When it comes to buying smartphones, things are much different in 2021 than they were just a few years back. Notably, it’s much easier and more commonplace to discuss an unlocked handset.

Google is one brand who has long championed the “direct-to-consumer” method for selling its devices. Starting back in 2010 with its Nexus One, Google’s phones have been largely sold through the internet. That’s changed over the years though as carriers have been increasingly warmed to the Pixel line.

If you’re in the hunt for an unlocked phone, or are curious about what Google offers today, you’re in luck. We’ve put together this buyer’s guide to help you better understand its current offerings.

Pixel 5a with 5G

The newest of Google’s phones until the Pixel 6 series arrives in fall 2021, the Pixel 5a with 5G marks the first of the A-series to have IP67 water and dust resistance.

Clad in a metal unibody, the handset offers up a large 6.3-inch display with a 12-megapixel and 16-megapixel (wide) camera array on the rear. Around front is an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies. Oh, and that 4,680mAh battery is the largest one in the Pixel line thus far.

Running Android 11, the Pixel 5a has a modest amount of hardware including a Qualcomm 765G processor with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. Rounding things out are a rear fingerprint reader, NFC, fast charging, and support for all 4G and sub-6 5G networks.

Pixel 5

Of the models offered today, the Pixel 5 is the flagship experience. It’s the most well-rounded phone in the lineup, boasting a multiple rear camera system and a generous battery with support for wireless charging.

Other key features included in the Pixel 5 are its support for 5G connectivity, water resistance, and 90Hz refresh rate.

Although it doesn’t have the most robust or current processor, it’s paired with plenty of memory and storage. Powered by Android 11, it houses the Titan M security module and Pixel Imprint (fingerprint reader), and packs a suite of camera modes and capabilities.

Where this one shines as compared to the Pixel 5a is that it houses stronger protection on the display, faster refresh rate on the screen, wireless charging, more memory, and unlimited storage at high quality with Google Photos.

Pixel 4a (5G)

Announced and released in tandem with the Pixel 5, this one also supports 5G and features almost as much hardware as the flagship. This includes the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor and dual-camera array on the back.

Given it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than the flagship model you’d expect some corners to be cut. Indeed, that’s the case here. You’ll not find the wireless charging, water resistance, and aluminum encasing in the Pixel 5. Moreover, it comes with 6GB RAM, down from the 8GB in the Pixel 5.

Notably, the Pixel 4a (5G) comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Pixel 4a

The entry point for Google phones today, the Pixel 4a is one of the best all-around values in the unlocked phone market. Priced just $350 when it launched, it provides consumers with the best of Android’s features with hardware that meets the needs of most people.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G processor is paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. In other words, few users have a lifestyle that demands more of their phone.

It’s not a 5G handset, but that may matter little as 2021 unfolds. To us it’s just not a feature that makes or breaks a device — at least not yet.

The most pocketable of the Google phones, it’s equipped with a 5.8-inch display with a hole-punch cutout display for the front-facing camera. Bonus points are awarded for having the 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, we still like having that around.

At-a-Glance

Pixel 5 Pixel 4a (5G) Pixel 4a
6-inch 1080×2340 display (90Hz) 6.2-inch 1080×2340 display 5.8-inch 1080×2340 display
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G
8GB RAM 6GB RAM 6GB RAM
128GB Storage 128GB Storage 128GB Storage
12.2-megapixel/16-megapixel (ultra-wide) camera 12.2-megapixel/16-megapixel (ultra-wide) camera 12.2-megapixel camera
4080mAh battery (w/fast & wireless charging) 3885mAh battery 3140mAh battery
IP68 water resistance 3.5mm headphone jack 3.5mm headphone jack
$700 $500 $350
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