It’s probably been a while since most of you have even thought about the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but LineageOS has just pushed the official version of 16.0, based on Android 9 Pie, for the duo. In addition, the Android 10-based LineageOS 17.1 is on the way for the Pixel 2, 3a, and 4 lineups.
The arrival of LineageOS now for the Pixel 2 and 2 XL is pretty timely given that official Google updates are slated to end in October of this year, so those of you still rocking the second-gen Pixel phones should be able to keep up with the latest Android features.
Only the older Pie-based 16.0 is available in stable for Pixel 2s right now, but an eagle-eyed r/LineageOS subreddit follower noticed that official LineageOS 17.1 support is coming for the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, 3a and 3a XL, as well as the 4 and 4 XL. The original Pixel and Pixel XL already had official Lineage support, and the Pixel 3 and 3 XL recently got it as well, so that leaves the brand-new Pixel 4a and currently unreleased Pixel 5 as the only Pixel phones that official Lineage support has not yet been confirmed for.
Additionally, two Moto G7-series phones, the G7 Play (channel) and G7 Power (ocean) have just received LineageOS 17.1. We’ll be sure to update you guys when 17.1 arrives for those Pixels.
The Pixel 4a sure has had a rough path to market. The leaks, rumors, and common sense all pointed to a Google I/O 2020 launch, but the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to that and every other major real-life gathering. Many were still hoping for an online launch, but Google ended up canceling two of its attempts at an I/O replacement event, the first due to logistics and the second out of respect for the nationwide protests against police brutality. The delay meant we had seen fully working prototypesfive months before the actual release of the phone. Just like everyone else, the Pixel 4a has had a rough 2020.
Now that the Pixel 4a has finally arrived, it feels like it’s built for the era. It’s a cheap, functional, utilitarian design that arrives at a time when the economy is not doing so hot. This phone is just the cure for people who are sick of $1000 smartphones. You can do better, but for the price, the Pixel 4a is a great entry-level phone that won’t leave you wanting for much.
Design and build quality
Google Pixel 4a
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From the front, the Pixel 4a is the best-looking phone Google has ever designed, which is an odd thing to say about a budget model. The company finally designed an all-screen phone without reserving a huge chunk of front real-estate for a strange gimmick or giant notch, and the result is beautiful. With slim bezels, a single hole-punch camera, and a minimal earpiece trucked into the top edge, the front of the Pixel 4a looks positively modern, premium, and reasonable. Like the OnePlus Nord, the display is totally flat with a moderate border around the edges, which is preferable to the curved screens you see on most high-end smartphones. The curved displays distort the image and pick up tons of glare. Plus, as the curves get more and more dramatic, it’s easier to accidentally trigger the side of the touchscreen. Flat screens are the best, yet they’re extremely rare on high-end Android phones these days.
The back, by contrast, looks dreadfully cheap. It is plastic, but I’m not using “cheap” as a euphemism for all plastic backs. The Pixel 3a back was plastic but looked great, thanks to the lovingly crafted two-tone design. The Pixel 4a is just a huge slab of drab, soft-touch black plastic that collects a ton of fingerprint grease. Google’s attempt to replicate the Pixel 4’s camera block looks awful and pointless when there’s only one camera, and the simple, round lens cover on the Pixel 3a looked much more attractive.
SPECS AT A GLANCE
2340×1080 5.8-inches (443 ppi)
OLED, 19.5:9 aspect ratio
Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
Two 2.2GHz Cortex A76-based cores and six Cortex A55-based cores at 1.8GHz, 8nm
802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2, Bluetooth 5.0 + LE, GPS, NFC, eSIM
USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Rear: 12.2MP main camera
Front: 8MP camera
rear fingerprint reader
On the back you’ll get an old-school rear capacitive fingerprint reader instead of the in-screen reader that ships in more expensive phones. Most phones, including the Pixel 3a, give some kind of treatment to the rear capacitive fingerprint reader like a chamfered edge, or colored highlight. Seeing the plan Pixel 4a fingerprint reader shows you why. The whole back looks like it is stamped out of a single piece of plastic. The entire back of the Pixel 4a is an ugly disaster, and you do not even need to compare it to flagship phones—this is speaking strictly in comparison to the Pixel 3a. This isn’t a huge deal since most people will put the 4a in the case, but it’s a strange downgrade when it felt like Google got things right last generation.
There’s a rare headphone jack on top. When the smartphone powers that be came for the headphone jack, one of the justifications was that removing it would leave more room for the battery, but it’s interesting that the Pixel 4 with no headphone jack had a 2800mAh battery and the similar-sized Pixel 4a with headphone jack has a 3140mAh battery.
