Today I’m taking a look at the newest phone in the Pixel family, the Pixel 4A. This is Google’s latest mid-range offering. The Pixel 4A is powered by the QUALCOMM Snapdragon 730 with a 5.8 inch screen; 6 GB RAM; 128 GB internal storage; 3140 MA battery; rear camera at 12.2 MP and front camera at 8 MP; 18 W fast charging; and—one of my favourite specs that is getting harder to find—a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
If you want to see what’s in the box, check out Mike’s unboxing video:
Now that we know what’s in the box, how easy is it for a person who is totally blind to set up the Pixel 4A? I’m excited since I’ve never checked out a stock Android device before. Let’s power up.
There are different ways to turn on Google’s screen reading app, Talkback. I had to try a few ideas but putting two fingers on the screen about an inch apart and holding them there got the result I was looking for. You’ll hear a beep and then a prompt to turn on Talkback. Once you double tap ‘Yes’ you’ll be launched into a Talkback tutorial. Even if you’re a seasoned user, which I like to think I am, there are often modifications to discover. Go ahead and take the tutorial, you never know, you might learn something new.
After the tutorial double tap the ‘Back’ key on the bottom left of the screen to return to the setup screen. (This ‘Back’ key will vanish after set-up, but—don’t worry—it can be put right back where it belongs. More on that below.) Now pick your language. Next you insert the sim card. On the Pixel 4A, the sim tray is located on the bottom left side of the phone as it faces you. (To know if the phone is right side up, make sure the headphone jack is on the top.) Feel for a tiny hole near the sim tray. Insert the sim tool and gently slide it in until you feel resistance. Just a little pressure should pop out the tray. Insert the sim card with the shiny/slippery side facing up. It will snap into place. Google phones don’t have external storage slots so the only thing in the tray is the sim card. Slide the tray back in and continue with setup. We just have to assume all is good with the sim card because there is no reassuring message saying so.
You’ll be asked to sign into your network. Once done it will search for and install any updates.
Next you’ll be asked if you want to copy everything from your old phone onto the new Pixel 4A. Google prompts you to do this with your old phone’s charging cable. There’s a USB to USB C adapter if needed. Your old phone will request permission to dump everything onto the new phone. You are presented with a list so you can pick and choose if, for example, you don’t want to copy your music. Once you double tap ‘Next’ you’ll get a message that copying has begun. Compared to when I did this by Wi-Fi on my last phone, this was much quicker. It took about 20 minutes and, believe me, I had a lot of data on my old phone!
While the copying goes on in the background, you’ll be directed to sign in to your Google account and continue setting up the phone. A double tap on the ‘Skip’ button will send you to your home screen. If you hit ‘Next’ the phone prompts you to set up your security features. First you create a PIN and then follow the prompts to set up your fingerprint. On the Pixel 4A, the fingerprint reader is well-positioned on the back of the phone, about where your index finger naturally sits. You can set it up for several fingers, so no matter which hand your phone is in you can unlock it.
Now Google Tips pipes up and allows you to customize the features of your phone. You can skip this if you want and do it all later in the Pixel 4A settings. I did choose to set up ‘Bedtime’ right away, so I won’t be startled awake in the middle of the night by my sleepless friends’ Facebook musings.
I really like the stock Android feel of this home screen, with its minimalist take. There are no more ‘Back,’ ‘Home’ and ‘Recent Apps’ navigating buttons. Instead, you use finger gestures to navigate. ‘Home’ is a two-finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen. ‘Back’ is a two-finger swipe from the right or left edge. To open ‘Recent Apps’ swipe up with two fingers and hold. I did give these gestures a go but I preferred to go back to the classic 3 button setup. Familiarity, I guess. The change back was easily done in ‘Settings.’
One way to open ‘Settings’ is to slide 2 fingers up from the bottom of the screen to open your app drawer. Here you should also see all the apps you copied from your old phone. Scroll through the app list and then double tap on ‘Settings’. Scroll down and double tap ‘System,’ then ‘Gestures’ then ‘System Navigation,’ then finally ‘Three Button Navigation.’ Voilà, the familiar navigating buttons reappear at the bottom of the home screen and all is well in the world.
When I was exploring the Gestures menu I found a couple of cool settings. For example you can turn on ‘Flip to Shush’. With this setting on, you just have to put your phone face down and it will go into ‘do not disturb’ mode. This is why I always recommend taking some time to roam through all the settings menus. Who knows what cool thing you’ll find that might really improve your phone experience?
I’ve been using the Pixel 4A as my daily driver for the past week and have to say I’m really enjoying it. The battery life is great. With moderate use I still have about 50% power when I head to bed at the end of the day. I had one long day where I was constantly on the phone and still had 35% when I went to charge for the night. I like the size, too. My last phone had a 6.7 inch screen which was quite a handful. This 5.8 inch phone fits nicely in my hand and isn’t falling out of my pocket. Also, the physical fingerprint reader works without a hitch. (Previously, I had issues with the reliability of Samsung’s in-screen fingerprint scanner.) Pixel 4A’s fingerprint reader can also be set to open your notifications and be used for extra security with some apps, such as banking.
I’m not surprised a Pixel phone would not give me any accessibility issues since it is running stock Android and is free of the bloatware that clutters other phones. Also, I might be old school, but I am happy that they kept the headphone jack. Since I am blind, I only interact with my phone through touch and sound. Although I use Bluetooth headsets, I’m glad I still have the choice to plug in my wired headphones for better sound quality. As for sound, the Pixel 4A does only have one speaker, downward firing, but I like its full sound, especially compared to other single speaker phones I’ve used.
If I’m going to have to add a couple of cons, they would be: it’s not 5G (but Google may soon announce the Pixel 4A 5G model); and there are no external storage options. Google has never had external storage options, so if that is important to you the Pixel isn’t for you.
You can get your hands on a Pixel 4A in Canada for around $480. I really enjoyed trying it out and, for my needs, I give it 5 Taps.