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Five changes we’d make to the Pixel 4a


The Pixel 4a is an incredible phone, and not just for the money. With an incredible camera, a new design that feels much more modern, and amazing battery life, Google really did knock it out of the park with its new budget Pixel. Seriously: this is a damn good phone. But we wouldn’t be proper phone nerds if we didn’t nitpick, and there are a few areas where we think Google could take the Pixel 4a from a 9.5 to a perfect 10 in our book. Here are five additional features we’d have loved to see in the Pixel 4a.

Another year of updates

The Pixel 4a has the longest guaranteed software support of any Android phone you can currently buy — it’ll stay up to date until at least August 2023. Considering it costs $350, that’s pretty fantastic, but it’s not the best in the business: Apple keeps its phones updated considerably longer than Google does. The iPhone 6, which will be five years old this fall, is on the latest version of iOS.

Software updates are a thorn in Android’s side as a whole, but it would be reassuring if Google could keep its own phones on the current version of its own software for longer. As consumers, we should always be pushing companies to support products as long as humanly possible, and the Pixel 4a feels like a budget phone ready for the long haul. This phone could definitely last someone 5 years — why not support it that long?

Better plastic in more colors

Plastic is cheaper than glass, so it makes perfect sense that a less expensive phone would roll with a polycarbonate body. But the particular textured finish Google applied to the 4a makes the phone an oil magnet, showing fingerprints in a way plastic shouldn’t. The 3a is plastic, too, but its finish doesn’t trap oil to nearly the same degree as the 4a’s.

Another advantage last year’s a phone had: color choices. The 4a doesn’t come in any of Google’s trademark fun colors like Oh So Orange or Purple-ish. You can’t even get it in white. Having only a single colorway simplifies the manufacturing process and cuts cost, but options would still be nice. Black phones are also just natural smudge magnets, which just makes the fingerprint issue even worse.

IP-rated water resistance

Water resistance ratings aren’t free; the certification process is involved and costly. Even so, Apple’s $399 iPhone SE, the Pixel 4a’s stiffest competition, is IP rated. If Google wants to seriously compete with Apple in the upper-mid-range space, it’s going to have to pony up for some extra bells and whistles. Water resistance is understandably important to a lot of buyers — the prospect of an unexpected rainstorm ruining your pocket computer is an ugly one.

Another camera

Five changes we'd make to the Pixel 4a 2

Photos from the Pixel 4a’s only rear camera are more or less identical to ones from the Pixel 4’s primary shooter. That means this $349 phone ranks among the best phones for photography, bar none. That’s fantastic.

But in 2020, phones have multiple cameras — even super-cheap options like the Samsung Galaxy A11. We don’t want a useless macro or “depth” camera, but the inclusion of a wide or telephoto lens would really round out the package. (It’d also make the square camera bump look slightly less silly.)

Wireless charging

Yes, the Pixel 4a is cheap, but this is another feature it lacks that its biggest competition across the OS aisle offers. Wired-only charging is a budget look in a way Google doesn’t want. When $50 earbuds have wireless charging, there’s no reason a $350 phone can’t.

Even if it meant tacking another $50 onto the price tag, these five features would propel the 4a’s already high value to stratospheric heights. While it’s entirely likely that making its budget offering too good would cut into sales of the upcoming Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, we can still dream — and start prematurely guessing at what an eventual Pixel 5a will look like.

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