This story was originally published 2020/03/19 9:00am PDTon Mar 19, 2020 and last updated 2020/06/30 10:29am PDTon Jun 30, 2020.
In the Android enthusiast bubble, the Pixel 4a is one of the most hotly anticipated devices of 2020. The previous Pixel 3a won our phone of the year award, and both hopes and concerns are high when it comes to the follow-up. At this point, we know almost everything about the phone, from specs and benchmarks to the bump in base storage and a potentially reduced price. But one detail remains unknown: When will the phone come out? With the Pixel 4a finally making an appearance at the FCC, we may not have too much longer to wait.
What will it look like?
Between CAD-based renders, in-person photos, and videos, we have a very good idea of what to expect from the Pixel 4a, physically.
Some folks in Cuba even managed to get their hands on one for an early “review,” showing off the phone from almost every angle and giving us a glimpse of the (presumably pre-production) software experience and camera, too:
The Pixel 4a looks something like a lovechild between the current Pixel 3a and Google’s recent Pixel 4, featuring what looks like an all-plastic curved unibody and a Pixel 4-style square camera bump — which still looks like it only houses a single camera.
Bezels are just about gone as the phone picks up a nearly edge-to-edge screen, sporting one of those newfangled “hole-punch” or “pinhole” designs, with a front-facing camera embedded right beneath the display in the top left corner. Rick Osterloh was even spotted tweeting from a 4a, as in a screenshot he shared, the digital cutout for the pinhole camera was clearly visible.
A rear-mounted fingerprint sensor lies around back, which, together with the front bezels, indicates there’s no secure infrared camera-based face unlock (as with the Pixel 4).
We’ve seen leaks showing the phone in the usual white and black colorways, and we expect the wildcard may be a light blue hue of some kind (according to YouTuber Dave Lee).
Measurements for the Pixel 4a clock in at 144.2 x 69.5 x 8.2mm (9mm at the camera bump), which is just a bit smaller than the Pixel 3a. Dimensions regarding a bigger XL variant haven’t leaked, and we’re pretty sure at this point that there won’t be one (more on that later).
One phone or two?
Just one. David Lee claims we’ll just get one size for the Pixel 4a. Corroborating that, only one device codename (sunfish) has been conclusively tied to the Pixel 4a, and it’s also the only name to have surfaced more recently in a Camera app teardown.
At one point, 9to5Google had its own sources which claimed a larger 4a XL was still in the works, but if it existed, it was scrapped. 9to5Google also located this image of what is very likely the rear for a 4a XL that showed up on eBay.
Later leaks included full renders of the larger Pixel 4a XL:
Unfortunately for those that wanted a bigger phone, we’re pretty confident there will be only one size for the Pixel 4a — no “XL.”
What are the specs?
The hardware that will be included in the Pixel 4a is pretty well-known at this point. Between the details connected to the “sunfish” codename and the info garnered by the Cuban device leak, we can paint a nearly complete picture by the numbers.
More recently, 9to5Google got its own separate confirmation of the specs corroborating all the earlier leaks — which didn’t add much new information outside the possibility of a larger 128GB storage size.
Among the more curious changes is the fact that Google is dropping the Active Edge feature, which let you squeeze the phone to trigger the Assistant. First introduced with the Pixel 2 series, present on last year’s Pixel 3a and 3a XL, and seemingly inherited from HTC, the feature put a pair of strain gauges on the sides of the phone, and it sounds like it’s gone on the Pixel 4a.
FCC filing details have also been made public, illuminating things like LTE band support — no big surprises there.
Although it was previously speculated that “redfin” or “bramble” could be different variants of the Pixel 4a, signs now point to them being the upcoming Pixel 5, so we probably won’t see a version of the Pixel 4a with a Snapdragon 765. We’ve also got new information about just how fast the phone is, with a series of benchmarks leaking detailing the phone’s performance.
What features will it lose versus the Pixel 4?
We expect that the Pixel 4a will not have a submersion-rated IP score (the Pixel 4 is IP68), wireless charging, secure face unlock, or a dedicated telephoto camera — not to mention a difference in internal specifications for things like the chipset and display refresh rate.
As mentioned in the last section, it also won’t have the Active Edge feature, which lets you squeeze the phone to trigger the Google Assistant.
Will it have 5G?
No. The “sunfish” hardware name, which has been conclusively tied to the Pixel 4a, will specifically not support 5G given the chipset it uses.
Although we previously thought that two other hardware names (“redfin” and “bramble”) could be associated with the Pixel 4a series — and their details indicate they will support a 5G-compatible chipset — we’ve since come to believe those two devices are actually the upcoming Pixel 5. That means the Pixel 4a will be a 4G-only affair. Not that it matters right now.
How much will it cost?
Originally, we expected it would cost $400. Now, it looks like it could be $350.
Initial leaks indicated a $400 starting price, and the previous Pixel 3a also started at $400. More recent rumors suggest we might have a 128GB storage configuration with a $350 starting price point, which would be a significant reduction, and make the 4a a much stronger contender on overall value, and a better competitor against the 2020 iPhone SE.
When will it come out?
We don’t know. Google hasn’t established a habit for this new “a” series of phones, and initial expectations about a late May release were optimistic. Later rumors pointed to a launch in early June, but that hasn’t panned out either. Some other rumors claim we may not see the phone until August, but Google could release the phone in July, or even wait until the fall Made by Google event — we just don’t know.
We’re already outside the window for the original date of this year’s Google I/O developer conference — when we previously expected it to be announced, following last year’s I/O release for the Pixel 3a — and the initial German carrier leak. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely Google ran into some additional logistical delays it may not have anticipated at the outset.
Given the appearance of the phone at the FCC and timelines for previous products, I would expect to see the phone land in the next two months, but there’s no telling if that might be different considering current events.
Bonus: Leaked wallpapers
As something of a little extra, all of the Pixel 4a’s new wallpaper designs leaked recently, and they’re pretty tremendous. Google’s going full embrace-the-pinhole with them, and it results in some downright clever and weirdly cute designs, a departure from the more serious and abstract style Pixel phones have embraced to date.