Pixel 3a XL and Pixel 3a problems

The Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL are two of the best budget-friendly phones you can get. While they are decidedly mid-range, what isn’t is the camera experience they offer, and are great options for anyone looking for an affordable device for smartphone photography. Unfortunately, Google’s mid-rangers aren’t without its fair share of issues. Here are some Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL problems and solutions on how to fix them.

Editor’s note: Not every Pixel 3a and 3a XL will have these issues. In fact, it is more likely that you won’t come across any of these problems at all.


Problem #1 — Fingerprint sensor not working as expected

Fingerprint Sensor and Rear Camera Closeup

No smartphone fingerprint scanner is completely accurate. However, some users find that the sensors of the Pixel 3a have a problem and only seem to work half the time.

Potential solutions:

  • Wiping down the fingerprint scanner area has helped some people. However, this seems to fix the problem only temporarily, with the issue returning after a few hours.
  • The available solution isn’t ideal but has worked. Doing a factory reset (you can find the instructions on how to do so below) seems to do the trick. Make sure that you back up essential files and media as the device will be erased completely.
  • If you generally find the fingerprint scanner to not be very accurate, go through the fingerprint setup process twice with the same finger.

Problem #2 — Ringtones not working

USB-C Port of the phone

This has become one of the more common Pixel 3a and 3a XL problems around. While all other audio plays through the device speakers, ringtones aren’t heard even though all the settings are as they should be. The phone just vibrates instead.

Potential solutions:

  • Make sure that an app isn’t causing this issue. To do so, reboot the device in Safe Mode (the instructions are below) and see if the problem persists. Go to Settings > Sound & vibration and tap on “Phone ringtone and vibration.” Choose an option. An audible preview is an indication that the problem goes away in safe mode. You can delete recently installed or updated apps and see if the problem goes away. If not, go to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset and tap on “Reset app preferences.” If all else fails. a factory reset may be required.
  • If you don’t live in the US, your device language is set to something else. Surprisingly, some users have found that setting the default language to English (US) seems to fix the ringtone issue. Of course, this isn’t an option for anyone who wants to use their phone in their local language.
  •  If only ringtones are the issue, it’s likely a software problem. However, if you find that notification sounds and alarms that play through the lower speaker are also not heard, you most probably have faulty hardware. In this case, the only option is to get the device repaired or replaced.

Problem #3 — Wi-Fi problems

Pixel 3a Quick Settings Shade

Apart from general connectivity issues that sometimes show up, users are facing a couple of specific Wi-Fi problems with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. In one case, users find that being connected to the Wi-Fi is causing a substantial battery drain. In the other situation, people are finding Wi-Fi speeds to be quite low despite having a faster connection.

Potential solutions:

  • In the case of the battery drain, this problem seems to occur only when the phone is connected to the 5GHz network. The issue seems to get resolved if you connect to the 2.4GHz network instead. It’s not an ideal solution as the speeds are lower, but a future software update will hopefully fix this problem.
  • If you find the Wi-Fi speed to be slow, simply resetting the connection seems to work. Go to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options and tap on “Reset Wi-Fi, mobile data, and Bluetooth.” Reconnect to the network and things should be back to normal. Keep in mind though that some users find this to be a temporary fix. Again, only a software update will likely bring a permanent solution.
  • General Wi-Fi troubleshooting:
    • Turn the device and the router off for at least ten seconds, then turn them back on and retry the connection.
    • Go to Settings > Power saving and ensure that this option is turned off.
    • Redo the Wi-Fi connection. Go to Settings > Wi-Fi, long press on the connection name and tap on “Forget.” Now re-enter the details and try again.
    • Make sure the Wi-Fi router firmware is up to date.
    • Make sure the applications and software on the device are up to date.
    • Go into Wi-Fi > Settings > Advanced and make a note of your device MAC address, then make sure that it is allowed access in the router’s MAC filter.

Problem #4 — Charging cable issues

Google Pixel 3a What's in the box

Pixel 3a and 3a XL owners have faced a lot of problems when it comes to the charging cables that come with the phone. This can range from slow charging speeds to being unable to transfer files from a PC and more.

Potential solutions:

  • This might just be a problem with the charging cable itself. Make sure that it works by charging other phones or devices. If the cable doesn’t work with anything, you will have to get a new cable.
  • These issues are particularly prevalent with USB-C to USB-C cables. Some have found that using a USB-C to USB-A cable instead solves the problem. Of course, if you’re charger uses the former, you’ll need to get an alternate to use the latter type of cable with.
  • For quite a few users, cleaning the USB-C port seems to do the trick. Fold a business card and gently clean out the port with a sharp edge. You can also use compressed air as long as the pressure intensity isn’t too high.
  • An app could also be causing these issues. Boot the device in Safe Mode and see if the problem persists. If not, an app is creating a problem.
  • If nothing seems to work, the USB port of the phone might be damaged. The only option then is to get the device repaired or replaced.

Problem #5 — Random shutdowns and restarts

Google Pixel 3a XL Review hardware

Quite a few Pixel 3a and 3a XL owners have faced problems with random shutdowns and reboots. You can go the Safe Mode route to ensure that an installed app isn’t causing the problem. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there’s a software solution or workaround available. It is worth mentioning though because of how many users have come across this issue. The best option here is to pick up a replacement if possible.


Guide — Rebooting to Safe Mode

3a problems

Third-party apps can cause quite a few problems. Booting into Safe Mode is often the best way to check if this is the case. If the issue goes away, an app is causing it.

If the phone is on

  • Press and hold the device’s power button.
  • Touch and hold the power off icon. A pop-up message will ask for confirmation to reboot to Safe Mode. Tap OK.

If the phone is off

  • Press and hold the phone’s power button.
  • When the animation starts, press and hold the volume down button. Keep holding it until the animation ends and the phone should start in Safe Mode.

Exit Safe Mode

  • Press the phone’s power button.
  • Tap on Restart and the phone should automatically reboot to the regular mode.

Guide — How to perform a Factory Reset

Purple-ish Top Display

Resetting the phone to factory settings is often a last-ditch solution to fix certain problems However, don’t forget to back up important data because this process will erase everything.

Reset with the phone on

  • Go to “Settings.”
  • Go to System > Advanced > Reset options.
  • Tap “Erase all data (factory reset)”  and then “Reset phone.”
  • You may have to enter your PIN, pattern, or password.
  • Tap on “Erase everything.”

Reset with the phone off or if it’s unresponsive

  • Press and hold the power and volume down buttons simultaneously until Fastboot mode (image of a triangle with an exclamation point) appears.
  • If you see “No command” on the screen, press and hold the power button. While holding the power button, press the volume up button and release both.
  • Select “Recovery mode” by navigating the list with the volume up and down keys. Use the power button to select the option.
  • In the Recovery menu, use the volume keys to go down to “Wipe data/factory reset.”
  • Select “Factory reset” in the next menu.
  • Once complete, select “Reboot system now.”

That’s it for this roundup of some of the common problems with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL that users have come across. If you’ve faced any other issues, do let us know in the comments section below.

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