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Fast Charge: The Pixel 4a is great – but I won’t miss the Pixel 5a

It has been a week since Google announced the Pixel 5a and stated that, after reports the device had been cancelled altogether, it would only be coming to the USA and Japan.

Considering the Pixel 4a was one of the best cheap phones I tested in 2021, I was initially shocked the follow-up wouldn’t see a release in the UK.

But after spending some time with a number of very affordable, very high-specced and very good phones over the past few days my mind has changed slightly. In markets like the UK, can Google really offer some of the tech available elsewhere for the price?

The Pixel 4a is a great phone – but it’s a little basic. It sells itself solely on camera performance and its smaller than average size, falling behind the competition in many areas. I can’t imagine Google will be doing anything different with the Pixel 5a.

The competition is huge

Already this year I have been blown away by what’s an offer at a similar price to the Pixel 4a. Phones like the Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro offer a 120Hz OLED display, a huge battery and ridiculously fast charging for £249 – that’s £100 cheaper than the Pixel 4a.

In his in-depth review, Jon Mundy said “The Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of the best cheap phones you can buy, it is even better than some of the best mid-range phones we have reviewed. There aren’t many phones on the market today that give you more for your money.”

Then there’s the Poco range – another Xiaomi brand – which is currently headlined by the Poco F3. This £329 phone has a processor that trounces the flagship Pixel 5 and offers 5G – something else missing on the 4a, though would surely be added to the 5a.

There are other options too. Both the Realme 8 Pro and Realme X50 Pro have impressed and come in well below the Pixel 4a’s asking price.

These phones may not offer the sheer picture quality of the Pixel 4a, but they do offer more variety with different lens and zoom options. If you don’t need the very best picture quality, there’s very little reason to plump for a Pixel over one of these phones and I can’t see the Pixel 5a being a big enough step forward to catch them.

Pixel 4a 5G

Pixel 4a 5G

It’s also worth taking into account the Pixel 4a 5G which, despite its name, is actually more like a Pixel 5 than a Pixel 4a. It matches the pricier model in terms of processor and camera. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to picture the Pixel 5a looking very much like the 4a 5G. Add too many extra features and you’ll start encroaching on the Pixel 5, or whatever Google has in store for the Pixel 6.

This isn’t to say Google should ditch its A series of phones altogether in the UK. While the phones listed above do impress in many areas, I am still disappointed by the software they use. Xiaomi’s version of Android is among the worst, with in-built ads, heavy bloatware and bugs. Google’s Pixel phones aren’t free of bugs, but you get frequent updates and a slick version of Android.

Maybe in 2022 when enough time has passed and the Pixel 4a feels truly outdated I would welcome the 6a’s arrival, but for now, there’s just too many other great cheap phones taking the limelight away from Google’s A series.

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