Compared to the previous year’s model, the Pixel 4a has upgrades that go beyond the data sheet. But since it’s a generation old, the 2019 Pixel 3a is currently available for a hell of a cheap price, with two full years of software updates to go. Which is really the better buy?
Whether it’s useful features like auto crash detection or additional camera features like double exposure and live HDR +, the 4a definitely has the 3a clock. The question, however, is whether these additional features and incremental hardware upgrades are enough to turn the offers for a 3a down. We hope it will be easier to figure this out when you see the discrepancies listed in black and white.
1. Live HDR +
One of the downsides to HDR + is the fact that what you see in the viewfinder isn’t the final picture. This is usually a good thing as HDR + enhances the photo. However, because you can only make adjustments based on the image displayed in the viewfinder, setting up the shot can be more difficult.
Live HDR + on the Pixel 4a solves this. Using a machine learning algorithm called HDRnet, the Pixel 4a’s viewfinder can emulate HDR + post-processing so you can set up your photo accordingly. This feature, first introduced in Pixel 4, has not found its way into Pixel 3a.
2. Double exposure
Another new camera feature of the Pixel 4a is double exposure. Touch an empty area of the viewfinder to reveal two switches: Brightness and Shadow. This new system with two sliders replaces the single “Brightness” slider on the Pixel 3a and 3a XL.
The Brightness slider works the same as the individual slider on the Pixel 3a and adjusts the overall exposure of the photo. The new “shadows” only affect the dark areas and allow details to be enhanced or suppressed depending on your vision. These are great tools for those looking for artistic control.
3. Long exposure
The Pixel 4a uses the latest version of Night Sight, Google’s low-light photo mode. In addition to the improvements in machine learning, there is new hardware that enables four times longer exposure times on the Pixel 4a. With such a long exposure, the camera of the Pixel 4a can pick up more light and thus enables detailed images of the night sky or the surroundings without the need for additional lighting.
4. Snapdragon Elite Gaming
Upgrading to the Snapdragon 730G system on a chip brings a number of benefits, including Snapdragon Elite Gaming. This is a series of features that improve mobile gaming. The Pixel 4a doesn’t include all of the components, but it does have anti-cheat enhancements, a jerk reducer, HDR games, and improved color.
5th Qualcomm AI Engine 4th Gen.
While the Pixel 4a doesn’t have access to the custom Visual Core for fast image processing, it does have Qualcomm’s AI Engine to help with the calculation. This is used in all of the phone’s AI enhancement features, from voice dictation to Live HDR +. While both the Pixel 3a and 4a use the Qualcomm AI Engine, the version included in the Pixel 4a is the latest generation that is three times faster than its predecessor.
6. Premium perks
One advantage of buying a Pixel 4a is not a function in the traditional sense, but the premium discount. Unlike the Pixel 3a, Google offers incentives to buy the Pixel 4a, and not just for early adopters.
Buy and activate the Pixel 4a before April 30, 2021 to get the following free three-month subscriptions: YouTube Premium (YouTube with background playback and no ads), Google Play Pass (access to hundreds of premium games and apps), and 100 GB from Google One. Since Google One manages photos, drives, and phone backups, it replaces the free original backup of photos that were once made available to Pixel users.
7. Car accident detection
The latest version of the Personal Safety app is pre-installed on the Pixel 4a. The big new feature is auto crash detection. The various sensors in your Pixel 4a sound a loud alarm when an accident is detected. If there is no answer, 911 is automatically called and the emergency services are informed of your location.
8. Netflix HDR
Despite its awesome OLED panel, the Pixel 3a was limited to non-HDR content for everyone but YouTube. The smartphone never received Netflix certification for HDR content.
The Pixel 4a has this certification. With a minimum of 25 Mbps and a premium subscription, all HDR content hosted by Netflix can now be played on your phone at resolutions up to 1080p.
9. Recorder with assistant
The Pixel 4a has Google Assistant 2.0, both the new user interface and its functions. This means, among other things, that you can start and stop voice recordings and even save and search for files using the wizard in the new recorder app. The following sentences can be used to control the app on the 4a, but none of them work on the 3a:
- “Start voice recording”
- “End voice recording”
- “Save voice recording with title” and then your title
- “Search Voice Recording For,” then your keyword
10. More HD wireless codecs
Just because the phones have a 3.5mm jack doesn’t mean you can’t use wireless headphones. The Pixel 4a improves on this process by supporting two additional HD codecs: LDAC and AAC. LDAC is considered the best codec that can deliver up to 990 kbit / s at 24 bit / 96 kHz.
11. Faster USB connection
Both Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a have a USB Type-C port. However, the port contained in the Pixel 3a used the much slower USB 2.0 standard, which has a maximum data rate of 480 Mbit / s. The Pixel 4a has been updated to USB 3.1 Gen 1, which was formerly known as SuperSpeed + and has a data rate of 10 Gbit / s.
12. Faster internal storage
Replacing the embedded multimedia card (aka eMMc) in the Pixel 3a is the much faster Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.1 standard on the Pixel 4a. UFS can read and write at the same time, using multiple tracks to move data in internal storage, while eMMc can only run one at a time. In addition, the top speed of UFS is more than double that of eMMc, which means it can run not only more at once, but faster too.
13. Better compatibility with hearing aids
Smartphones that are compatible with a hearing aid receive two ratings, M and T. The M indicates how well a phone works with a hearing aid in the microphone setting. The higher the M number, the better the experience, with the highest rating being M4. Both phones have an M3 rating.
Where the improvements come is in the T rating, where the Pixel 4a scored a T4. This rating indicates that the Pixel 4a exceeds the ANSI standard for users who use their phone while their hearing aid is in telecoil mode.
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