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Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: What's the difference and which should you buy?

When two phones are so similar, how do you pick a winner?
By

Published onMay 19, 2024

Google Pixel 8a
MSRP: $499.00
Check price
Positives
Fingerprint-proof matte finish
Rich OLED display
Tons of Tensor G3-powered features
Solid battery life
Unrivaled software update commitment
Pixel-pedigree cameras
Negatives
Cheap materials
Limited zoom capabilities
Slow wired and wireless charging
Pixel 8 discounts make it a harder sell
Google Pixel 8
MSRP: $699.00
Check price
Positives
Solid cameras
Faster wired charging
Industry-leading update promise
Unique AI features
Compact size
Negatives
Tensor G3 lags behind in benchmarks
Missing features reserved for the Pixel 8 Pro
No telephoto camera

Some might say that Google is back to stepping on its toes again. And by that, I mean it just introduced the third member of its Pixel 8 series, the mid-range Pixel 8a, which sits remarkably close to its smaller flagship, the Pixel 8. As such, you might struggle to decide between the two when it comes time to upgrade your phone, and that’s where we come in. I’ve been testing both devices side-by-side, so let’s compare the Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8 to help you pick your next phone.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: At a glance

Curious about the key differences between Google's mid-range Pixel and its smaller flagship? Here are just a few of the main points of comparison:

  • The Google Pixel 8a is more affordable than the Pixel 8, starting at $499 instead of $699.
  • The Google Pixel 8 supports faster charging than the Pixel 8a, both wired and wireless.
  • Both the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a have the same chipset, RAM, and storage configurations.
  • The Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a are nearly the same size despite the Pixel 8 having a larger display.
  • Both the Google Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 have similar dual camera setups, though the Pixel 8a has more megapixels.
  • Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a are in line to receive seven years of updates, including Android versions, security patches, and feature drops.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: Specs

Google Pixel 8aGoogle Pixel 8
Display
Google Pixel 8a
6.1-inch OLED
120Hz refresh rate
2400 x 1080 resolution
20:9 aspect ratio
Google Pixel 8
6.2-inch OLED
120Hz refresh rate
2400 x 1080 resolution
20:9 aspect ratio
Processor
Google Pixel 8a
Google Tensor G3
Google Pixel 8
Google Tensor G3
RAM
Google Pixel 8a
8GB
Google Pixel 8
8GB
Storage
Google Pixel 8a
128/256GB
Google Pixel 8
128/256GB
Battery
Google Pixel 8a
4,492mAh
18W wired charging
7.5W wireless charging
No charger included
Google Pixel 8
4,575mAh
27W wired charging
18W wireless charging (with 2nd-generation Pixel stand)
12W wireless charging (with other Qi-enabled chargers)
No charger included
Cameras
Google Pixel 8a
Rear:
64MP wide camera
ƒ/1.89 aperture
OIS + EIS

13MP ultra-wide camera, 120deg FoV
ƒ/2.2 aperture

Front:
13MP
ƒ/2.2 aperture

Google Pixel 8
Rear:
50MP wide camera
ƒ/1.7 aperture
OIS + EIS

12MP ultra-wide camera, 125deg FoV
ƒ/2.2 aperture

Front:
10.5MP
ƒ/2.2 aperture
Connectivity
Google Pixel 8a
5G
4G LTE
Wi-Fi 6e
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC
Google Pixel 8
5G
4G LTE
Wi-Fi 7
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC
Operating System
Google Pixel 8a
Pixel UI
Android 14
Google Pixel 8
Pixel UI
Android 14
Water resistance
Google Pixel 8a
IP67
Google Pixel 8
IP68
Colors
Google Pixel 8a
Aloe, Bay, Obsidian, Porcelain
Google Pixel 8
Hazel, Rose, Obsidian, Mint
Dimension and weight
Google Pixel 8a
152.4 x 73.7 x 10.1mm
192.8 grams
Google Pixel 8
150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9mm
187 grams

In many ways, the Google Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 are so similar that they’re easy to compare. They share nearly identical displays, dimensions, software experiences, and update commitments, many of which we’ll get to in a minute. That said, the similarities also make it far more difficult to find daylight between the two when deciding which one is right for you.

In some ways, however, the similarities pay off for fans of the more affordable Pixel A series. Both phones pack the same Tensor G3 chipset, Titan M2 security core, and identical options for both RAM and storage. As a result, they produced almost identical results in our performance benchmarks and day-to-day usage.

As you can see in the graphs, the more affordable Pixel 8a delivers results nearly identical to those of the Pixel 8 and, in our graphically intensive stress testing, actually maintains its performance better than the flagship. While benchmarking numbers don’t usually mean too much in an average day of mixed usage, they’re often a good indicator of how well a phone will keep up, and the Pixel 8a has no problem cruising through a day of web browsing, social media scrolling, and light gaming just as well as its premium counterpart.