Other than that, there isn’t much else to the phone. There’s a USB-C port, stereo speakers (one on the bottom, one in the earpiece), and the usual buttons on the side. The one interesting design touch is the contrasting power button, which isn’t white—it has the slightest whiff of green to it.
The Pixel 4a is an interesting effort in Google’s supply chain cost-cutting. The phone only comes in one size, in one color, and in one storage configuration. There is a single Pixel 4a sku and that’s it. Compare that to the Pixel 4, which had two sizes, with two storage configs each, in three colors each, and that quickly multiplies up to 12 skus. Apple is absolutely flexing when it offers the iPhone 11 Pro in 24 different varieties (four colors, three storage options, and two sizes). Throughout the Pixel’s history, Google would frequently run out of a certain color or storage option, but with the Pixel 4a, it doesn’t have to worry about any of that—the Pixel 4a is the Pixel 4a, and it’s either in stock or it isn’t.
Other cost-cutting features you may or may not miss compared to flagship smartphone: the Pixel 4a has a single camera, no wireless charging, and no water resistance.
Versus the competition
We wrote last year that the Pixel 3a was “the only Pixel phone you should buy,” and things would feel the same way this year. Google really doesn’t have a solid argument for why the $800 Pixel 4 and $350 Pixel 4a should exist side-by-side, or how there is $450 worth of difference between them. The $350 Pixel 4a has a bigger display, slimmer bezels, a bigger battery, a headphone jack, more storage, and the same OS and camera as the $800 Pixel 4.
Most of the Pixel 4’s cut extras won’t be missed, either. Trading the Pixel 4’s face unlock for the Pixel 4a’s rear capacitive fingerprint is, in my opinion, an upgrade, since the fingerprint reader is faster and more reliable. The Project Soli air gesture system in the Pixel 4 never really worked well, didn’t attempt to do much (it skipped music tracks and one or two other things), and was redundant when you have a giant touchscreen. The Pixel 4 has a 90Hz display, which is a big deal, but the phone doesn’t have a big enough battery to support such a feature. The only Pixel 4 features you’ll actually miss are the water-resistance and maybe the wireless charging.
Google seems to understand that the Pixel 4a really limits the Pixel 4’s appeal, and the company took a proactive stance and discontinued the Pixel 4 just days after Pixel 4a was announced.
The Pixel 4a will see some good competition in the mid-range market, but how things work out depends a lot on which country you’re talking about. For whatever reason, no company is taking a worldwide approach to the mid-range market, so pricing and availability varies wildly.
The best bang for your buck in the Android space is still the OnePlus Nord, which at around $100 more than the Pixel 4a, gives you a bigger screen, bigger battery, and faster SoC. Most importantly though, you’d be upgrading from a 60Hz display on the Pixel 4a to a buttery smooth 90Hz panel. Faster displays means Android runs at a faster 90FPS framerate, and that makes animations and scrolling look and feel better. The Nord isn’t available in North America, though—you’ll need to be in Europe, Hong Kong, or India to buy one. India, one of OnePlus’ biggest markets, is getting an incredible deal on the Nord, with an exclusive, cheaper 6GB/64GB sku for $335. If you’re looking for an Android phone and can buy a Nord, you should buy a Nord.
If hopping ecosystems is an option, the iPhone SE is a major temptation, with its top-of-the-line Apple A13 Bionic SoC in a $400 device. This “mid-range” phone will turn in faster benchmarks than even the most expensive Android devices, which is a pretty embarrassing situation for every Android manufacturer and Android’s primary SoC vendor, Qualcomm. The iPhone SE’s headline-making $400 price is only a thing in the United States, though. In Europe and India, the iPhone SE is €489 (~$580), a 45 percent premium over the US price. The SE also only has a baseline storage of 64GB, while the Nord and Pixel 4a start at 128GB. So if you want to compare like-for-like storage, add about $50 to the price of the SE.
With the Pixel 4a, Google continues to struggle to compete in the worldwide smartphone market. The phone will only be for sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. That’s a measly 13 countries; the iPhone SE launched in 40 countries and is expected to add to that number. OnePlus is only a subsidiary of the Chinese conglomerate BBK, so it doesn’t have a global mandate, but it still launched the Nord in 30 countries. We’ve complained about it before, but Google Hardware can never be more than a small hobby until Google dramatically expands its distribution network.
