Pixel 4a 5G vs OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition

I purchased the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition when it was released because I wanted 5G on T-Mobile. This $900 phone has some impressive specifications, such as 256GB of storage, 12GB of RAM, an incredible 6.67” 90Hz display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+, and more. However, there were a few things that have really bothered me the entire time I was using this phone… I do not like the screen fingerprint scanner, which does not work well. I noticed that with all the COVID precautionary hand washing my hands are often dry. The fingerprint scanner does not work well when my fingertip is dry and I must resort too using the PIN or facial recognition. That brings up the selfie camera, which pops up when in use. I don’t like that popup feature because moving parts will eventually fail. Excessive use will probably result in quicker failure. If the selfie camera was a hole punch or in the bezel, I would have just used facial recognition instead of the fingerprint scanner. Another hardware feature I don’t care for are the curved edges of the screen. I know this is supposed to be a high-end feature, but I do not like it. The curved edges make attaching screen protectors more difficult, some screen content gets distorted at the edges, and it can be difficult to swipe at the edges. Another comment about screen protectors, few will allow the fingerprint scanner to work. Glass screen protectors that are curved attach to the phone with adhesive along the edge of the screen protector. These types of screen protectors therefore have a small gap between the screen and the glass protector, which disables the fingerprint scanner. It seems you need to use the plastic film or glass screen protectors that need to be adhered to the screen with a type of adhesive. The last major issue for me were the slow updates. People on Reddit say OnePlus is quick to push out updates and T-Mobile is the issue.

Google just released the Pixel 4a 5G and they were offering a great deal on the trade-in value for the Pixel 2XL so I ordered it. I consider the little “a” version of the Pixel phone an economy variant, and Google had also released their higher-end Pixel 5, but it lacks 5G. I must have 5G, so this is a deal breaker with any phone these days.

The Pixel 4a has decent specifications for an economy variant, and it has the features I really like. First and foremost, the fingerprint scanner is on the back of the phone and it works almost every time no matter how dry or moist my finger. It is much more reliable than my OnePlus, which is important considering how many times I must use it in a single day. The only drawback with the Pixel fingerprint scanner was how flat it was. It was so flat it could be hard to find on the back of the phone, but this was quickly resolved with a phone case because the fingerprint scanner cutout is easy to feel. The nice and flat screen is 6.2″, which immediately seemed much smaller than the OnePlus. I was glad to see I was fine with the screen size after a couple days. I will not get into the types of screens, pixel density, and refresh rates because this is not a deep dive into specifications. If I had to pick a superior screen it would the OnePlus, but I think the screen on the Pixel looks great and it is more than good enough for me. I was very happy to see I could apply a glass screen protector to the Pixel with ease because the screen is flat! I also had no issues with the fingerprint scanner because it is not in the screen. It really bothered me that I did not have a screen protector on my OnePlus. I have wear marks on my OnePlus screen where I need to place my finger to be scanned.

The Pixel has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G and 6GB of RAM, which are not as powerful as the OnePlus’ 12GB of RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+. I cannot see any difference between the OnePlus and Pixel with how I use the phones. If you are wondering, I don’t play games, edit video on the phone, or perform any intensive processes. I just use regular apps, email, texting, music, Android Auto, and occasionally watching videos. Based on this, I doubt the differences in chips would make much difference for anyone that uses a phone in this manner. You can see a comparison of chips here. Lack of RAM can be a big issue with cheaper phones skimp on it. I have some cheaper phones with 3GB and 2GB of RAM and there is a lot of lag when using applications. It’s usable, but annoying. This is in no way and issue with the Pixel and the 6GB of RAM. Hopefully it will be sufficient for future versions of Android. Only time will tell.

The OnePlus has a hefty 4085mAh battery that makes you aware it is there by the weight of the phone. The Pixel 4a has a smaller 3885 mAh battery and the phone is noticeably lighter and thinner than the OnePlus. Though these phones have different size batteries, they have different hardware and battery life is impressive with both. I have no “testing” to back up my impressions, but I give the Pixel 4a the edge with battery life.

