Pixel 4a: Release date, leaks and what we’d like to see from Google’s next affordable phone

We lost count of the number of flagship smartphone releases in 2019, but one of our favourite handsets of the year was is actually a mid-ranger. The Google Pixel 3a really impressed us, largely because it offers the Pixel 3’s exceptional camera at a far more affordable price point. 

Pixel 4a leaks have now started to increase in regularity, so read on for what a roundup of what we’re expecting (and a bit of what we’d like to see) from the phone.

Pixel 4a release date

We’re expecting Google to unleash the Pixel 4a in May 2020. That’s because most smartphone makers work to a 12-month refresh cycle, and the Pixel 3a and 3a XL came out in May 2019.

Some doubt has been cast over the launch of the Pixel 4a XL. Popular YouTuber Dave Lee has claimed that the Pixel 4a will only be available in one size option: standard. However, we’re far from convinced by this.

Google Pixel 3a front straight handheld

Pixel 4a price

The Pixel 3a was a runaway success for Google. It launched with an RRP of £399, with the Pixel 3a XL costing £469 − roughly half as much as the Pixel 3 (£739) and Pixel 3 XL (£869), which didn’t sell particularly well.

In its Q2 2019 earnings call on July 25, just three months after the launch of the Pixel 3a range, Google revealed that the 3a and 3a XL had already more than doubled sales of its handsets year-on-year. Doubled. In just three months.

Could we expect more of the same this year? The Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4 XL, to put it bluntly, were hugely disappointing, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they end up being even less popular than the Pixel 3 range. All of which could mean that when the Pixel 4a arrives, it might be under pressure to rescue the Pixel brand all over again.

Therefore, while it’s highly unlikely that the Pixel 4a range will cost any less than the Pixel 3a range, we also don’t think Google would risk hiking up prices too much.

Google pixel 4a

Image Credit: @OnLeaks/91Mobiles

Pixel 4a camera

As mentioned above, the best thing about the Pixel 3a is that it uses pretty much the same camera setup as the flagship Pixel 3. However, this might not be the case this time around.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the first ever Pixel phones to feature more than one rear camera sensor, and we don’t know if it’s really feasible for Google to equip the mid-range 4a with such a high-end − and likely pricey − camera setup too.

A render created by tipster @OnLeaks at the end of December suggests the Pixel 4a will have a single rear camera, rather than adopting the multi-sensor setup seen on the Pixel 4.

But don’t be too disheartened. That more modest camera configuration could still be capable of smoking most of the competition. After all, much of what makes Google’s cameras so impressive is on the processing, rather than the actual hardware.

That should also mean that the Pixel 4a will miss out on the divisive chunky square camera module that’s so prominent on the Pixel 4.

XDA Developers discovered code in the Google Camera 7.3 update that mentions “pixel_20_mid_range” and suggests the Pixel 4a will give users the option to shoot video at 24fps − which is the traditional standard for films and TV shows.

Google Pixel 3a camera angled macro

Pixel 4a specs and features

In January, XDA Developers uncovered a trio of codenames in Android Open Source Project: Sunfish, Redfin and Bramble. These are thought to refer to different models in the Pixel 4a series, and they were listed alongside with the SoC platforms they’re based on.

Sunfish, it appears, will run the mid-range Snapdragon 730, while Redfin and Bramble will reportedly use the the Snapdragon 765, Qualcomm’s first mid-range processor with an integrated 5G modem.

In other words, we could get a 4G Pixel 4a and a 5G Pixel 4a.

91Mobiles reports that the Pixel 4a will be equipped with a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner and a punch-hole selfie camera in the top right-hand side of the screen.

These two claims suggest that the Pixel 4a won’t adopt two more of the Pixel 4’s headline features: Face Unlock and Project Soli.

Obviously it isn’t realistic to ask for the world in a mid-range smartphone, but there are a few potential areas of improvement we’d like Google to address with the Pixel 4a.

First and foremost, we’d like to see more choice − or at least the addition of a microSD card slot. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL both come with 64GB of internal storage, with no option to expand that. It would be great if this changed with the 4a.

We’d also love to see the arrival of wireless charging and some form of waterproofing, for added convenience.

Beyond these things, however, it would be great to see Google stick to pretty much the same formula. More Pixel 4a leaks are bound to emerge over the coming weeks and months, and we’ll keep updating this page with the biggest news.

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