Ok Google, so when is the Pixel 4a coming?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Google has been technically building its own phones for only the last three years, but the first Android handset co-branded by the search giant and longtime trusted partner HTC dates all the way back to January 2010. That basically means Apple got a head start of less than three years on its software arch-rival in the mobile hardware scene, while Samsung was obviously an established name in the industry which also happened to turn the page to an exciting new chapter with the first Galaxy S edition in, you guessed it, 2010.

Fast forward a decade, and Big G is still struggling to be taken seriously as a challenger for Samsung, Apple, and yes, even Huawei in the high-end smartphone arena. Although the company had all the time in the world, as well as resources most major handset vendors can't even afford to dream of, its global presence remains as negligible as ever. Heck, Google hasn't been able to make great inroads in the US market either, despite clearly spending an obscene amount of money on prominent billboards, Eminem publicity stunts, Avengers cameos, and Ellen DeGeneres Show product placement.


Of course, that was all before the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, which are finally here to... leave Android power users hoping for bigger batteries, more storage, or at least a slightly faster processor bitterly disappointed. In the words of great philosophers around the interwebs, this ain't it, chief. It's not what Google needs to prove it can play in the big leagues with the three aforementioned heavyweights when it comes to hardware innovation, and it's most likely not what consumers want at a time of lengthening upgrade cycles and general industry stagnation

But Google did do something right this year that many people seem to be ignoring for a relatively good reason. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are obviously not as glamorous as the iPhone 11 Pro or Galaxy Note 10+, but they're exactly what the company needed to push its vision to an audience the high-end Pixel 3 could never reach. While the realist in me badly wants to continue roasting Google for all the glaring flaws of the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, the hopeless optimist in me keeps asking one question ever since the first disheartening leaks came in.

What if the Pixel 4a is Google's true flagship?


I fully realize that may sound absurd at first, but while we in the tech world have come to equate the term "flagship" with high-end devices, I'd like to turn your attention to the actual definition of the word. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a flagship is the "best or most important product, idea, building, etc. that an organization owns or produces." Now, is there anyone in the whole wide world who feels the Pixel 4 is Google's most important product?

I certainly don't, and although we've yet to see a reliable source try to guesstimate the exact sales numbers of the Pixel 3a, something tells me the Pixel 4 will not be able to come close to the mainstream popularity of its humbler forerunners. By one count, Google boosted its US figures by a whopping 88 percent year-on-year during the second quarter, and yes, the Pixel 3a is still listed as Amazon's number one best seller in the unlocked cell phones category, as well as B&H's second best-selling handset.


Meanwhile, the high-end Pixel 3 was officially confirmed back in April as a worse box-office performer than the Pixel 2 a year before. And make no mistake, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL didn't exactly sell like hotcakes either.

Now, granted, the mid-range business is a low-margin game, but instead of trying to rival Apple in terms of the profit made from each phone sold, Google may want to focus on building and expanding an audience willing to spend money on software and services in the long run. Clearly, the Alphabet-owned giant can afford to lose a little bit of cash in the short term in order to achieve its grander goals.

All the signs are there


Still think my evaluation of Google's product release strategy is outlandish? Then how do you explain the Pixel 4 feels so much like an afterthought? I'm not saying the company didn't try to make the phone look good, but it certainly didn't try very hard. 64 and 128GB storage options in late 2019, Google?! A 2,800mAh battery on a 5.7-inch phone with a Snapdragon 855 processor?!? No ultra wide-angle lens?!?!? No unlimited full-res Google Photos storage??????? There's no explaining these wholly unnecessary compromises... unless Google has bigger fish to fry, putting more resources into making the Pixel 4a as great as it can be at the lowest possible price.

And what about all the half-baked experiments? While the in-depth reviews are not in yet, the "revolutionary" Motion Sense user interface strikes me as painfully gimmicky in every single demo Google has so far released. Does the radar-based gesture technology have potential? Perhaps, but right now, those "Quick Gestures" don't look a great deal more useful than what LG tried on the G8 ThinQ.


