Google's Pixel 4A is nearly perfect, but it's missing a key feature

If it wasn't for the lack of this lone feature, the Pixel 4A would be in the running for my favorite phone so far in 2020.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on

I'm burnt out. I'm over the hyperbolic and hubris-filled flagship smartphone launches, the promises that a phone will change how I work and live, and the four-figure price tag I'll have to justify to gain access to it.

Don't get me wrong. The recently launched Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is one fine piece of kit. The Swiss Army Knife of phones, if you will. It can do anything and everything you'd want a phone to do and then some. But it's also $1,300.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max that's been by my side since launch day is just as powerful and useful in my daily life, but I paid $1,249 for it. That's a lot of money for a phone, even if it is something I spend several hours staring at every single day.

To see what life was like at the other end of the phone price scale, I turned off iMessage on my iPhone, moved my SIM card to Google's $349 Pixel 4A, and have been using it as my main phone for the last week.

Picture by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

And you know what? I loved almost every second of it.

From the overall size and screen size, which was a nice break from the 6.9-inch Note 20 Ultra screen that seems more suitable for a tablet than a phone, to the consistent performance that was free of any hiccups or issues, the entire experience was enjoyable.

There's always a little adjustment period after switching to the 5.8-inch screen, getting used to whatever is on your display being slightly smaller, but after a day or two of use, I began to enjoy how easily it slipped into my pocket, or how easily it was to use with a single hand.

Even though it doesn't use Qualcomm's top-of-the-line processor, with Google using the Snapdragon 730G processor, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of storage, I've had zero performance issues. I expected some sort of slowdown or sluggishness at times, but I've yet to push the 4A to its limits -- and I haven't been easy on it.

Most of my use has been with YouTube or Twitch streaming in picture-in-picture mode while I catch up on Twitter and Reddit or read some news. And the 4A kept up at all times.

I've yelled as loud as I can about my preference for Face ID or Face Unlock-like security solutions in the past, but I have to admit, during a pandemic when I'm wearing a face mask anytime I leave the house, having a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone has been fantastic.

Picture by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

I much prefer that placement to the in-screen sensors we see on high-end phones -- cool as it may be. There's an ease of use that comes from the sensor on the back of the phone.

Google's Pixel phones are known for having some of the best cameras on a smartphone, and, again, the 4A does not disappoint. I admittedly am not taking nearly as many photos as I was before the pandemic and staying home became the norm, but the few photos I have taken have looked sharp and crisp, and I'd have zero issues with using the 4A's camera as my sole camera when traveling.

Battery life has been good enough. I'm able to get through a full day of use, but just barely. If I was traveling, I imagine the battery life would fall short of a long day of texting, checking flight statuses, hailing an Uber, and calling home. A portable battery pack would be required to make it.

Also: USB Power Delivery is the fastest way to charge iPhone and Android devices

But it's not battery life that frustrates me. Sure, I wish it was slightly better, but what I really miss on the Pixel 4A is wireless charging. It wasn't until I started testing the 4A that I realized how my charging setup is 100% wireless. I have a wireless charger on my nightstand, one on my desk, and another in my car.

So, for the last week, I've had to add wall adapters and cables to the places where I normally charge, and it's just… clunky. Man, if the 4A had wireless charging I'd be so incredibly content with this phone. It's incredibly affordable, and even more capable than I expected.

Did you buy a Pixel 4A? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you miss wireless charging, or is there another feature you wish it had? Let us know in the comments below. 


Best online colleges in Texas 2022
The flag of the state of Texas flies in front of a blue sky.

Best online colleges in Texas 2022

Raspberry Pi: This 'much requested' feature just took a big step forwards

Raspberry Pi: This 'much requested' feature just took a big step forwards

How to recover deleted files in Windows 10 or 11

How to recover deleted files in Windows 10 or 11