This post was originally published on July 27th and updated on July 29th. Update below.
For those frustrated consumers patiently waiting for Google’s next mid-range phone – the Pixel 4a – to land, OnePlus’ new “Nord” handset must be tempting.
The iPhone SE’s siren song was strong enough to steal Android users away, maybe the Nord will be the final temptation for Android diehards who have a roll of notes burning a hole through their pockets.
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But there is good reason to wait. Recent leaks have surprised us with the news that the Pixel 4a will support 5G connectivity, which means a much more powerful phone than expected. Of course, the Nord does too, so what else does Google’s new phone need to do to hold on to those patiently waiting fans?
Update 07/29: There might be another good reason to opt for the Pixel 4a when it lands, it seems the OnePlus Nord is suffering from some display issues. Nord owners are complaining on Reddit and the OnePlus Forums that they’ve noticed a purple tint when screen brightness drops below 25%.
In a statement to 9To5Google, OnePlus explained that this is sometimes a quirk of AMOLED displays. “OnePlus Nord comes with a high quality 90 Hz AMOLED screen. Under specific circumstances of low brightness, a slight display discoloration may occur due to the properties of the AMOLED display – this is characteristic of all OLED displays and the degree of discoloration will vary depending on other properties of the display. This is not a quality issue and will not affect daily usage or the durability of the screen. OnePlus will continue to look into cutting-edge display technologies and strive to deliver the best user experience possible.”
Check the links above and see for yourself, the purple hue is very pronounced on those devices. That said, a lot of users replied to the original posters saying they haven’t experienced the problem. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the OnePlus 8 suffered from a similar problem.
The flagship OnePlus device received complaints from users about a green tinted display and black crush, which is where darker areas on the display are pixelated. An update partially solved the issue for some, but for others it was likely a hardware fault. Based on that statement it doesn’t sound like OnePlus will roll out an update for Nord, nor does it seem to think there’s an issue. That may change, though, if enough users complain.
It has gradually become clear how much of an advantage Google’s feature drop program has given the company. Past updates have delivered improved selfies, car crash detection, a new digital wallet and a feature that automatically screens your calls before you answer them – all at no extra cost. That same update program is now coming to its Pixel Bud earphones.
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This guaranteed consistency of new AI-based features makes Google’s phones difficult to do battle with. They’re ever evolving and responding to new trends and user needs. Of course, other companies can do this, but they largely don’t. Or, at least, not to this frequency and not with so many new features.
Google also has an in-built advantage with its work in AI, from which most (perhaps all) of the feature updates we’ve seen since last December have come from. There’s a good chance that you’ll be surprised with a new and unusual addition to your phone that you didn’t expect every few months.
Fortunately for rivals, Google makes such fundamental mistakes elsewhere – in battery life (Pixel 4 XL), memory management (Pixel 3) and a criminal lack of camera sensor options (all Pixels), that this feature drop advantage is slightly dulled. But the Pixel “a” brand is slightly different, last year’s device wasn’t burdened with the mistakes of its more expensive siblings (save for the lack of a wide-angle camera). Combine that solid base with persistently adding new functionality to your already cheap phone and Google has a winning formula.
We don’t know what the headline price of the Pixel 4a will be, but previous leaks have pointed towards $399 (via a marketing image from reputable leaker Evan Blass), with further leaks then revising the price down to $350 after the iPhone SE launched.
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However there may be a second, more expensive, Pixel 4a that supports 5G, which could be closer to Nord’s price. On upfront cost and the processor they use, the Nord and the Pixel 4a 5G may be similar. But what we do know is that Google is not shy about discounting its products. Last year’s Black Friday deals saw a square $100 off the Pixel 3a, there were also intermittent discounts throughout the year and a bundle deal on the Google UK store – at launch – that saw Pixel 3a purchases come with a free Nest Hub (read here why the Nest Hub Max has become such an important device in the last few weeks).
Google has this in its arsenal: a range of other products (laptops, smart home tech, headphones) it can bundle its phones with when times get desperate. I’d wager we’ll also see some good trade-in deals from Google, too (bizarrely, OnePlus doesn’t appear to accept Google Pixel phones for trade-in).
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You’ve probably noticed that I’ve left camera ability out of the reasons why I think the Pixel 4a could be a better phone. We all know Google’s superiority in computational photography makes its phones the best on the market for stills, but the search company’s insistence on not including additional sensors – like a wide-angle lens – is grating, especially when competition like the Nord and Moto G 5G Plus have an array of (albeit inferior) sensors. We’ll have to see if it changes this long-held policy when the 4a finally lands.
Got a tip, thoughts or something to complain about? Let me know.
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