On top of that, the Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 ship with Android 14 out of the box and one of the best update commitments in the industry. Google decided to keep pace with Apple’s lofty promise when it added seven years of Android updates, feature drops, and security patches to the Pixel 8 series in late 2023, and now the Pixel 8a gets the same benefit. That not only puts it on par with the flagships but ahead of its similarly priced rivals.

All of these shared features also mean that both the Google Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 support the same set of AI-powered features and lean heavily on Gemini as Google transitions to its powerful new assistant (with Google also confirming Gemini Nano on-device support that will land in a future Feature Drop). You can tap into helpful extras like Circle to Search, generative wallpapers, Live Translate, and several calling features like Hold for Me, Call Screen, and Smart Replies. Both phones have plenty of photo editing options, too, which we’ll come back to down below.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: Design, size comparison, and colors

Google Pixel 8 vs Google Pixel 8a back standing
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

I don’t blame you if you feel like you’re seeing double looking at the picture above. Google’s Pixel design is pretty well nailed down at this point, with flat displays and camera bars across the board, but the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a are about as close to twins as you can get.

The two devices are nearly the same height, width, and thickness despite the Pixel 8 offering an extra tenth of an inch of display real estate, sitting at 6.2 inches to the Pixel 8a’s 6.1 inches. Yet, despite its slightly smaller display, the Pixel 8a offers almost the same specs as its more polished counterpart. There’s only a weight difference of a few grams between them, something I hardly noticed while carrying both around for a few days. Both phones have 60 to 120Hz Actua Displays with 14 hundred nits of HDR and 2,000 nits of peak brightness, and they feel just about identical if you’re swiping up and down or mindlessly scrolling social media. Just note that the Pixel 8a comes locked at 120Hz by default, so you’ll have to opt in for the variable refresh rate. On top of that, the OLED panels have the same 1,080 by 2,400 resolution, meaning that the more affordable Pixel is just a hair more pixel-dense.

Honestly, I’ve found that the best way to tell the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a apart is the latter’s much rounder corners, making it feel a bit smaller in the hand — something that I thoroughly appreciate as a person with smaller hands. Google’s premium Pixel 8 sports glossy Gorilla Glass Victus on the back, too, while the Pixel 8a has a matte composite (it’s plastic, call it plastic) back that looks a bit more like the Pixel 8 Pro. Personally, I prefer the feeling of the 8a when I reach into my pocket, mostly because I know I won’t pull out a phone that’s covered in smudges. The flagship Pixel 8 is the slightly more durable of the two, using Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and back and carrying an IP68 rating against water and dust to the Pixel 8a’s IP67.

 

Both Pixels also share matching in-display fingerprint readers and matching buttons and ports scattered around their aluminum frames. To my eye, both fingerprint readers seem to register at the same speed, so it’s nice to see Google keep one standard fingerprint reader instead of going cheaper for the mid-range. Also, you’ll find the power and volume controls on the right edge with a lone SIM tray holding down the left. The USB-C port is also flanked by a pair of stereo speakers.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: Camera

Google Pixel 8 vs Google Pixel 8a laying flat
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Although the camera bars on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a may look the same, they have a few differences across their dual-camera setups. The Pixel 8a’s budget camera setup offers more megapixels to play with, pairing a 64MP primary camera and a 13MP ultrawide sensor. Don’t be fooled by the bigger numbers, though, as the individual pixels are slightly smaller on both sensors, meaning that the cameras aren’t quite as well equipped for lower-light scenarios. The Pixel 8a’s ultrawide sensor also has a slightly narrower 120-degree field of view and misses out on Macro Vision — a software feature that both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro support.

Moving over to the more premium Pixel, it pairs its 50MP primary camera with a 12MP ultrawide sensor, both of which are larger than the options on the Pixel 8a. On top of having slightly larger individual megapixels, the Pixel 8’s primary camera is capable of a 2x in-sensor crop, giving you a little bit more optical zoom range before switching to digital zoom.

Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a have dual rear cameras, but the flagship packs a bit more punch.

The Pixel 8a has a slightly sharper selfie camera, too, with 13MP to the Pixel 8’s 10.5MP, though the results are pretty similar from both sensors based on our tests.

As you can see in the samples below, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a are just about neck and neck in some of the most common shooting scenarios. They’re well matched in color and details, and even the ultrawide shots are almost identical despite the slightly different fields of view.

There are a few slight differences when it comes to capturing selfies, though. Despite both phones defaulting to 1x zoom when you flip the camera around, not all definitions of 1x zoom are created equal. The Pixel 8a offers a much wider frame than the Pixel 8, making it much easier to fit additional people and background details into your selfie. Both shots look good as far as colors go, but it’s somewhat surprising to see such a difference between the default zoom lengths.

Google’s Pixel 8 also handles its longer zoom lengths much better than the Pixel 8a. Its larger sensor seems to maintain both color and detail better than the smaller sensor on the mid-range phone. The difference is most noticeable on finer lines like the name of the ship below and the details in the wood planks of the dock.

