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When it comes to cell phones, many models that contain all the latest technology can easily cost upwards of $1,000. While all the latest bells and whistles are certainly nice to have, it’s not always possible to justify the hefty price tag.
Luckily, the latest release from Google is aiming to bridge the gap between price and technology with their new Pixel 4a. Available today in Canada, the new phone retails for just $479 and can be purchased directly from the Google Store, as well as at Best Buy and through most major cell phone carriers like Bell, Rogers, Telus and Fido.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the new phones ahead of time, and have been putting it to the test to see how it really stacks up.
Like all Google phones, the Pixel 4a features a sleek design that’s exceptionally lightweight. Compared to the Pixel 4 that was released in 2019, there are also some major improvements that you wouldn’t expect in a more budget-friendly package.
In addition to the standard features that you’ve come to expect like the built-in Google Assistant and top notch photography, this new model also features a Pixel Imprint -- also known as a back-mounted fingerprint sensor for fast unlocking and added security.
Setup was extremely straightforward, and after signing into my Google account everything was up and running in just a couple of minutes. Signing in provides access to a whole host of built-in Google apps (Chrome, YouTube and Duo Video just to name a few) which were personalized to my existing accounts without having to do any extra work.
Featuring 128GB of storage and a 5.8 inch screen, the Pixel 4a includes some great features like Night Sight photography, which helps you take great low light photos without a flash, and Google Lens, which uses your phone’s camera to translate foreign text, scan documents to PDF, and more with just a single tap.
If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll appreciate the additional features like Portrait Mode and live HDR+ that help you capture the perfect image. You’ll even receive unlimited photo and video storage when you sign in to Google Photos, so you’ll never have to worry about running out of storage space on your phone again. I will say that at high zoom levels things start to get a bit grainy, but that’s the same for most phones unless they’re equipped with more powerful lenses.
Adaptive Battery is another handy feature that ensures that you’ll never run out of juice when you’re on the go, since this feature uses machine learning to determine which apps are frequently in use in order to limit their usage. Without heavy usage, I’ve had the battery last me nearly a full day, which is a great bonus on such an affordable cell phone.
Since I have several Google devices at home, including a Nest Learning Thermostat and a few smart lightbulbs, one of my favourite things about the Pixel 4a is how easy it was to connect to all of these devices through the built-in Google Home app. Considering it took me a quite a few attempts to set everything up with the iPhone that I was initially using, this time around it was as easy as signing into one account to find all my devices already in place.
If you’re looking to upgrade an older cell phone for a new one that’s not going to break the bank, the Pixel 4a is a great option. Compared to other similar phones, it’s significantly less expensive (the iPhone SE starts at $599)
The downside to the new, lower price is that this phone doesn’t offer wireless charging or a telephoto lens, so you won’t be getting any extreme zoom on your photos and you’ll still have to plug it in to recharge. It also only comes in one matte black colour choice, but these are some pretty minor issues that the average person looking for an affordable new cell phone would be likely to overlook.