I don’t know much about cameras, so I can be fooled by megapixel (MP) count and some other features. If I based my review on the mere specifications, I would have to say the OnePlus has a better main camera at 48 MP than the Pixel main camera with 12.2 MP and 16 MP ultrawide. However, both cameras look great and at this point I cannot say which takes better photographs. Based on megapixel count, I may be able to enlarge a photo from the OnePlus much larger than the Pixel, but which will look better at normal viewing or print size? A digital photography website says a 12 MP photo can print a 15″ x 10″ that looks excellent. How often do you print photos and at 15″ x 10″?

Where will you store your thousands of photos and videos? Hopefully not on just your phone. Many people do not backup their photographs and end up losing many memories when their phone is lost, stolen, or accidentally destroyed. I recommend using some type of automatic backup. I use Google Photos and Microsoft OneDrive to make sure my photos and videos are safe. I have unlimited data so I have both services backup my photos and videos over cellular so they are safe soon after they are created. This is why I am never concerned with how much storage I have on my phones. If I had to rate the phones on storage capacity, my OnePlus would be the winner with 256GB of storage. Here is another “however” moment. My Pixel has 128GB of storage, which is more than sufficient for me because I do not keep a lot of content on my phone. Neither of these phones can support a MicroSD card and you will not be able to add storage if you are a photo and video fanatic.

I haven’t timed how fast the Pixel charges, but I doubt it can come close to OnePlus’ Warp Charge. If my OnePlus battery dropped too low during the day, I could plug it in for fifteen minutes and have more than enough charge for the remainder of the day and late into the night. I haven’t had an occasion to see my batter get very low on my Pixel because, as previously mentioned, it has great battery life.

One of the most important features for me is the operating system (OS), which is Android. Some phone manufacturers modify Android so it is very different from the pure Android OS provided by Google. If manufacturers think this sets their phones apart from others, it does, it makes them worse (in my opinion). People have told me how Samsung does less modifying than they used to, but I still do not like how they modify Android. I was happy to see that OnePlus does not try and change Android too much and it feels very “vanilla.” However, there were some stability issues when I first got the phone and I did not care for them adding some of their own applications that I could not uninstall. There were very few of these applications, but their Contacts application was causing issues with my contacts list saved to my Google account. I had to eventually disable this application.

When you buy a Pixel you get the best Android experience of any phone. The phone does not come with annoying applications from third-parties that cannot be uninstalled. There are Google applications galore that cannot be uninstalled, but they don’t annoy me. You can also count on getting security updates monthly and have the newest version of Android before most other phone manufacturers. My Pixel came with Android 11, but my OnePlus is still on Android 10. This is a big issue with me because I want the newest OS as soon as possible. I know Google has the advantage because they control Android, but I don’t think they withhold new versions to slow other phone manufacturers. Pixel owners get three years of security and OS updates. That means I may get three new versions of the Android OS on this phone. I have no idea how many versions of Android I can expect to get from OnePlus. I know I can install third-party ROMs, but I have never been too impressed with these and the stability is usually far from perfect when compared to stock ROMs.

The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition is an impressive phone with a premium phone price tag of $900 and my gripes may not be issues for others. I simply prefer the Pixel 4a 5G and I think the $500 price could make a big difference for others seeking a 5G phone that will work on T-Mobile. Though I specifically mention T-Mobile, the Pixel is unlocked and may be able to be used on other carriers. The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition is locked to T-Mobile and therefore cannot be used on another carrier.

If you asked me to recommend a phone for use on T-Mobile with their 5G network and provided no other information for how you would use it, I would recommend the Pixel 4a 5G. As much as I do not like Google as a company, and I have been replacing their services (email, online storage, etc.), their phones have been my favorite since the early days of the Nexus line. It is difficult to beat pure Android when is tuned for the hardware selected by Google.

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