September 28, 2020

Google earns Pixel 4a praise but there’s a 5G twist, and more tech news today

Pixel 4a reviews are rave, but what's happening with the 5G models out in just a few months? Plus more tech news today!

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, 4 August 2020.

1. Pixel 4a reviews and views

As it turns out, loads of reviewers had hands-on with the Pixel 4a in advance of Google announcing the phone, which came out in one model for $349/£349/€349. And, the majority reckon it’s pretty good.

My colleague David Imel calls it Google’s best phone in years in his review, noting that it’s one of the best experiences on Android, for one-third the price of flagships, and adding: “If you don’t care about flashy features and just want something that works well, the Pixel 4a is a no-brainer.�

  • The camera here is again the real winning element.
  • It has the same 12.2MP Sony IMX363 rear sensor as the Pixel 4, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3, and it offers much of the same.
  • Here, versus the 3a, the Snapdragon 730G looks to have given Google some improvements, with better white balance, employing warmer tones and more balanced shadows.
  • Google didn’t get anything wrong here. You get good battery life which really matters, NFC, headphone jack, and a rear fingerprint sensor which may not be ideal, but the fundamentals are all solid. It’s a great deal.
  • Competition: The Pixel 4a also matches up well with the Apple iPhone SE, the only real competition in the US. At $349, that’s a full $50 difference, but that’s probably not enough to make people decide beyond which ecosystem they want to be with.
  • Google’s going with a super tidy more-Google-than-Android experience, and the camera, while the hardware is acceptable.
  • In Europe and wider, there’s more competition from the OnePlus Nord, and Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro, both of which are more expensive and have better processors, 5G support, faster refresh rate displays, and so on.
  • None of them match the Pixel 4a camera, though, and the Pixel 4a will get to Android 13 and likely 14, which beats out the updates we normally see from other Android makers. And, at €349, the Pixel 4a is still cheaper.
  • In any case, expect a lot of comparisons, and it’s out August 20.
  • But Google still has more to come…

5G Pixels:

  • The confounding thing is that Google also revealed the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, yesterday, including the above pic.
  • “This fall, we’ll have two more devices to talk about: the Pixel 4a (5G), starting at $499, and Pixel 5, both with 5G…â€�
  • “Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 will be available in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.â€� Google did confirm India isn’t in its plans for its 5G phones.
  • So, huh. Let’s start with what we know: $499 is a $150 jump. That looks like it’ll include a bigger display, 5G support meaning a new chipset meaning more performance and longevity, and hopefully a bigger battery.
  • There are also rumors of a second camera lens.
  • We don’t know when. Google’s promise of fall or autumn could be any time between Septemberish all the way to December if you go for the actual seasonal guide.
  • Why, and what’s going on? Well, it’s clear Google intended to release the Pixel 4a in May at Google I/O. We see that in the apps loaded onto the device that are dated with May releases, leaked promo images using the date of May 12.
  • Obviously, the pandemic got in the way of those plans, and that’s why we’ve seen leaks of the device for the past three months or so.
  • So that brings the 4a much closer to the release of the 5G models, which is unexpected and probably not ideal for Google. Carrier support seems more limited with this phone, too.
  • The Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 will serve different customer bases, but Google has to get a lot right at the premium end to make the Pixel 5 a winner.
  • Better phones are coming, though, apparently.

Quick thoughts:

  • My opinion is that I signed up on the waitlist straight away. That didn’t require payment, nor give any sort of indication as to when exactly orders will happen, but I think I’m in. I’ll check out what Samsung launches tomorrow, and anything else happening as this month unfolds. But it seems like it’s going to be hard to beat.
  • I mean, I would prefer a OnePlus Nord for almost everything it offers, but the desire for a high-end camera pushes me towards the Pixel 4a.
  • My colleague Jimmy Westenberg is more direct: “Call me crazy, but I’m definitely trading in my Pixel 4 XL for the Pixel 4aâ€� (Android Authority).

2. 🔜 Unpacked leaks: New Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 renders leave little to the imagination, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 appears in last-minute video leaks and Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked video teases the Note 20, with a side of BTS (Android Authority).


3. The Microsoft-TikTok saga is getting pretty weird. Here’s the latest, including expectations ‘a chunk of the sale price’ will wind up in the accounts of the American government. The government may also want Microsoft to buy the whole thing, not just a select few countries (TechCrunch).


4. As Apple’s stock skyrockets to the company being the biggest in the world, John Gruber has brief, sober thoughts: “the difficult part of Tim Cook’s era as CEO is really only beginning.� (Daring Fireball). Also, Here’s what Apple-leaning fans think of the Pixel 4a: lots of good stuff about more competition, lots of faith in Apple’s A13 Bionic chip and longer shelf life.


5. PS4 game sales almost doubled during the pandemic, and 74 percent were bought digitally, which makes sense. PS4s sold plenty of consoles too, despite the PS5 on the horizon (Engadget).


6. TV displays will soon be flexible if LG has any say. The 65-inch bending TV really is something (Gizmodo). Mind you: There’s nothing good on TV: ‘With more streaming options and shows to watch than ever, why does it feel like there isn’t anything on?’ (The Verge).


7. FAA shares new steps for Boeing to return 737 Max to the skies, with four key changes to be made (The Verge).


8. Can we kill plastic? (CNET).


10 Australia just invented Shazam for spiders (CNET).


11. Twitter expects a fine of up to $250 million over privacy violations (Engadget).


12. SpaceX scrubbed its first attempt to ‘hop’ its Starship yesterday, but will retry today (Ars Technica).


13 “Why do we use CO2 for sparkling drinks rather than any other gas?� (r/askscience). This is super interesting, from soluble gasses to mouthfeel.


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