The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are here, offering slightly downgraded specs for a lower price tag. I say “slightly downgraded” because the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3 actually have quite a bit in common — and it’s that very idea that makes the Pixel 3a so compelling.
More interested in the XL models? Head here to take a look at how the Pixel 3a XL and Pixel 3 XL compare.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Design, display, and hardware
If you didn’t have both devices in front of you, you might think these are the same phones. They essentially have identical designs around back, though the Pixel 3a is made of polycarbonate and the Pixel 3 is made of glass. This results in the Pixel 3 feeling more high-end than the Pixel 3a, though the mid-range phone actually feels quite nice for being plastic. Both phones also have the squeezy Active Edge feature, too.
Around front, the Pixel 3a has a slightly larger 5.6-inch OLED display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio, while the Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch OLED panel and an 18:9 display. Both are Full HD+ resolution and both have always-on displays.
Things differ even more under the hood. Both have the same amount of RAM, but their processing packages are quite different. The Pixel 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s 2018 flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 845, while the Pixel 3a sports the mid-range Snapdragon 670. The Snapdragon 845 ensures the Pixel 3 stays snappy though we would have liked to see more than 4GB of RAM, as task management can be an issue at times. Hopefully the Pixel 3a doesn’t run into the same issues.
Both phones have a base of 64GB of storage and no microSD card slot, though the Pixel 3 is also offered in a 128GB model. As for overall size, the Pixel 3a is a bit thicker than the Pixel 3, allowing for more battery space. The 3a has a 3,000mAh cell while the Pixel 3 has a 2,950mAh cell.
As for the “extras,” the Pixel 3a doesn’t have wireless charging capabilities despite its plastic design, and it doesn’t have an IP rating. The pricier Pixel 3 has support for Qi wireless charging and an IP68 water resistance rating. The 3a does have a headphone jack though, which we’re really happy to see make its return. It kind of makes you think if it was really a necessity for Google to remove the headphone jack in the first place, considering these phones are nearly identical in size.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Cameras
You aren’t making too many sacrifices in photography if you opt for the cheaper Pixel 3a. Both phones have the same 12.1MP rear camera sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, 1.4µm pixels, OIS, EIS, and a 76-degree field-of-view.
The Pixel 3 offers more around front. It has two 8MP front sensors: one standard lens with a 75-degree field-of-view and an f/1.8 aperture autofocus lens, and one wide-angle sensor with a 97-degree field-of-view and an f/2.2 aperture fixed-focus lens. The Pixel 3 has has just one 8MP fixed-focus front sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and an 84-degree field of view. So, you won’t be able to squeeze as many people into your selfies as you would with the Pixel 3.
One of the best parts about buying any Pixel phone is the fact that Google throws in free original-quality Google Photos storage. That means all photos taken with your Pixel, Pixel 2, or Pixel 3 are all uploaded to Google Photos at original quality and you don’t have to pay for the storage. Awesome.
The Pixel 3a doesn’t come with free original quality Google Photos storage. That means photos uploaded to Google Photos on the free tier will be capped at 1080p.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3 specs:
|Google Pixel 3a||Google Pixel 3|
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio
|5.5-inch flexible OLED
1,080 x 2,160 resolution
18:9 screen ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 670||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|GPU||Adreno 615||Adreno 630|
No microSD slot
No microSD slot
12.2MP f/1.8 sensor, 1.4µm pixels, 76-degree field-of-view, autofocus with dual-pixel phase detection, optical + electronic image stabilization
8MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 84-degree field-of-view
|Rear: 12.2MP f/1.8 sensor, 1.4µm pixels, 76-degree field-of-view, spectral and flicker sensor, optical + electronic image stabilization
Main: 8MP standard (75-degree field-of-view) f/1.8 auto-focus sensor
Secondary: 8MP wide-angle (97-degree field-of-view) f/2.2 fixed-focus sensor
No wireless charging
|IP rating||No IP rating||IP68|
|Other features||Dual front-facing speakers, Active Edge, USB Type-C, single nano-SIM||Dual front-facing speakers, Active Edge, USB Type-C, single nano-SIM|
|Software version||Android 9 Pie||Android 9 Pie|
|Colors||Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish||Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink|
|Dimensions and weight||151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm|
|145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Price
In the U.S., the Pixel 3a’s price tag is its biggest selling point. While the Pixel 3 is offered for a steep $799 (on sale now for $599), the Pixel 3a will go for just $399. That’s not a bad price at all, considering the fact that you’re getting a similarly great overall experience. Plus, we haven’t had a cheap Google device since, say, the Nexus 5, so the Pixel 3a might be a great option for those missing the days of cheap Google-made phones.
Thoughts? Obviously the Pixel 3 is the better phone overall, but would you pick up a Pixel 3a if you were in the market for a ~$400 smartphone? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our other Pixel 3a coverage below.
- Google Pixel 3a XL review: Come for the camera, stay for the experience
- Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are here!
- Google Pixel 3a / 3a XL specs: Snapdragon 670, same great camera, and a headphone jack!
- Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL price and release date
- Google Pixel 3a phones lack free original quality Google Photos backups
- Google Nest Hub Max is a super-sized smart display with built-in Nest Cam
- Google Maps AR navigation is finally here (if you have a Pixel phone)