Google Pixel 4a could come with a 5G counterpart, according to hidden code

The Google Pixel 3a XL and 3a, Google's first mid-range devices
The Google Pixel 3a XL and 3a, Google's first mid-range devices (Image credit: TechRadar)

We might have gotten another hint of the Google Pixel 4a, an affordable version of the Pixel 4 devices, and it seems there could be three of these new Pixel A handsets – including one that could have 5G. In other words, it's the first indication that Google could release a 5G phone before the Google Pixel 5 flagship.

These references were found in Android code – as Android is open-source, people can access the code readily – and 2020 mid-range Pixel phones were mentioned in a new batch of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), this month’s Pixel 4 firmware dump, and the latest versions of several Google applications. 

Credit goes to Twitter user @akes29, who dug up the code names, and was then helped by XDA Developers who pored over the code with a fine-tooth comb.

Three of those code names that XDA Developers narrowed in on within the AOSP – called Sunfish, Redfin, and Bramble – seem more likely than others to be referring to potential handsets, as Google has a habit of using fish names as phone code names. Each of the names is linked to an SoC (system on chip). 

While Sunfish is based on the sm750 (aka the Snapdragon 730) chipset for upper mid-range phones – and thus a good candidate for the Pixel 4a – the Redfin seems to be developed on the sm7250 (aka the Snapdragon 765), a chipset introduced at the December 2019 Qualcomm conference as the first SoC with an integrated 5G modem. 

That doesn’t mean such a device would definitely be a 5G phone, but it would have the chipset necessary to do so.

Bramble also seems based on the Snapdragon 765 chipset, but there hasn’t been any evidence that it is being produced by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM). 

First Pixel to 5G?

These fishy references are just codenames, but as XDA Developers points out, these have referred to both phones and codebase kernels (central parts of a collection of code) – as well as handsets that never came out - so take this as a possible but not definite first sign of one to potentially three Pixel 4 devices.

We're hoping for a 5G-capable version of the Google Pixel 5 coming later in the year, but it's entirely possible that the phone maker will follow up on the success of the mid-range Google Pixel 3a this year by making a strong bid for an affordable 5G phone.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.