Sometimes circumstances just line up for an unintended consequence. This happening is sometimes called a perfect storm, where the combination of multiple factors equals an unexpected result. This happens from time to time with product and service launches. An example of this isthe rise of ride sharing apps such as Lyft and Uber. The combination of massive urbanization of populations with a declining rate of car ownership coupled with increased smartphone usage has created this billion dollar industry over the last decade and created an avenue for a gig economy of ride sharing workers, that can be argued also helped to create the mobile food delivery industry with services such as DoorDash and GrubHub. This dynamic has gotten me to think about smartphones, more specifically the Google Pixel 4a and how that phone might just be the most important phone released this year. Here’s why.
A Volatile Climate
Consider the times that we are living in right now. We are as a global community, in the middle of a series of crises. We have a global pandemic that has infected over 2 million people and will continue to have an increase of infections in the coming weeks. Here in the United States unemployment numbers have skyrocketed. This main crisis has caused many businesses to be forced to close, people have been laid off or temporarily furloughed. World governments have had to step in to help their citizens get through this unprecedented situation that ails our modern world. This combination of factors has led to a conversation when it comes to new smartphones, specifically premium smartphones. They have lost priority among the population because of the times that we live in.
Samsung has felt this sting in particular as the launch of their Galaxy S20 lineup coincided with the global pandemic and mass stay at home orders. Also, the company went all in on the high tier this year with the entry level Galaxy S20 starting at $999. This simply does not make any sense in the modern economy during a pandemic. At this juncture, the buying public is only buying a new smartphone as a necessity for the most part. When the quarantine measures are lifted then the buying public will be in the mind state to recover from debts accrued from deferment during this crisis. What does this mean for smartphones in 2020? More than likely, it means that value will be at a premium more than ever.
While this is bad news for premium phones such as the Galaxy S or the iPhone Pro line, it means an opportunity for the midrange. Customers will inevitably need new phones, especially in a time where our digital time spent on phone screens is at an all time high. However the combination of an unexpected and unanticipated economic downturn, makes spending flagship money on a new device a bit nonsensical. The mid-range has been increasing in competence and relevance in recent years and now is the most important time for this segment. This is where the Pixel 4a comes into play.
The Pixel Effect
Last year’s Pixel 3a series was a tremendous success for Google. The reason why is rather simple. The 3a offered roughly 90% of the features of the more expensive Pixel 3 for hundreds of dollars less. Ultimately most people who bought the device took the compromise of slightly slower camera processing and a lack of wireless charging. This device proved that mid-range phones didn’t need to be a huge step down from their flagship counterparts. Most importantly though, the 3a solved the biggest hole of going mid-range: the camera.
The camera on the Pixel 3a was incredible from this standpoint: it was essentially the exact experience from the Pixel 3 for half the price. When you really consider the $400 space for phones this was an instant game changer. All of the Motorola phones, mid range Nokia devices, and Samsung Galaxy A series phones could not compete with the camera quality of the Pixel 3a. The phone became an instant recommendation for people seeking a low cost option that will still ensure a high quality user experience. The foundation has been set for the 4a to be the dominating force of this year’s smartphone lineup.
While the Pixel 4 was reviewed critically for things like its battery life, there is an unquestioned truth that it has an amazing camera that produces incredible results. Assuming that Google takes the same tactic, the camera performance of the 4a will be on par with the 4 with standard shots. This inclusion with a price of $399 just like the 3a at launch will create a conversation with the phone buying public that will put into question whether an expensive phone actually makes any sense. The 4a is rumored to feature the great camera without the second telephoto lens, which honestly is not a huge omission for most people. A bump in processor and RAM from the previous years model is enough of an upgrade to make this phone very compelling.
Having used both the 3a and the 3 last year, the performance was essentially the same and enough power for 90% of smartphone users to be happy with. The strength of Google is definitely in the software, and the A series of phones is indicative of this. And in a climate where spending $1000 on a phone does not make a lot of sense, the Pixel 4a is in a spot to be able to be the default phone of 2020. The proposition of this device is affordability, excellent camera performance, and fast updated software. Where we are today is that features such as super zoom cameras and high refresh rates are rather a statement of extravagance as opposed to need.
The phone buyer in 2020 will be focusing on reliability and value more than ever before in the era of the smartphone. We have been as a phone economy predisposed to buy Lexus and Cadillac but we are now in an age where buying Toyota or Ford is the right decision to make. The Pixel 4a will offer a brand with some equity in Google, a class leading camera experience, and a fluid software experience that allows the day to day basics to be executed without any issue. The Pixel 3a from last year had the opportunity to be the standard Android phone for most people. This year, the economic and mental climate of the smartphone buying population is finally conducive to the 4a being this phone. The Pixel 4a is the most important phone of the year.