The most interesting thing Google didn’t announce at its hardware event

We’ve talked plenty about everything Google announced at its big hardware gala — particularly that Pixel 4 phone and the perplexing predicament Google finds itself facing as it tries to convince average phone-shoppers to give the gadget a go.

There’s one thing Google didn’t announce at that fall event, though, and it might be the most important product of all — both in terms of its potential impact for Google, from a business perspective, and in terms of its relevance for those of us who use Android phones.

I’m talking about the Pixel 4a, the likely second-gen sequel to the midrange Pixel 3a phone Google launched this past spring. While the Pixel 4 may be the device that earns most of the attention — being a flagship product, with all the eye-catching tech and the buzzworthy bells and whistles — the less flashy Pixel 4a is arguably gonna be the one that most people should be eyeing.

Why? Well, Woodrow, it’s simple: Here in these wild times o’ 2019, there’s little reason for most typical phone-owners to spend several hundred dollars on a snazzy new device. Now, that’s a pretty broad statement, and it comes with a couple of caveats:

  1. There are exceptions — those of us who adore mobile technology, appreciate the premium qualities and/or added niceties a high-end phone provides, and are willing and able to drop the extra dough to enjoy ’em. Make no mistake about it, though: We’re the minority.
  2. Spending less on a phone isn’t always advisable. Most midrange-to-budget-level phones have inexcusably bad cameras and receive software updates approximately never. The camera situation isn’t one most people would want in this day and age, and the update situation absolutely isn’t one anyone — especially professionals who care about privacy and security — should accept.

That second caveat is actually a huge part of why the Pixel 4a is likely to be so significant: Assuming it follows the strategy set out with this year’s Pixel 3a (and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t), it’ll likely bring the same exceptional image-capturing…