Google has announced two new additions to the Pixel smartphone family — the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. Unveiled at Google I/O 2019, the Pixel 3 “lite” phones attempt to cram all of the goodness of the regular Pixel 3 series into a cut-price package.
It’s been almost three years since the Pixel series first debuted and, with it, the end of affordable phones bearing the Google logo. Now, with its new duo, the tech giant is hoping to solve its sales woes by tackling the mid-range sector.
With smartphone prices ever increasing, Google says its goal with the Pixel 3a is to deliver a phone that ticks all the core boxes without scaring off more cash-savvy consumers, while also retaining some unique Google flourishes.
Our verdict: Google Pixel 3a review
Google Pixel 3a: Essentials
The Pixel 3a inevitably shares a lot of DNA with its more premium sibling and once again sees Google relying on its software, hardware, and AI expertise to create a distinctly Google set of phones.
For the Pixel 3a, however, Google earmarked a number of specific features that it believes are, or at least should, be essential for a mid-range phone.
The first is battery. The Pixel 3a comes with a 3,000mAh battery and the Pixel 3a XL packs in a larger 3,700mAh cell.
The Pixel 3a shares the Pixel 3's core DNA.
Battery life was never one of the Pixel 3’s strongest areas, but for the Pixel 3a, Google claims users can expect 30 hours off of a single charge with general use.
The Pixel 3a also supports 18W fast charging and offers up to 7 hours of juice after just 15 minutes. When combined with Android Pie’s Adaptive Battery feature, the Pixel 3a should easily be the best Pixel phone yet in the endurance stakes.
A Google phone wouldn’t be a Google phone without Assistant, and while there’s no Assistant button in sight, Active Edge carries over from the premium Pixels for quick access in a pinch.
Read more: Google Pixel 3a specs
Assistant bleeds into almost every inch of the phone’s software experience. Speaking of, Google is promising three years of OS and security updates for the Pixel 3a.
The Pixel 3a also marks the return of the headphone jack to Google’s smartphone hardware, though unlike the regular Pixels there are no earbuds included in the box (unless you live in India).
But there’s one essential feature the Pixel 3a has that separates it from the rest of the mid-range pack — the camera.
Google Pixel 3a: Snap happy
Despite being half the price, the Pixel 3a essentially matches the image quality and camera smarts of the award-winning Pixel 3’s camera. It’s really that good.
The Pixel brand is synonymous with stellar mobile photography and most of it is enabled by Google’s computational camera technology. The Mountain View company says this deep integration with hardware and software led to endless issues as it tried to get its expensive AI to play ball with cheaper mid-tier processors.
The mid-range may have a new, undisputed camera king.
Armed with new software tweaks to cover the power discrepancy, the Pixel 3a launches with a 12.2MP Dual Pixel shooter with all the features and modes of the regular Pixel 3 camera intact. Portrait, HDR+, Super Res Zoom, Night Sight, AR Playground, Motion Auto Focus, Lens, Top Shot, Photobooth — the whole gang’s here.
There are even new additions like Timelapse video and a new “kissy face” gesture for Photobooth. Pixel 3a users also get unlimited cloud storage for photo backups, though only for resized “high quality” snaps (the Pixel 3 comes with unlimited original resolution for three years).
We’ll be going into more detail on the Pixel 3a camera in the coming days and weeks, but early impressions suggest the mid-range may finally have an undisputed camera king.
Google Pixel 3a: Below the surface
One of the most impressive things about the Pixel 3a is that it’s almost impossible to tell it apart from the Pixel 3 at a glance. Unless you’re looking at the model in the new Purple-ish color, everything about the Pixel 3a’s design matches the Pixel 3, including the distinct two-tone finish. The accented power button also returns on the Clearly White and Purple-ish models, with Just Black rounding out the color options.
If you dig a little deeper you start to notice the cutbacks, but perhaps not as many as you might expect. The Pixel 3a is built from plastic rather than glass. The Pixel 3’s much-loved front-facing speakers are also gone, replaced by a bottom firing speaker and a second speaker in the earpiece. There’s also no notch on the XL model, but I don’t think anyone will be crying over the loss of the dreaded “bathtub.”
The most notable change is under the hood with the switch to mid-tier Qualcomm silicon. Both the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are powered by the nine month-old Snapdragon 670 SoC. That’s a fairly sizable step down from the Pixel 3’s Snapdragon 845, let alone the Snapdragon 855, though it’s at least backed by a respectable 4GB of RAM.
With phones like the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the upcoming OnePlus 7 both expected to pack the Snapdragon 855 at well-below-flagship prices, the Pixel 3a may not be the first choice for frugal power users, but the 670 is still a capable SoC purpose built for everyday use.
This is the full Pixel experience
Underpowered processor aside, the Pixel 3a doesn’t cut corners in the hardware stakes. Google has included the Titan M security chip for enterprise-grade security, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, USB-C, and FHD+ gOLED displays.
It may be half the price, but the message from Google is clear: this is the full Pixel experience.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL: What’s the difference?
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are practically identical save for their size and a couple of minor specs variables.
Both phones have Full HD+ gOLED display with the smaller Pixel 3a sporting a 5.6-inch panel with a 2,220 x 1,080 resolution (441ppi) and the Pixel 3a XL a 6-inch screen at 2,160 x 1,080 resolution (402ppi).
To help ease the burden of the larger display, the Pixel 3a XL has a slightly larger 3,700mAh battery compared to the regular Pixel 3a’s 3,000mAh cell.
Otherwise, the only other differences are in size and weight, with the larger Pixel 3a XL coming in at 167g against the lighter Pixel 3a at 147g.
Google Pixel 3a: Price and availability
The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are on sale right now via the Google Store and selected retail partners. The Pixel 3a is priced at $399 and the Pixel 3a XL costs $479.
In the U.K., the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are available to buy today priced at 399 pounds and 469 pounds, respectively. Both phones are available from the Google Store, Carphone Warehouse, EE, Argos, Mobile Phones Direct, and more.
The Pixel 3a series also goes on sale in India today. The Pixel 3a costs 39,999 rupees and the Pixel 3a XL costs 44,999 rupees.
For more release details be sure to check out our Pixel 3a price and availability hub at the link below.
Ready to buy? Google Pixel 3a price and availability
That’s the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL in a nutshell. What do you make of Google’s affordable Pixels? Let us know in the comments!
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