Then you have the controversial decision to ditch fingerprint recognition entirely in favor of 3D face unlock technology, which might sound like a good idea after the latest Galaxy S10 security issue... until you find out the facial scanner works even with your eyes closed. You know what has far less accuracy and security problems than an in-display fingerprint reader or a half-baked Face ID clone? A good old fashioned physical fingerprint sensor, and there's no reason why the Pixel 4a and 4a XL shouldn't come with one mounted on the back.

Of course, no one knows anything about the Pixel 4a yet, although if history is any indication, that could change in the very near future. We don't even know if there is a Pixel 4a in the pipeline, but it sure seems like Google has finally understood it was a mistake to abandon the Nexus lineup. After all, the Pixel 3a is basically a reimagined, modernized Nexus, and a Pixel 4a with the excellent-looking camera system of the Pixel 4 could be even better, setting Google up for a true hardware mainstream breakout.

The Pixel 4a doesn't even need to be groundbreaking or adopt the sleekest available design. That's the beauty of a mid-range segment that Google could end up dominating pretty soon, lifting a lot of the pressure off the company's high-enders and allowing them to continue experimenting with things like Motion Sense.

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28 Comments

1. lmao2016

Posts: 86; Member since: Mar 17, 2016

“keep roasting Google for their glaring flaws” bitch please you wish you could make a phone that ppl would talk about much less buy I bought the Pixel 4 XL 128 full price and I promise you I will love it with no regrets. go get a real job so you can actually buy things and stop complaining about things being too expensive.

2. thxultra

Posts: 470; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I agree I don't get the complaining. Wah the camera doesn't have this spec... But the pictures are as good as the iphone 11pro, It only has 6gig of ram but it runs fast so who cares. Face unlock can be used if you aren't conscious... but so can the fingerprint scanner... Same with Battery size see how it does in the real world first. As long as it gets me though the day it is fine. I charge my phones every night.

3. TBomb

Posts: 1650; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I usually charge mine periodically throughout the day. It's usually between 70-90% all day doing this. At home, I charge it while i'm getting ready for bed and unplug it when i sleep (drops down to 40ish and then back up to mid 60s when i unplug it again). Plug it in on the commute to work which gets m to 70-80 and we're back to the periodic charging throughout the day. The weekend is the only time I'm away from a charger for a long time and need some longevity.

21. Cat97

Posts: 1972; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Exactly. I love having my phone on the charger most of the time. Can't understand the complaining !

33. photo3

Posts: 30; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

I was hoping it didn’t have a battery and I could just plug it in to a wall. I wish the camera took pictures but didn’t show me them afterward cause I just like taking them not looking at them.

14. Phullofphil

Posts: 1829; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

Then get a mid range phone and be happy with it. These are high priced phones that you’re paying for

23. KParks23

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2010

I also agree the phone looks great just wish the battery was bigger.

7. inFla

Posts: 173; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

Even if you end up not liking it you won't admit it.

8. inFla

Posts: 173; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

Imao2016 Even if you end up not liking it I doubt you would admit it.

34. photo3

Posts: 30; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

There is zero chance of any fan boys admitting anything. They reverse it and bring up some other phone. Or act like a feature that doesn’t work was never really needed. Get a job and you won’t care about the price.....how bout work hard at your job making your money and expect to receive some value for what you spend.

30. applesnapple93

Posts: 333; Member since: Jan 06, 2016

I see what you're saying. But I like to wait a month or 2. I remember preordering the Nexus 5x 32GB for $429. It dropped to $199 for black friday and then the retail price dropped to $379. Google will likely drop the Pixel 4 price as it did with the Pixel 3. People with "real jobs" just NEED to be early adopters. I learned my lesson once. Wait 3 months, then buy and save money.

