresses the most striking problem of 4. Battery life is one of the things rarely mentioned in the first or second sentence about a new smartphone. It’s not cool or interesting or new or sexy. But after the honeymoon of the first few weeks or so with a new handset, it can rocket to the top of a phone’s most important things. You usually only notice something like that when it’s back. And with the Pixel 4, people definitely noticed it.
Mind you, the 4a is not a battery power pack, but it is decent. And that alone is enough to recommend it to the Pixel 4. At 3140 mAh, the 4a’s battery is nothing to write home about, but it’s a nice improvement over the 4’s 2800 mAh and a slight bump over the 3a mAh’s 3080. With the 4a as a normal phone, I was able to get out of the handset for more than a day, and the battery finally gave up the ghost about 27 hours after I unplugged it. This number gets smaller if you activate the constantly active display.
Inside the handset is last year’s Snapdragon 730G (an overlooked version of the 730). The new 765 was probably neglected for reasons related to the price. For most tasks, choosing the processor from day to day doesn’t make much of a difference, but this is certainly noticeable on some important things, such as: B. when taking photos, the processing of which takes some additional moments.
Of course, the camera has long been at the heart of the pixel line. This fact certainly extends to the budget offshoots. The 4a retains the only 12.2 megapixel rear view camera in the 3a, although it is configured in a square camera module à la 4. The middle camera hardware has always been a strange source of pride for Google.
The company has long insisted that it is able to provide some of the best mobile imaging capabilities by doing most of the heavy lifting on-board computing and software. And frankly, the results speak for themselves. The Pixel 3a takes some really great photos for a handset at this price, including poor light and zoom.
Hardware still does matter. And that will be the case for the foreseeable future. For example, Google can do some really impressive things with the Super Res Zoom feature introduced on Pixel 3. Without an optical zoom lens, the AI only goes so far when it comes to losing details.
The same applies to portrait mode. Google is one of the best in the business. While it’s best enough to give the illusion of bokeh blur, there are still computational constraints for a system designed to guess the depth of field of an image. After switching a bit between the iPhone 11 and Pixel 3a in the past few days, I really learned to appreciate the proximity from which the Google device can record in portrait mode. However, both continue to face a profound problem with more complex issues or noisy backgrounds. For example, shooting a chain link fence can lead to blurry chaos.
[L-R: iPhone 11, Pixel 4a]
Night Sight, on the other hand, continues to shine in poor lighting conditions.
I recently asked a colleague what prompted him to continue buying pixels. In retrospect, his answer was obvious: software support. Along with the purest version of Android, you know that Google will continue to provide the best and most interesting features for the device. It’s a long way.
Here it means hits like the company’s impressive recorder app, which offers live transcriptions. I’m always a bit careful about how much to play. I know that as a reporter who does a lot of interviews, it’s a pretty indispensable tool in my daily life. The same could probably be true for college kids who attend a lot of lectures. In addition, I’m not sure how practical it will be for most people every day. However, I am pleased that Google continues to build on the app with new features such as the integration of Google Docs and the support of Google Assistant.
Other notable software additions include live subtitles for phone calls and video calls, which essentially incorporate the technology mentioned above. This notifies users on the other end. As Google notes, it’s really only good for conversations between two people. Adding more than that, in my experience with these services, has a way of frying the algorithm. For privacy reasons, the person on the other end will be notified when they are activated.
At $ 349, the Pixel 4a is $ 50 cheaper than the 3a and less than half the price of Pixel 4. It is well below the budget flagships from Samsung and Apple. Even with this aggressive pricing, there’s really no measure that the Pixel 4a is an exciting phone. But it’s one that does the job, which is probably the best we can ask of it. Well, that and a headphone jack.