The Google Pixel 4a will offer UFS 2.1 storage for faster app loading speeds than the Pixel 3a

The Google Pixel 4a will offer UFS 2.1 storage for faster app loading speeds than the Pixel 3a

Google launched the first mid-range Pixel smartphones last year at Google I/O 2018. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL were widely regarded as excellent smartphones for their prices, especially since they offered Google’s stellar camera app, Android software features, and monthly update support. The internal hardware of the Pixel 3a was nothing to write home about, though, with its mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor, 4GB of RAM, single rear and front-facing cameras, an FHD+ AMOLED display, and 64GB of eMMC flash storage. This year, Google is expected to follow-up on the Pixel 3a with the “Pixel 4a,” and the new device is poised to offer pretty noticeable upgrades in the processor, memory, and design. One component that we initially thought wouldn’t see an upgrade is storage, but we now have evidence that the Google Pixel 4a will have an improved UFS 2.1 flash storage chip.

Google Pixel 4a Forums

Our friends at YouTube channel TecnoLike Plus, which is operated by YouTuber Julio Lusson, shared the bootloader screen of the device with us. The bootloader screen showed a line stating “Ufs: 64GB SKHynix.” Furthermore, from the output of “fastboot getvar all,” we determined that the specific storage chip used in this pre-production Google Pixel 4a is the 64GB UFS 2.1 H9HQ53AECMMDAR-KEM from SK Hynix.

Google Pixel 4a bootloader

Pixel 4a bootloader. Photo credits: Julio Lusson from YouTube channel TecnoLike Plus.

So what exactly does this mean? Universal Flash Storage (UFS) is a flash storage standard designed with the power constraints of mobile devices in mind. Theoretically, the move from a 64GB eMMC storage chip in the Pixel 3a to a 64GB UFS 2.1 storage chip in the Pixel 4a should result in faster read/write speeds for file transfers and better power efficiency, but most importantly for users is the impact this upgrade will have on app loading and installation speeds. Loading apps into memory can involve reading a lot of small files, which is why the random read performance of the storage is a crucial metric. If you compare the random read performance of the Pixel 3a with its 64GB eMMC storage with the OPPO R17, which also has the Snapdragon 670 processor but has 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage, you’ll notice that the random read performance is a good bit higher on the OPPO R17. (H/t to Giznp for the OPPO R17 AndroBench numbers.) Here’s an AndroBench result from my Pixel 3a XL for comparison:

Pixel 3a XL AndroBench

AndroBench is a fairly old benchmark with an equally dated design, but it’s still the go-to for storage testing. It tests the speed of sequential read/write, random read/write, and SQLite insert, update, and delete operations. A sequential read/write is an operation that involves reading/writing storage blocks that are contiguous, while a random read/write involves reading/writing randomly scattered storage blocks. SQLite describes a type of database management system; developers dealing with large databases often have to make SQLite calls to retrieve or modify the database. We can get a good idea of the storage performance of an Android device with AndroBench. By default, the benchmark writes a 64MP file with either 32MB or 4KB buffer sizes for sequential and random read/writes respectively, and an SQLite transaction size of 1. The speed of the former operation is measured in MB/s while the latter in Queries Per Second (QPS).

Even with the Pixel 3a’s eMMC storage, the random read speeds aren’t that bad. Google has made many improvements to the F2FS file system to improve file I/O performance, as outlined by Anandtech and XDA Recognized Developer arter97. The Pixel 3a handily beats the OPPO R17 in random write speeds perhaps to a difference in file systems, though I, unfortunately, don’t know what file system OPPO uses for the /data partition on the R17. (For reference, OPPO uses F2FS for /data on the Find X2 Pro but uses EXT4 for /data on the international Reno3 Pro.)

In any case, the main takeaway here is that the Google Pixel 4a should offer noticeably faster app loading and installation times than the Pixel 3a. We say “should” because we don’t know if Google will actually use this exact component in the Pixel 4a retail units, but we don’t think there will be any substantial hardware differences between this prototype unit and the retail units. Sadly, we don’t know if the actual storage capacity will see an upgrade, as the leaked device that TechnoLike Plus got their hands on only has 64GB of storage—the same capacity as the Pixel 3a. Fortunately, it seems that at least the Pixel 4a’s price will be the same as the Pixel 3a ($399), at least according to Evan Blass.


For more information on the Pixel 4a, check out our previous article covering the video leak by TecnoLike Plus. Or, just watch the video embedded at the bottom of this article.

Google Pixel 4a Rumored Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 730
  • GPU: Adreno 618
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Internal storage: 64GB UFS 2.1
  • Display: Single hole-punch 5.81-inch display, 2,340 x 1,080 resolution, 443 dpi, 60Hz refresh rate
  • Rear camera : 12 MP sensor + LED flash + 4K video recording
  • Front camera: 8 MP with video stabilization
  • Connectivity: 4G, Dual SIM, GPS, WiFi 5, Bluetooth, GLONASS
  • Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Security: Rear fingerprint sensor
  • Battery : 3,080 mAh
  • Software: Android 10