Google Pixel 4a vs. Nokia 7.2: Can experience win out?

The Google Pixel 4a and the Nokia 7.2 are two evenly-matched budget smartphones. They may skimp on some of the more high-power specs you find with premium mobiles, yet they offer more than their prices suggest. Last year’s Nokia 7.2 provides a sleek design, big screen, and generous battery life, while this year’s Pixel 4a delivers one of the best cameras on sale right now.

They each have their own strengths, but which one is the best budget Android phone? We take a closer look at their specs and features, evaluating how they fare across six categories, including display, performance, camera, software, special features, and price. By looking at how they compare with each other, you should be able to decide which is best for you.

Specs

Google Pixel 4a Nokia 7.2
Size 144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm (5.67 x 2.73 x 0.32 inches) 159.9 x 75.2 x 8.3mm (6.30 x 2.96 x 0.33 inches)
Weight 143 grams (5.04 ounces) 180 grams (6.35 ounces)
Screen size 5.81-inch OLED 6.3-inch IPS LCD
Screen resolution 2340 x 1080 pixels, 19.5:9 ratio (443 pixels per inch) 2280 x 1080 pixels (400 ppi)
Operating system Android 10 Android 10
Storage 128GB 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot No Yes
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Snapdragon 730 Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
RAM 6GB 4GB, 6GB
Camera 12.2-megapixel rear, 8MP front Triple-lens 48MP, 8MP ultrawide angle, and 5MP depth rear, 20MP front
Video 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps 4K at 30 fps, 1080p at 30 fps
Bluetooth version 5.1 5.0
Ports USB-C, headphone jack USB-C, headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes, rear-mounted Yes, rear-mounted
Water resistance No No
Battery 3,140mAh

Fast charging (18W)

3,500mAh
App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support Most major U.S. carriers AT&T, T-Mobile
Colors Just Black Cyan Green, Charcoal, Ice
Prices $349 $350
Buy from Google, Verizon, US Cellular Nokia
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 3 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Google Pixel 4a Front
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 4a looks much better than last year’s budget Google phone, the Pixel 3a. It dispenses with the unsophisticated forehead bezel, replacing it with a more modern edge-to-edge display that’s interrupted only by a hole-punch selfie camera. On the other hand, it’s made of cheap black plastic, which not only looks dull but can get a little greasy.

The Nokia 7.2 still features a noticeable bezel on the bottom edge of its display, but nonetheless looks a little more attractive than Google’s phone overall. It sports a tidy teardrop bezel that houses its selfie camera and a nice circular rear camera module. At the same time, its rounded edges and rear glass material means that it looks classier than the 4a (despite being the same price).

One other advantage the Nokia 7.2 has is that its screen is bigger, coming in at 6.3 inches compared to 5.81 inches. That said, the Pixel 4a boasts a 2340 x 1080 resolution, while the 7.2 can muster only 2280 x 1080. This means that the 4a offers more pixels per inch, and it also comes with a more advanced OLED screen, in contrast to the 7.2’s LCD display. As a result, you get just a little bit more vibrancy and detail from the 4a.

Both phones don’t have an IP durability rating, so it’s difficult to judge which does a better job of withstanding splashes of water and dust. This means that this round is a tie, with the Pixel 4a having a better display and the Nokia 7.2 having a better overall design.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

Nokia 7.2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel 4a runs on a Snapdragon 730, while the Nokia 7.2 is equipped with an older Snapdragon 660. There’s a noticeable difference between the two processors, particularly when playing more demanding games or switching between apps. The 7.2’s inferiority in this respect isn’t helped by the fact that it comes with 4GB of RAM as standard, as opposed to the Pixel 4a’s 6GB.

This relative lack of computational power results in a less-smooth user experience compared to the Pixel 4a, which can handle most apps and games more comfortably. There’s also the fact that the Pixel 4a comes with 128GB of internal storage as standard, while the 7.2 provides only 64GB (although you can pay extra to upgrade to 128GB).

The Nokia 7.2 has the upper hand in the battery stakes, at least on paper. It packs a 3,500mAh battery, while the Pixel 4a houses a 3,140mAh cell. However, Google has included some real battery trickery, and we saw the Pixel 4a’s smaller battery really bring the goods in our review, managing a solid two days of battery life on a single charge. Google’s phone also comes with 18W fast charging, while Nokia only supports 10W charging.

With the Pixel 4a’s superior processor, RAM, and battery, we’re giving this round to Google.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a

Cameras

Google Pixel 4a Camera Landscape Hand
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The camera is the Google Pixel 4a’s signature feature. With only a single 12.2MP rear lens, it may not seem particularly impressive at first. Its power and versatility come from the software it harnesses, which is exactly the same software that made the Pixel 4’s camera so great. Google’s use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning allows it to take excellent photos under almost every conceivable condition.

By contrast, the Nokia 7.2 has better camera specs but less impressive software (and results). Its triple-lens camera comes with a 48MP wide lens, an 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 5MP depth sensor. It sounds stronger on paper, but the photos it actually takes aren’t always impressive. As we noted in our review, its colors can sometimes be a bit muted, while the lack of optical image stabilization (something that the 4a has) can result in blurry photos under low light.

The two mobiles are more evenly matched in terms of video. Both let you shoot 4K film at 30 fps, which isn’t the highest resolution or frame rate now available but is probably detailed and smooth enough for most people. Nonetheless, because the Pixel 4a’s camera is so much better than the 7.2’s overall, this round also goes to the 4a.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a

Software and updates

nokia 7.2 apps
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s normally the case that Google phones are better for software than any other Android device. Pixels benefit from speedy — and also a longer period of — Android updates, while other mobiles remain neglected by comparison. This isn’t the case here, since Nokia’s use of Android One enables the 7.2 to benefit from regular Android updates, just like the Pixel 4a.

The software may be near-identical (as any Pixel has a number of features not available to even Android One phones), but the Pixel has a small advantage in update speed since Google can push updates out close to the day of release. HMD Global (the company that manufactures Nokia phones) is a little slower, but it’s still very speedy. The gap isn’t that big, so this is a draw.

Winner: Tie

Special features

5g feature image
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 4a’s headline special feature is its top-tier camera, which is as good as virtually anything you’re likely to find on a more expensive smartphone. It also offers a small handful of Google-exclusive features, such as Google Maps augmented reality directions and the A.I.-based Call Screen.

The Nokia 7.2 doesn’t really have a special feature unless you count its use of Android One (which more or less puts it on a par with the 4a). It doesn’t support 5G, and while the Pixel 4a doesn’t either, a 5G version of the phone is due later this year.

This round is another win for the Pixel 4a. A premium-level camera on a budget-priced phone is indeed a special feature.

Winner: Google Pixel 4a

Price and availability

The Google Pixel 4a is available for $349. Google has confirmed that it’s being sold from Verizon, US Cellular, and Google Fi. It hasn’t yet confirmed whether the phone will be available from T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T.

The Nokia 7.2 is available now, with prices starting from $350. It’s available from AT&T and T-Mobile but doesn’t support either Sprint or Verizon.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a Selfie Camera
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While both smartphones are similarly priced, Google Pixel 4a is definitely a better budget Android than the Nokia 7.2. It looks a little more attractive, has a slightly crisper screen, is more powerful, has a more capable camera, and is faster charging. It is pretty much superior to Nokia’s smartphone in almost every category. The later arrival of a 5G version will also score it additional points in the future, while even now the Nokia 7.2 looks a touch dated.

The 7.2 is still a good phone, of course. It’s just that the Pixel 4a is an improvement in nearly every department and comes at the same low price.

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