32. M3EEKS

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 23, 2019

I wouldn't be surprised if the 4 winds up being an extremely discounted phone. I have a bad feeling it is going to flop hard, and we'll wind up choosing between the 4a and a similarly priced 4

35. photo3

Posts: 30; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

It will be under 700 on sale for a xl 128gb. Get one on swappa in 2 months for 550. I love pixels at this price. Get one every year. My experience is it will be great for 6-8 months then get randomly slow. I will look into it and half the people will say it slowed down the other half will say “my pixel one is still blazing, you must have a bad one”. For the record I must have had a bad pixel 1,2,and 3. Probably a 4 too.

4. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

Midrange Pixels are the way to go for Google. They just can’t cut it in the flagship territory, and stand no chance trying to match their flagships against Huawei, Samsung, and Apple.

5. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

I agree MG. The Pixel 4's hardware offering for price really has me scratching my head this year. And it's not the bezels that bother me. After October 24 we'll also see if there is a flood of user glitch complaints...

6. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

And that’s the “elephant in the room” for Google: The glitched/bugs/issues that come along with owning a flagship Pixel. It’s like it’s a feature now.

10. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

The glitches are FEATURES! That's brilliant MG. Maybe these flagship phones are feature rich and do have value for the dollar. i've just been looking at the cup half empty all this time. :)

9. Vancetastic

Posts: 1710; Member since: May 17, 2017

Selling points? Cameras and updates. It's not enough. I don't understand what Google is trying to do here.

11. kiko007

Posts: 7520; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Honestly the camera isn't much of a selling point anymore either. Still shots are largely personal preference now and quality between flagship stills are almost indistinguishable to consumers. Where the Pixel really s**ts the bed is video capture and playback which is an aspect of camera quality they continue to ignore for some reason. Getting updates on time is really the only saving grace of owning a new Pixel at the moment. All the other features added thus far (such as the FaceID or Soli module) SEEM impractical to use or simply incomplete. This is a $550 phone masquerading as a premium device. You could say the same about Apple not too long ago too, but they have a competitive advantage Google doesn't in iOS.

12. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1166; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I'm an Android fan but Google definitely dropped the ball. Pixels are a half a.ss effort from Google. They're not bad phones by any standards but apart from Camera and Soli, they're behind competition in every department. Price is the key here. If Google wants to charge the same price as iPhones and Galaxies, then they need to offer everything Samsung/Apple do and then some.

13. User123456789

Posts: 1106; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Bring 4a and 4a XL for MWC. Put SD712 or 730.

15. CEDEOTB

Posts: 454; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

Every other phone manufacturer is closing the gap on Google's Camera Quality. The Pixel 4 is barely worth it unless having the latest OS update is mandatory for you I agree the 4a will sell great. A cheaper phone with comparable camera quality to the flagship is the only thing Google seems to excel at.

20. D34ever

Posts: 236; Member since: Jul 14, 2018

Google's premium handsets are DOA. Low quality and overpriced are a bad combination.

22. Centauri0

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 19, 2019

Specs specs specs, blah blah blah Have you even used a Pixel phone? They are phenomenal! Google's user experience is why you buy the phone, if you want specs galore but a bloated experience buy a Samsung. Battery lasts more than a day, Software bugs are patched monthly if needed. Pixel 4xl specs are at least better than the 3xl. My only concern is google taking away the unlimited picture storage, but for $24 a year you can still get 100Gb cloud storage which is a fair price, but still should be included for free.

25. sebstin

Posts: 193; Member since: Dec 03, 2015

Wish Pixel 4A size is 5.5" form factor with less bezels.. No big phones pl.. already 100s of 6"+ phones are there in the market..

27. tokuzumi

Posts: 1953; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Pixel 3a moved a lot of inventory. I see Google making a 4a variant. I love using my 3a. Fantastic phone.

29. svknet

Posts: 31; Member since: Mar 13, 2017

I would rather wait for OnePlus 8 or 8T, it will have everything that Pixel has with reasonable price :)

31. M3EEKS

Posts: 2; Member since: Oct 23, 2019

A Pixel 4a with a 128gb option, rear fingerprint reader, and without Solid and the forehead? I'm in! I want another Pixel, but not the 4, it's a disaster. Google are mindboggling awful at product development and product management anymore

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