As far as camera features go, Macro Vision is the only major omission from the Pixel 8a — everything else is almost exactly the same. Neither device offers Google’s new Pro controls, but both can tap into Night Sight, Top Shot, Portrait Mode, Cinematic Pan, and punch in with Super Res Zoom up to 8x.

Both phones also offer similar video features, with up to 4K recording from the front and rear sensors. However, the Pixel 8 packs a few more options regarding the frame rate, with 24fps available on both front and back and 60fps on the selfie camera. Google’s Pixel 8a, on the other hand, is limited to 30fps from the selfie camera at both 4K and 1080p.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: Battery life and charging

Given their similar overall size and specs, it’s no surprise to see the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a toting nearly identical batteries. The Pixel 8 has the slightly larger cell of the two — 4,575mAh to the Pixel 8a’s 4,492mAh — but our battery testing showed that the mid-ranger stretched its juice further in most cases. In fact, it put up better numbers while on a Zoom call, snapping photos, recording 4K video, and even significantly better 4K playback performance. Outside of the lab, both phones can easily power through a full day of usage. I got into a habit of using adaptive charging overnight and regularly found myself hitting the end of the day with at least 20% remaining.

However, one area where there’s a little bit of daylight between the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8a is in their charging setups. The Pixel 8 is much quicker, supporting up to 27W wired charging with a compatible USB PD PPS charger, while the Pixel 8a tops out at 18W. There’s a big difference in wireless charging capabilities, too, with the more expensive device capable of up to 18W with the second-generation Pixel Stand and 12W with other Qi-enabled pads while the mid-ranger is limited to 7.5W, no matter the charger.

While the difference in charging speed from 18W to 27W may not sound too vast, our controlled testing showed that the Pixel 8a took about 20 more minutes to reach a full battery than its Pixel 8 counterpart, so it might pay to spend just a little bit more if you need to get back up and running in a hurry.

Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 8: Price and availability

Google Pixel 8a: Starts at $499

Google Pixel 8: Starts at $699

If you’re close to making your decision between buying the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a, I guess you should know how much each phone will cost you. Well, for starters, both phones are widely available in the US, both unlocked and on deals through major carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.

If you’re leaning toward the Pixel 8a, it starts at $499 with 128GB of storage — the same price as the previous Pixel 7a. It’s also available in four colors: Bay, Aloe, Obsidian, and Porcelain. Should you decide you need 256GB of storage right off the bat, it’ll set you back $559, and you’re limited to the Obsidian finish.

Would you rather buy the Pixel 8 instead of the Pixel 8a?

1042 votes

On the other hand, if you’re leaning toward the flagship Pixel 8, it kicks off at $699 with the same 128GB of storage. It launched in three colors, Hazel, Obsidian, and Rose, but Google has since added a fourth Mint color that’s a little softer than the Pixel 8a’s Aloe option. You can upgrade to 256GB of storage for the same $60 fee, bumping your price to $759.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Which should you buy?

google pixel 8 back in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Now that we’ve gone through every last piece of the Google Pixel 8 and the Google Pixel 8a, it’s about time to decide which one is right for you. Unlike a lot of comparisons where we end up saying that the right one comes down to your personal preference, there’s a pretty clear winner here — but it comes with a caveat.

The easy answer when choosing between the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8a is to tell you to buy the flagship Pixel 8 — one of the best Android phones around — but only to do so when you can find it on sale. These two phones share so much in common, from the chipset to the camera quality to 90% of their respective designs, that Google is relying on the difference in price to sway people one way or another.

At MSRP, it's a tricky call, but recent sales for the Pixel 8 make the Pixel 8a a tough sell.

When compared at full price, the Pixel 8a seems like a great deal, given how many flagship specs it boasts, but as soon as you factor in discounts, the $200 gap suddenly feels much smaller, and the Pixel 8’s more premium aspects like faster charging and better materials feel that much more attainable.

See price at Amazon
Google Pixel 8a
Google Pixel 8a
Rich OLED display
Tons of Tensor G3-powered features
Pixel-pedigree cameras

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: FAQ

Google launched its flagship Pixel 8 on October 4, 2023, following it up with the Pixel 8a on May 7, 2024.

Yes, both phones support wireless charging, but the Pixel 8 is faster with 18W speeds to the 7.5W speeds of the Pixel 8a.

No, neither the Pixel 8 nor the Pixel 8a has a headphone jack.

The Google Pixel 8 packs an IP68 rating while the Pixel 8a offers IP67 resistance against water and dust. That means both phones can withstand submersion in water for up to 30 minutes.

Yes, both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a have slots for SIM cards on their left sides.

Yes, both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a support dual-SIM with a single nano-SIM and an eSIM profile.

No, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a do not have SD card slots — both come with either 128 or 256GB of fixed storage.

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