Not every attempted breakthrough product Google comes up with is a success, but when the company gets something right, it tends to do it with style. A few years ago, the only phone handset manufacturer that could capture the public’s attention with a launch event or an impending launch was Apple. If we’re being totally honest, that’s still the case for a lot of people.
We’re probably still several months away from the announcement of Apple’s iPhone 12, but that hasn’t stopped the world’s press from publishing articles that speculate about everything from the potential battery life of the new device to the type of mold that’s been used to make it. That’s proof enough that speculation approaches fever pitch whenever there’s a new iPhone on the horizon, but you could almost say the same of new Google Pixel phones now.
As several of the more astute members of the smartphone-watching internet community noticed recently, Google appears to have missed the time window for its usual announcement of its next mobile phone handset. Those of us who noticed did so with a shrug. This is no ordinary year. It’s 2020, life has been on hold for millions of people for three months or more, and schedules have been turned on their heads in the worlds of technology and entertainment. It might be the case that 2020’s multitude of horrors forced Google into a slight delay, but it now appears that they won’t miss the mark by much. The FCC has just given the green light to a device owned by Google and code-named G025, and unless the tech giant has something up its sleeve that none of us know about, there’s only one device that could possibly be. The 4a appears to be just around the corner!
Normally, the ‘a’ version of Google’s flagship phone wouldn’t get this much attention, but great things are expected of this handset if we’re correct to assume that it’s nearly with us. Most reviewers in almost all respectable tech publications concurred that the Pixel 4 is an impressive device, but they all pointed out the same shortcoming, and it was the battery. For all the phone’s performance capabilities, the battery life was miserable, and the battery itself didn’t appear to be up to the task in hand from a capacity point of view. The Pixel 4a is Google’s opportunity to rectify that mistake at the same time as delivering a similar phone with a lower price point. We might be asking for a lot by expecting a better battery and a price cut at the same time, but at the same time, we have to wonder what the point of releasing a new model is at all if the battery issue hasn’t been resolved.
One thing we can say for sure about the Pixel 4a is that whenever it appears, it will automatically be compatible with Google’s Stadia video gaming platform without the need for an external controller. Stadia, which you can think of as a sort of video gaming equivalent to an online slots website, with multiple games in one place hosted externally to the device, is approaching its first year of operation but has only recently reached the point where a controller isn’t required. If anything, the ability to control games with an on-screen display makes it even more like playing Magical online slots. That might not be a totally fair comparison to make, as the complexity of the average online slots game is far lower than the complexity of the latest incarnation of “Assassin’s Creed,” but it’s interesting to see how online slots have influenced traditional video game developers and, to an extent, mobile phone handset manufacturers.
An FCC filing doesn’t give us an awful lot of information to work with regarding what this new phone handset may or may not be capable of, but the lack of a specific piece of detail may be enough to dispel one popular myth. We’ve seen it suggested elsewhere that the 4a will come with ‘Soli,’ Google’s radar sensor chip that enables facial recognition unlocking and gesture controls. While the technology exists, it uses radio frequencies and so it would have to be disclosed in the FCC application. It wasn’t, and so it’s impossible for it to be there. Sorry to anybody who was especially excited about that. It’s not all bad news, though – some of the more credible rumors we’ve seen indicate that the phone will come with a new fingerprint reader (oddly missing from the Pixel 4), and a headphone jack (ditto). We shouldn’t give the company too much credit for giving back things that should never have been taken away in the first place, but it’s better to have them than not.
Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that we’ve spoken of only one FCC approval, not two. As far as we can tell, only one set of documents was submitted to the FCC, for the approval of one singular telephone unit. That means one of two things. Either the Google Pixel 4a XL has been canceled, or the Google Pixel 4a XL will be the only ‘4a’ version of the phone. Based on the two possibilities, we think it’s a lot more likely that it’s the 4a XL that’s been nixed. We don’t know how or why Google would have come to this conclusion because we know that it was definitely on the agenda at some point, but all signs at this point indicate that the 4a will be arriving as a singular device without a bigger brother.
As for the rest of the speculation you might have seen elsewhere online, we’re going to have to wait and see what turns up. We’d love to be able to tell you that Google is now exclusively using Universal Flash Storage as opposed to eMMC flash, but that’s speculation until we get our hands on the specifications. The front-facing camera might well be 8 megapixels, but until we’ve seen it with our own eyes, we’re refusing to believe it. Solid information will arrive shortly, but in the meantime, we’re just happy to be able to confirm that a new phone is arriving at all.
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