Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 3a backs 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Over a year ago, Google launched the Pixel 3a as its entry into the crowded mid-range smartphone field. This week, after tons of leaks, Google released its successor, the Pixel 4a. It has a number of hardware and software improvements over the previous phone. But in this battle between the Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a, should owners of the older phone upgrade to the newer model? Let’s take a look.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 4a review: Google’s best phone in years


Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a


Specs

 Google Pixel 4aGoogle Pixel 3a
Display5.81-inch OLED
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3
5.6-inch gOLED
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio
Dragon Trail
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 730G
2x Cortex-A76
6x Cortex-A55
Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
GPUAdreno 618Adreno 615
RAM6GB4GB
Storage128GB
No microSD slot
64GB
No microSD slot
CamerasRear:
12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4µm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization

Front:
8MP sensor, f/2.0, 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, autofocus with dual-pixel phase detection, optical + electronic image stabilization

Front:
8MP sensor, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 84-degree field-of-view
Headphone jackYesYes
Battery3,140mAh
18W charging
No wireless charging
3,000mAh
No wireless charging
IP ratingNo IP ratingNo IP rating
SoftwareAndroid 10Android 9 Pie
ColorsJust BlackJust Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish
Dimensions and weight144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm
143g
151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm
147g

Design and display

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: there is no Pixel 4a XL. Google has confirmed that a Pixel 4a 5G is on the way later this year, which based on renders will be larger in size. Until then, however, there’s no direct successor to the Pixel 3a XL (pictured next to the Pixel 4a below). For the rest of this article, we’ll be comparing the new Google phone directly with the smaller Pixel 3a.

Right off the bat, the different look of the Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a is very evident. The Pixel 3a looked old-fashioned, even for its 2019 release date, with its larger body and front bezels on the top and bottom of the display. The Pixel 4a looks more like a modern smartphone, with much smaller bezels, and a much larger screen-to-body ratio.

Even though the Pixel 3a is a larger phone, it has a smaller 5.6-inch gOLED display, compared to the Pixel 4a and its 5.81-inch OLED screen. The Pixel 4a is also protected by Gorilla Glass 3 while the Pixel 3a opts for Dragon Trail glass protection. The front-facing punch-hole camera is on the top left side of the Pixel 4a’s display, while it’s on the big top bezel of the Pixel 3a.

Google Pixel 4a vs Google Pixel 3a backs 1

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The back of each phone also looks a bit different, with a noticeable camera bump on the back of the Pixel 4a, compared to the embedded rear sensor and flash for the 3a main camera. Both continue to have a rear fingerprint sensor placed on the upper half of the phone. While both phones are made of plastic, Google decided to give the Pixel 4a a bit of an upgrade in this area as well. It now has a matte texture finish that looks better and even feels better in the hands compared to the Pixel 3a. Both phones also have headphone jacks, but both also lack an IP rating for water and dust resistance.

Related: The best phones with a headphone jack

Hardware and cameras

The Pixel 3a has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor inside, while the Pixel 4a has the somewhat faster Snapdragon 730G chip. It’s not that much faster but it is an improvement. A much bigger jump comes in memory and storage. While the Pixel 3a had just 4GB of RAM, the Pixel 4a boosts that up to 6GB. The 64GB of onboard storage on the Pixel 3a is also doubled to 128GB on the Pixel 4a.

If you are looking for a big camera improvement in the Pixel 4a, you may be disappointed just looking at the hardware. Both the 12.2MP rear and 8MP front cameras use the same sensors found on the Pixel 3a. However, the camera software and processing on the Pixel 4a has adopted some improvements from the premium Pixel 4, including support for the Astrophotography Mode.

The battery onboard the Pixel 4a is also slightly better, with a 3,140mAh battery compared to the 3,000mAh on the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 4a also supports faster 18W charging. Both phones also have stereo speakers.

Software

Google Pixel 4a upper half of display with apps

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Pixel 4a runs on Android 10 out of the box and includes some extra software features, particularly the new Google Assistant. Google has promised the Pixel 4a will be supported for at least three years in terms of major OS updates, so the phone should get upgraded to at least Android 13. The Pixel 3a was only guaranteed to get two major software updates, with support expected to end after Android 12.

Price and colors

The Pixel 3a launched with a price of $399. Google is selling the Pixel 4a for the starting price of $349, which is $50 less than the start price of the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 3a, when it was officially on sale from Google, came in Just Black, Clearly White, and Purple-ish color. Unfortunately, the Pixel 4a only comes in Just Black. Pre-orders for the Pixel 4a are now open with an August 20 shipping date.

Read more: Google Pixel 4a price and release date: What you need to know

Google also announced that the Pixel 4a is coming to the UK for £349, and across Europe for between €349-€389 depending on your country. It’ll be available for pre-order September 10 and on sale starting October 1. The Pixel 3a initially launched for £399, but eventually dropped to £329.


Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a: Should you really upgrade?

Google Pixel 4a screen in hand 4

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Pixel 3a, while a solid mid-range smartphone, had a number of compromises when it was released in 2019 — most notably the small amount of RAM and onboard storage, an old-fashioned bezel heavy display and design, and the underpowered processor. The Pixel 4a does away with many of those hardware compromises. It boosts the RAM to 6GB, the storage to 128GB, and the display and design look much nicer. You also get a somewhat faster processor, a slightly larger battery, and the promise of three years of major Android updates for the Pixel 4a compared to the Pixel 3a.

See also: The best Google Pixel 4a cases you can get

While the camera sensors on the Pixel 4a are the same as those on the 3a, the new phone has some extra software and processing features that should make for taking better pictures. Finally, the starting price for the Pixel 4a is actually less than what the Pixel 3a first started with over a year ago. If you own the Pixel 3a, you’ve still got a great phone that especially excels as a camera phone. However, it’s clear that the Pixel 4a is a superior phone in nearly every regard and is well worth the upgrade.

Of course, there is another factor to consider: the Google Pixel 4a 5G. The phone is a bit of a mystery, but we do know it’s coming this year, will support 5G, and will cost $499. That’s a significant price hike over the Pixel 4a, though the addition of 5G will mean an extra level of future-proofing. We’ll examine the 5G model a little closer as soon as we hear more from Google.

Google Pixel 4a The best of Google for $349
Getting the Google experience has never been more accessible. A compact phone that's easy to use, a beautiful screen, and one of the best cameras in this price range. The Pixel 4a is hard to beat.

Will you be upgrading to the Pixel 4a? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out some of our other Pixel 4a content below.

Read more about Pixel 4a

Comments
Read comments