The biggest competition the Pixel 4a might have for its prospective audience is from Google itself. This is probably a side effect of the numerous delays, but Google has already been teasing the Pixel 5 and a “Pixel 4a 5G” before the Pixel 4a hits shelves.
Google pushed out a significant firmware update to its Pixel Buds this week, adding several new features to the true wireless earbuds including a “bass boost” setting, sharing detection (so you can individually set volume for each earbud when sharing one of them with someone), attention alerts, and more. The updated firmware was also supposed to address the connectivity and audio dropout problems that some early Pixel Buds buyers have been complaining about.
After some time listening to the Pixel Buds today, I’d say Google succeeded at the first bit; bass boost makes for a very real improvement to sound quality if you were disappointed by low-end performance before. But the Pixel Buds’ wireless signal is still weaker than it should be, and the frustrating music disruptions remain.
After applying the update, you’ll find bass boost under the “sound” section, which also includes the new, experimental attention alert options. Toggling it on adds a substantial amount of extra oomph to the lower frequencies. If you found the Pixel Buds to be a little flat previously, you might be pleasantly surprised after trying bass boost. It makes a difference without overwhelming the mids and higher frequencies, so Google has done a nice job with the EQ tuning.
But the connectivity fixes aren’t what I hoped they’d be. The Pixel Buds have always worked fine if you’re just sitting at home on your couch or at your desk. And in all honesty, I didn’t notice many issues during my time reviewing them. But I have in the weeks since. The problem comes when you venture outside. I just moved to a fairly busy street in Brooklyn, and this morning I walked a few blocks to get a sense of whether Google has overcome the Pixel Buds dropout issues. In my experience, the (disappointing) answer is no. I still encountered signal loss and one earbud — usually the left one — cutting out for a couple seconds at a time.
If I hold my phone at around chest height, most of these problems clear up. But when it’s in my pocket, the Pixel Buds’ connectivity can be a mess and less dependable than other true wireless earbuds. Your results may vary, and I’m seeing reports from some people on the Google Pixel subreddit who are running into fewer dropouts than before. There’s more work to be done, though, and I doubt Google is finished with trying to optimize stability for the Pixel Buds.
While the Pixel 4a’s plastic body should afford it a bit more durability than “glass sandwich” flagship phones, there’s still a chance it can break. Google is once again partnering with uBreakiFix to offer same-day repairs for the Pixel 4a.
This week, the Pixel 4a began arriving to those who pre-ordered from the Google Store, and today marks the official first day of Pixel 4a sales. In light of that, uBreakiFix has confirmed to us that their partnership with Google is continuing, allowing the company to offer same-day repairs for the Pixel 4a at all 550+ locations in the US.
Since the outset of the Pixel series, uBreakiFix has been one of Google’s key repair partners in the US, offering official service for in-warranty and out-of-warranty repairs. Between that, and the fact that the Pixel 4a launch was almost certainly delayed by over two months, it’s no surprise that uBreakiFix is able to offer same-day service from the get go.
Each uBreakiFix store is equipped with Google-trained technicians to provide authorized repair service for cracked screens and other technical issues using genuine OEM parts. uBreakiFix offers authorized in- and out-of-warranty repairs for the Pixel 3a series and beyond, plus authorized out-of-warranty repairs for Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series devices.
The folks at uBreak also assure us that they’re taking the appropriate precautions both for their own safety and their customers to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 by thoroughly disinfecting your Pixel 4a both when they receive it for repair and before they return it.
Every Google Pixel smartphone has been made available to purchase in two sizes. On Monday, that strategy comes to an end with the introduction of the Google Pixel 4a, or at least that’s what everybody thought.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G will undercut the LG Velvet 5G
The smartphone that was previously known as the Google Pixel 5 XL is now understood to be the Google Pixel 4a 5G.
According to information provided by anonymous tipster
Ishan Agarwal, the midrange 5G smartphone will make its international debut this fall alongside the flagship Google Pixel 5.
High-end Pixel devices typically make their debut in early October. But this year virtually every manufacturer is facing COVID-19 delays, so an event in late October or early November seems much more likely.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G should launch shortly after the announcement and, if the information shared today is accurate, it will only cost $499 in the United States. That makes it $100 cheaper than both the LG Velvet 5G and Samsung Galaxy A71 5G.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G and two rear cameras
Despite the branding choice, reports suggest the Pixel 4a 5G will share some of its components with the flagship Google Pixel 5.
Both devices are said to incorporate the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, which has an integrated 5G modem. At least 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage are to be expected as standard too.
