Pixel 4a vs iPhone 9: Google and Apple's upcoming budget phones compared

Pixel 4a vs iPhone 9: preliminary specs comparison
If the rumor mill can be trusted (and we’re quite confident in it this time), in the first half of 2020 we’ll see two budget-oriented phones from the two mobile OS developers: Google and Apple. And while there’s still nothing official about these phones, there are plenty of leaks to go around. So, what else should we do while waiting than to gather the available information and make a quick comparison between these baby flagships?

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Pixel 4a vs iPhone 9 design and display

When it comes to looks, Apple and Google will apparently take two very different approaches.

Apple is said to release a phone that looks like most iPhones from the pre-notch era. This means that the thick top and bottom bezels and the good old home button will make an appearance in 2020.

Some might say this is lazy on Apple’s behalf while others will welcome the classic iPhone design we’re all used to. 

Google, on the other hand, is going with a completely new design for its cheaper Pixel. Gone is the thick top bezel (well, almost), replaced by a small hole for the front-facing camera. This makes the phone look more premium than its pricier counterpart but perhaps that will change once the Pixel 5 comes out this Fall.

When it comes to display sizes, the Pixel has the iPhone beat with its 5.7-inch screen compared to the expected 4.7-inch one on the iPhone 9. According to the leaks, this year there will be no XL variant of the budget Pixel, instead, the display size is between last year's Pixel 3a and 3a XL. Google wins in another display category by choosing OLED over LCD, which is what the cheap iPhone will be getting.

On the back, the Pixel 4a will rely on a plastic cover to keep the internals away from harm while the iPhone 9 is expected to have a more premium metal back.

iPhone 9 vs Pixel 4a specs comparison

Speaking of internals, the rumors suggest that the iPhone 9 will take the A13 Bionic from the latest iPhones which will make it significantly faster than any other smartphone in its price category. And yes, that includes the Pixel 4a as well. Last year, Google settled for a decent mid-range chip and we’ll likely see the same this year, the top candidate for the Pixel 4a being the Snapdragon 730.

*all specs are based on leaks and rumors

Unsurprisingly, base storage is expected to be 64GB for both handsets. And when it comes to memory, the Pixel 4a will likely have 4GB of RAM, one more than the iPhone 9.

Battery capacity is still under wraps but we’re hoping for at least 3,500mAh on each of the devices. However, even the iPhone 11 Pro comes with a battery around 3,000mAh, so that might be a more realistic expectation for the iPhone 9. Still, combined with the smaller display, even that will result in an excellent battery life. 

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL had batteries with 3,000 and 3,700mAh capacity respectively, so 3,500mAh for the battery of the Pixel 4a is completely doable.


For these affordable phones, both Google and Apple are snipping away one of the cameras from their flagships, leaving them with only one sensor (likely 12MP) at the back. The iPhone 9 should have camera performance similar to that of the iPhone 11, only without the ultra-wide-angle option, while the Pixel 4a will harness the power of Google’s computational photography to rival proper flagships when it comes to photo quality. Unique features like Astrophotography mode will also make it to the baby Pixel, which is what makes it a lucrative choice.

The iPhone 9, on the other hand, will get Apple’s new Night Mode, providing massive low-light photography improvements for those that own older iPhones and will be looking to finally upgrade.

Prices and release dates for the Pixel 4a and iPhone 9

Nothing definitive is yet known about how much these two phones will cost, but we have a pretty good idea.

The Pixel 4a is expected to start at $399 just like the Pixel 3a. However, since the device is larger and there won’t be a Pixel 4a XL (which starts at $479), Google can potentially bump up the price to $450.

On Apple’s side of things, the situation is very similar. Rumors are placing the iPhone 9 at $399 and while a lower price is almost out of the question, it won’t be a huge surprise if we see the phone hit the market starting at $450.

When it comes to release dates, we have our informed guesses as well. If the Pixel 4a follows in the steps of the 3a, then it should be announced before this year’s Google I/O conference, or in other words, sometime in early May.

The iPhone 9 is expected to appear a bit earlier, in March, if the rumors are to be believed. The exact dates will likely leak as well before their official announcements, so keep an eye around for that.

All in all, both devices have the potential to be amazing value propositions. If the reality aligns with the information presented above, they'll be the preferred choice for those that want all the essential features of the flagships without the fancy extras and four-digit price. 

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