In 2019, Google launched the Pixel 3a as its entry into the crowded mid-range smartphone field. In 2020, 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
|Google Pixel 4a||Google Pixel 3a|
2,340 x 1,080 resolution
19.5:9 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 3
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G|
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 670|
|GPU||Adreno 618||Adreno 615|
No microSD slot
No microSD slot
12.2MP, f/1.7, 1.4µm pixels, optical + electronic image stabilization
8MP sensor, f/2.0, 1.12µm pixels, fixed focus, 84-degree field-of-view
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
No wireless charging
No wireless charging
|IP rating||No IP rating||No IP rating|
|Software||Android 10||Android 9 Pie|
|Colors||Just Black||Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish|
|Dimensions and weight||144 x 69.4 x 8.2mm|
|151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm|
Design and display
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: there is no Pixel 4a XL. Google did launch a Pixel 4a 5G in 2020, which is actually larger in size (with a 6.2-inch display) compared to the regular 4a phone. 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 standard 4a 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Pixel 4a is available in the UK for £349, and across Europe for between €349-€389 depending on your country. The Pixel 3a initially launched for £399, but eventually dropped to £329.
Google Pixel 4a vs Pixel 3a: Should you really upgrade?
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.
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. It has an even bigger display, a more powerful processor, supports 5G, and costs $499. That’s a significant price hike over the Pixel 4a, though the addition of 5G will mean an extra level of future-proofing.
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.