The camera is where things could be different. Although both the Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are expected to feature two sensors on the back, the latter will most likely inherit its cameras from the current Pixel 4 flagships.
More differences can be found in the display department. Whereas the Pixel 5 is going to feature a 5.8-inch screen, the Pixel 4a 5G looks set to adopt a 6.1-inch display and will, therefore, take the place of the canceled Google Pixel 4a XL.
For those frustrated consumers patiently waiting for Google’s next mid-range phone – the Pixel 4a – to land, OnePlus’ new “Nord” handset must be tempting.
The iPhone SE’s siren song was strong enough to steal Android users away, maybe the Nord will be the final temptation for Android diehards who have a roll of notes burning a hole through their pockets.
But there is good reason to wait. Recent leaks have surprised us with the news that the Pixel 4a will support 5G connectivity, which means a much more powerful phone than expected. Of course, the Nord does too, so what else does Google’s new phone need to do to hold on to those patiently waiting fans?
It has gradually become clear how much of an advantage Google’s feature drop program has given the company. Past updates have delivered improved selfies, car crash detection, a new digital wallet and a feature that automatically screens your calls before you answer them – all at no extra cost. That same update program is now coming to its Pixel Bud earphones.
This guaranteed consistency of new AI-based features makes Google’s phones difficult to do battle with. They’re ever evolving and responding to new trends and user needs. Of course, other companies can do this, but they largely don’t. Or, at least, not to this frequency and not with so many new features.
Google also has an in-built advantage with its work in AI, from which most (perhaps all) of the feature updates we’ve seen since last December have come from. There’s a good chance that you’ll be surprised with a new and unusual addition to your phone that you didn’t expect every few months.
Fortunately for rivals, Google makes such fundamental mistakes elsewhere – in battery life (Pixel 4 XL), memory management (Pixel 3) and a criminal lack of camera sensor options (all Pixels), that this feature drop advantage is slightly dulled. But the Pixel “a” brand is slightly different, last year’s device wasn’t burdened with the mistakes of its more expensive siblings (save for the lack of a wide-angle camera). Combine that solid base with persistently adding new functionality to your already cheap phone and Google has a winning formula.
We don’t know what the headline price of the Pixel 4a will be, but previous leaks have pointed towards $399 (via a marketing image from reputable leaker Evan Blass), with further leaks then revising the price down to $350 after the iPhone SE launched.
If the new information about the 4a supporting 5G is accurate, then $350 is a steal, especially up against the Nord’s £379 (roughly $486). Obviously conversions aren’t always representative of what pricing would be in a certain territory, OnePlus could launch the Nord in the US for $379 for numeric consistency.
But what we do know is that Google is not shy about discounting its products. Last year’s Black Friday deals saw a square $100 off the Pixel 3a, there were also intermittent discounts throughout the year and a bundle deal on the Google UK store – at launch – that saw Pixel 3a purchases come with a free Nest Hub (read here why the Nest Hub Max has become such an important device in the last few weeks).
Google has this in its arsenal: a range of other products (laptops, smart home tech, headphones) it can bundle its phones with when times get desperate. I’d wager we’ll also see some good trade-in deals from Google, too (bizarrely, OnePlus doesn’t appear to accept Google Pixel phones for trade-in).
You’ve probably noticed that I’ve left camera ability out of the reasons why I think the Pixel 4a could be a better phone. We all know Google’s superiority in computational photography makes its phones the best on the market for stills, but the search company’s insistence on not including additional sensors – like a wide-angle lens – is grating, especially when competition like the Nord and Moto G 5G Plus have an array of (albeit inferior) sensors. We’ll have to see if it changes this long-held policy when the 4a finally lands.
the Pixel 4a has been spotted at the FCC. Once again, the latest Pixel will use an e-label and there are three model numbers: G025J, G025M, and G025N. The first model number is presumed to be for U.S. variants of the phone while the other two designate models offered in other countries. Google filed the paperwork with the FCC on April 2nd.
The Google Pixel 4a is the runner up to last year’s red hot
Pixel 3a XL. For $399, consumers were buying the amazing Google photo processing prowess that gets more done with a single camera than many manufacturers can with a multiple rear-camera setup.
