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Upgrade to 4a from 2 XL?


Well-Known Member
Apr 26, 2013
New York City area
I've had my Pixel 2 XL for 4 years and it's the best phone I ever had, except not having a headphone jack or Miracast. My work phone is a Samsung, so I make up for it. It may be time for an upgrade though. I've thought of 4a because the Google Photos is still unlimited, and it has a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Or should I go for something newer? What does everyone think?
If those 2 factors are important to you then it may be your best bet. The Pixel 5a also had a headphone jack, but may be after the cut-off for unlimited full-res G Photos (I can't recall when that went). The 6a looks promising but lacks the headphone jack and is definitely after the cut-off.

A newer phone will give you a longer software support period: the 4a probably has 1 major OS upgrade to come and about 15 months of security updates (assuming 3 years support). A newer one from a manufacturer who are serious about support will have more (many manufacturers have shorter support periods though).

It possibly depends on why you want to upgrade? I upgraded by Pixel 2 in December, but that was forced on me by a failing battery rather than any limitation of the device itself.
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The Pixel 4a will get OS and security updates through August 2023.

The unlimited High Quality (compressed) photos upload applies up to the Pixel 5 (which gets updates through October 2023). No Pixel (except for the first-generation Pixel) still gets unlimited Original Quality photos backups. And of course the Pixel 5 doesn't have a headphone jack.

The Pixel 6 line gets guaranteed OS updates through at least October 2024 and security updates through October 2026; I would expect the upcoming Pixel 6a to get updated through at least ~August 2027. Shifting to using the Google-developed Tensor processor should help with supporting these devices with updates for longer. But, of course, the 6a won't get the unlimited high-quality photo backups and it doesn't have a headphone jack.

Personally, I'd hesitate to purchase a phone which is almost two years old at this point... though there are fewer and fewer new phones being released with headphone jacks.
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Thanks a lot for your thoughtful replies.

Why do I want a new phone? My battery is still pretty good, but it's more like to keep the retire the phone before it does die.
If my next phone was not eligible for unlimited Google Photos, one option is have the new phone upload to another cloud source (e.g. I use pcloud), and periodically download it to this old Pixel 2XL where it can upload in unlimited style. That's what I sometimes do with my wife's pictures (from an iPhone)

I guess the headphones isn't a must-have, as I do have the adapter cable. Though I never use it, since I usually use my work Samsung phone or personal Samsung tablet. Or at the gym, I have my bluetooth headset which works with my Pixel 2 XL and would work with any future phone.
Are software updates really that important?

But it would be great to have it all in my next Pixel.

Is Pixel 5a much better then 4a? I'm reading articles about Pixel 6a, but not convinced of it yet. And yes, I'm concerned about 4a being so old (I'm not sure, but more than 2 years?)
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Are software updates really that important?
A pretty cool thing which is largely specific to Pixel phones is that they continue to get cool new features during their supported lifetime. New feature launches on a new Pixel? It'll likely show up on the previous-generation phones as well, as long as it isn't dependent upon special hardware. In this way a Pixel doesn't feel like it's left behind until the support window expires; it keeps getting refreshed with cool new stuff.

There's also the security aspect. Think about how much of your personal life/data is on your phone. The bulk of the monthly updates are security fixes to help keep your stuff secure. A phone which isn't getting those security updates is a ripe target for bad guys - though how "at risk" you are truly depends on your personal threat model.

Is Pixel 5a much better then 4a?
I used a 4a for a while, and I used the 5a as well. I honestly preferred the 4a over the 5a. I had all sorts of weird performance issues with the 5a. Those may have been fixed by now, but it left me with a bad taste.

I'm reading articles about Pixel 6a, but not convinced of it yet.
We won't know for sure until it officially launches, but what I'm seeing/hearing suggests it's shaping up to potentially be the best a-series Pixel yet. If you're not in a time crunch to get on a newer device right this minute it might make sense to wait a couple of months and see how the 6a turns out.
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Can you remind me what features came in on the Pixel 2 XL of all these years? i can't remember, but maybe I got used to them.

From a security perspective, I am not as concerned. I use LastPass, I answer secret questions unique to those websites (stored in LastPass), I use Authy for 2 factor authentication where I don't use text or E-mail, so I feel pretty good.

I'm not in a rush to get a new phone, though my wife needs a new phone sooner. I think the only rush I feel is if Pixel 4a will continue to be available.
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I started this thread months ago. I'm really, really now of upgrading to the Pixel 6a and giving up my desire for the headphone jack. I'm with Verizon right now with a 6B per month total data plan (with my wife) whose price just went up from $96 / month to $112. I'm also considering whether it makes sense to switch to a different carrier, but not sure if that will be worth it.
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