Pixel 4a: $349 but with no Active Edge?, and more tech news today

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Tuesday, May 19.

1. Pixel 4a: $349, but with no squeeze?

Pixel 3a and 3

I’ve been saying it for a while, but the Google Pixel 4a really is right around the corner. And at $349, it’s going to be an interesting device.

Why $349, exactly?

  • According to 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall, who has a pretty outstanding bead on all things Pixel-related, the Pixel 4a could be priced at $349 for a 128GB model. Handily, that’s double the standard Pixel 3a’s 64GB storage, and double the iPhone SE’s 64GB storage too.
  • That $349 figure was further bolstered by a curious Google survey, apparently caught by a Redditor, showing price points of $349 for “Pixelâ€� and $699 for “Premium Pixelâ€� being considered by Google (r/Android). (And hey, that $699 figure might be Pixel 5 pricing too).
  • That was a survey question that popped up in Google Chrome, not via Google Opinion Rewards, in case you were wondering, according to u/Pop-Quiz_Kid.
  • More to the point, the sub-$400 smartphone segment in the US, and its possible growing importance given the economy, is going to be very interesting, given the iPhone SE, Samsung A51, and supposed OnePlus Z.
  • Even if the same pricing for the 3a was used, $399, that’s still under $400. Right?

What else?

  • Latest: The rumors are now that the early Pixel 4a units don’t have Active Edge. This is effectively the squeeze control that’s been around the Pixel line since the Pixel 2.
  • Through some clever, small piezoelectrics running on the side of the phone, squeezes can activate the Google Assistant, silence calls, timers, and more.
  • But that is, now, apparently, no longer. Which may upset some people who use it! I’m currently driving a Pixel 3a (in advance of the 4a), and it’s both useful but not always accurate. It can not trigger promptly, or trigger by mistake, no matter how I tweak the setup. I loved the concept, and when it works it’s just a nice little thing.
  • What is looking like a possible replacement is a double-tap gesture, which can register input without needing a button and may be just as good, but easier? We’ll see.
  • Other specs: There are loads of rumors flying around here, but the main things so far is that the Pixel 4a will sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 chipset, an upgrade over the Pixel 3a’s Snapdragon 670, with the same 12MP rear camera but with a much bigger camera housing. That might just be for design language conformity, or it suggests new features. Plus, there’s a punch-hole selfie camera on the front for a bigger display, which should compress the size of the phone overall.
  • Release date: Reportedly moved to June 5, 2020, although that’s shaky.
  • But if it’s not out by this time next month, I’ll be shocked!

2. Samsung’s latest 50MP camera sensor prioritizes low-light performance over big numbers (Android Authority).


3.  OnePlus to temporarily disable the OnePlus 8 Pro color filter camera, which provided a round of tech amusement at its ‘X-ray’ abilities, evidently bad enough PR that it’s been turned off (Android Authority).


4. Um, Walmart’s $99 Android tablet …actually looks pretty good? (Ars Technica).


5. Something different I wrote: How to invest as a beginner. Not advice, just the start of ideas and introduction to useful things like ETFs (Android Authority).


6. The FBI cracked the iPhones of the Pensacola shooter without Apple’s help, but it is mad at Apple and talking about legislative moves (Engadget).


7. Minecraft just won’t stop: It’s now topped 200M unit sales, up from 100M in 2016, and with monthly players rising in April, has reached 126M monthly players (GeekWire). I remember when the $2.5B Microsoft paid in 2014 for Minecraft and Mojang seemed an enormous amount.


8. How a Chinese AI giant made chatting—and surveillance—easy: a profile of voice-computing company iFlytek (Wired).


9. Tesla’s ‘full self-driving’ package will cost $1,000 more by July, no word yet on the monthly subscription cost angle mentioned last month (Engadget).


10. Bill Gates is back with his annual summer reading list, plus TV shows, and suggested we all play Bridge (gatesnotes.com).

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