The FCC shares the frequency range for the Pixel 4a
The Pixel 4a (sorry boys and girls, Google doesn’t play the budget ‘XL’ game any more) is expected to hit the market wearing a 5.81-inch OLED panel with a resolution of 1080 x 2340. That works out to an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The phone should be powered by the Snapdragon 730 chipset and sport 6GB of memory, a 50% hike from last year’s model. We could see versions of the phone with 64GB and 128GB of storage.Here’s a stunner. The expected battery capacity of 3080mAh is larger than the 2800mAh battery on the full-size
Pixel 4! The Pixel 4a is rumored to feature the same 12.2MP primary and 16MP telephoto cameras seen on the back of the Pixel 4.
Now that we know that the FCC has given a thumbs up for the Pixel 4a, the unveiling shouldn’t be that far away. Earlier this week, we told you that listings for the phone published by a couple of etailers in Europe
hinted at an early July release for the handset. We should point out that the FCC did not mention the Soli radar chip like it did when the Pixel 4 series passed through its doors. The FCC regulates the mmWave frequencies that Soli runs on. However, this really is not a major surprise since we didn’t see any hint that the feature would be available for the Pixel 4a.
While all eyes were on the Android 11 beta yesterday, Google also made a subtle change to the Pixel series’ catalog of past updates, adding links to the Android Flash Tool for every update.
Earlier this year, Google unveiled the Android Flash Tool as an entirely too easy way for Android users to flash the newest AOSP builds onto their Pixel phone. Using the fully web-based tool, you no longer need to install specialized Android developer tools like ADB in order to flash a new build of Android.
For the Android 11 Developer Previews and Beta 1, Google has repurposed the Android Flash Tool to allow Pixel owners to install the pre-release software onto their phone. But if you ever wanted or needed to downgrade — such as to regain access to Google Pay — you’re stuck performing a somewhat convoluted process.
As of last night, the Google Pixel factory images page — in addition to its normal role of providing downloads for the full system files of Pixel phones — has been updated to include Android Flash Tool links for every past update on the Pixel 2 and newer. That means with just a USB cable and a few clicks in your browser, you can revert your Pixel from Android 11 Beta back to Android 10.
Similarly, if for whatever reason, you want to remember what your phone was like at a previous point in time, you can revert devices like the Pixel 2 all the way back to the original build of Oreo that it shipped with in 2017, using the Android Flash Tool. Importantly though, any time you move backwards to an older version of Android, your phone’s data will be wiped. With that in mind, be sure to back up your files regularly and use the Android Flash Tool responsibly.
Or, if you’re not sure which version is the right one for you and your device, Google has also created a handy “back to public” link which automatically directs you to the latest version of Android available for your phone.
We’ve been seeing Pixel 4a leaks drop almost on a daily basis thanks to folks over at TecnoLike Plus who have an early unit. This time, rumors suggest that Google’s new mid-ranger will be ditching a legacy Pixel feature that’s been around since the Pixel 2 – Active Edge.
Active Edge allows you to squeeze the edges of your Pixel phones to bring up the Google Assistant. It can also help you silence incoming calls, timers, notifications, and more.
Now, we hear that the early Pixel 4a unit with TecnoLike Plus‘ Julio Lusson does not have the Active Edge feature. Its absence from the upcoming Google phone has also been confirmed by 9to5Google’sStephen Hall.
Can confirm that Active Edge is not available on @julio_lusson‘s Pixel 4a.
We’re not sure if this double-tap gesture will land on all older Pixel phones, but it seemingly doesn’t require any special hardware – just the phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope. The feature could either debut on Android 11 or the new Pixel 4a, with the Android 11 beta and new phone expected to launch at roughly the same time.
Pixel 4a: It’s Google’s time to shine (Update: Video!)
The universe is conspiring in helping Google achieve success. The sixth phone in the Pixel family will launch very soon, and I think that, despite the bleak circumstances, it will be Google’s most successful release yet. Of …
Meanwhile, the demise of Active Edge could actually be a good thing. The feature hasn’t been very consistent across the Pixel line, with many users complaining from time-to-time that it stops working or triggers accidentally. You can read some of those complaints on Google’s own forums, XDA forums, and Reddit.
That’s not to say users didn’t enjoy Active Edge. Many have previously taken to Reddit to appreciate it, going as far as saying that they’ll switch brands if Google does away with it.
What do you think of Google’s Active Edge feature? Should the company ditch it on the Pixel 4a and other future phones? Take our quick poll below and give us your thoughts.
With Google’s new Pixel Buds, there is one thing we didn’t know all of our other earbuds were missing – a completely hands-free Google Assistant built in. While they have their flaws, they are available starting today, in clearly white, for $179 with Almost Black, Quite Mint and Oh so Orange coming “later” says Google.
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