Google finally revealed the Pixel 4A yesterday to rave reviews across tech blogs and YouTube. This is due to the fact that it sticks to the fundamentals. It is a midrange smartphone with a flagship level camera and that is one enticing prospect for many people.
The rest of the specifications are also pretty decent. It has a 5.81 inch 1080p display, runs on the Snapdragon 730 processor, has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and has a 3140mAh battery. The killer features are obviously the software and the cameras. It runs on Android 10 that is guaranteed a minimum of 3 years of updates which is surprisingly rare on Android. The cameras is why I love this specific line of smartphone.
Just like the Pixel 3a, Google stuffed the Pixel 4a with the same single main 12.2MP camera with a f/1.7 aperture and 1.4 μm pixel width, which makes it take incredible photos for a $350. They did not add any cameras that we see on Android phones like depth sensors, ultrawide sensors and macro sensors which are usually of lower quality than what we see on flagships. They just focused on providing you with a flagship level camera at a third of the price, and I love this concept.
This concept was so good with the Pixel 3a to the point where we appreciated the iPhone SE 2nd generation even more this year. Apple stuck a flagship level CPU and a great camera in a sub $400 body without adding extra cameras that would have been lower quality to fit the target budget.
Less is more..
The smartphone industry is incredibly competitive. Manufacturers are forced to make some decisions solely on the fact that they have to show that people are getting value for their product. If you seem like you’re offering less, (like less cameras than your competitor), it would mean that it might be overlooked.
However, that is a problem. I can bet barely no one uses the additional cameras that you see in midrange to lower specified smartphones. The formula is having three or four or 5 cameras at the back that is comprised of the main camera (like a 48MP or 64MP unit), an ultrawide camera (usually 8MP at this price range) and either a 2MP depth/macro/monochrome sensor.
The fact is that most people will genuinely use the main sensor because it is the best quality and will hardly use the others, maybe the ultrawide for those dramatic shots, but the quality at this price range is usually mediocre. However, if they offered one great camera like the Pixel 4a or the iPhone SE 2020 and not bother to add the extra cameras (which cost money), most people won’t wail at the loss of the other sensors. Less is definitely more in this case.
Will Android smartphone manufacturers change this trend?
I don’t see this trend ending any time soon and the reason is that products on the Android side of things are market focused and not consumer focused. Google and Apple are different here because the former treats the Pixel line as a hobby and a blueprint of how to do things while the latter is known for their customer first approach of doing things.
We need to see more established players to drop the circus of offering extra cameras that don’t make the package any better, but only serve to make sure that they seem competitive enough in the cutthroat industry. This would mean that the extra money saved would be used to get us great cameras on our phones, cheap or not, and I bet a lot of people will be okay with that.
Thanks to the Google Pixel 3a/4a and the iPhone SE 2020, they have shown that less can be indeed more, where less means we get better cameras on phones not labelled as ‘flagships’.