Pros: The Pixel 3A XL packs a large screen, a fantastic camera, a long-lasting battery and a headphone jack — all at a more affordable price than the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Cons: The phone doesn’t have water resistance, wireless charging or expandable memory. As a Pixel 3A XL owner, you have unlimited uploads to Google Photos only at high quality, not original.
In General: The Pixel 3A XL has the best camera for its price and a generously-sized screen. But if having a fast processor and more memory is a priority, get the OnePlus 6T instead.
Starting at $399 and $479 (£399 and £469 in the UK, AU$649 and AU$799 in Australia), the phones continue to represent Google’s ultimate expression of its mobile operating system, Android, which is the most popular OS in the world. Though Google’s latest flagships are struggling to sell against its Apple and Samsung competitors, which dominate the industry, Google hopes to shake up its pricing model and put more Pixels in people’s hands. After all, now that the Pixel 3A phones are nearly 50% cheaper than past generations, the company can now attract a new set of customers and ultimately increase sales.
The Pixel 3A XL has the same camera as the Pixel 3 phones, but Google stripped down a few of its key hardware specs. The Pixel 3A XL is also essentially a larger version of the Pixel 3A.
In general, the Pixel 3A XL doesn’t have as much of the high-end hardware the original Pixel 3s have, but Google still whipped up a great phone. Compared to the “budget” options of its competitors like the iPhone XR and the Galaxy S10E, the Pixel 3A XL doesn’t have features such as water resistance or wireless charging. But if you want a big screen, the latest software from Google and you want to take fantastic photos — all at a few hundreds of dollars less than the other phones — the Pixel 3A XL is the phone to get.
Pixel 3A and Pixel 3: Main differences
- The Pixel 3A comes in a new color, “Purple-ish” (in addition to black and white)
- It has a 3.5mm headphone jack
- The Pixel 3A XL has a 3,700-mAh battery compared to the Pixel 3 XL’s 3,430 mAh
- It’s available through Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular. It works on AT&T too, but you can’t buy it directly from the carrier.
- It does not have wireless charging
- It’s not water resistant
- It doesn’t have a second wide-angle front-facing camera
- It doesn’t come bundled with PixelBuds earbuds
- It has the less powerful Snapdragon 670 chipset
Pixel 3A XL has a familiar design
Apart from the Pixel 3A XL’s polycarbonate body (instead of the original glass design) and lack of an on-screen notch, both phones look and feel nearly identical. But the Pixel 3A XL has a lower, 1080p resolution.
The Pixel 3A XL’s screen also uses a different type of OLED display that features glass as its base layer instead of plastic. At times, the Pixel 3A XL looks punchier. Reds, yellows and oranges are warmer and whites look brighter. In contrast, the Pixel 3 XL’s screen is bluer and despite being the more high-end device, it has much more obvious color shift.
Like the Pixel 3 XL, you can still launch Google Assistant or silence an incoming call by squeezing the phone’s sides. Note that you can’t reprogram the squeeze to do anything else. In addition, the phone has stereo speakers, and the bottom audio speaker moved from the chin to the bottom edge of the phone.
Pixel 3A XL camera: Same killer low-light photos
Because the Pixel 3A XL has the same camera the Pixel 3, photo quality is still excellent. Images are clear, bright and vibrant, and you can still adjust the focus and blur of your bokeh portraits. The camera also has the dedicated low-light mode Night Sight, as well as Super High Res for zooming into objects and Top Shot, which suggests the best image out of a series.
One new feature is time-lapse video. You can set your frames to record at various time intervals and there’s a useful indicator that denotes how long your video will be in real time. To save battery, the viewfinder will also dim after some time, while the phone is still recording. In general, time-lapse videos were clear and steady, but the quality isn’t as good as the iPhone XR.
Google also changed its Google Photos storage policy with the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL. Unlike Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 users who can save pictures to the cloud at original resolution, Pixel 3A owners have unlimited storage only at high quality. This should be enough to satisfy most people, but if you take image quality seriously or want to backup all your 4K videos, the Pixel 3A only has 64GB of onboard memory with no option to expand.
Pixel 3A XL’s software learns a couple of new tricks
Running Android Pie the Pixel 3A XL has a nifty AR walking navigation tool in Google Mapsright out of the box, which will come to other Android phones at a later date.
The Pixel 3A XL has Call screen, which screens calls from telemarketers and robocallers, as well as Digital Wellbeing. Digital Wellbeing helps limit phone usage and enables you to set timers on your app and you’ll also get free YouTube Music subscription for three months.
Finally, since Google built this phone, expect it to be one of the first to receive software updates as they roll out from the company. If you bought your phone through a carrier though, you may experience some delay seeing the newest features.
Pixel 3A XL performance and battery
Google bumped up the capacity in the new Pixels. Preliminary testing so far showed that the Pixel 3A XL had a slightly longer battery life than the Pixel 3 XL. With continuous video playback on airplane mode, the Pixel 3A XL lasted 17 hours, 14 minutes while the Pixel 3 XL clocked in at 16 hours, 49 minutes. Seventeen hours does put it at about the same as the Galaxy S10E and OnePlus 6T). But it doesn’t beat out the iPhone XR, which clocked in about 20 hours.
Pixel 3A XL vs. the competition
- Pixel 3 XL: While it doesn’t have a headphone jack, the Pixel 3 XL is water resistant, has wireless charging and a faster processor. Its current $899 retail price is steep though, so if you can live without those features mentioned, get the Pixel 3A XL instead. Look out for good deals, however, because Google and other retailers discount the Pixel 3 XL often.
- Moto G7: At $299, the water repellant Moto G7 is one of the favorite budget phones. But it doesn’t work as fast, or take nearly as great photos as the Pixel 3A XL. Unless you’re on a tight budget, I’d pay $180 more for the Pixel 3A XL.
- OnePlus 6T: Starting at $549, the OnePlus 6T offers twice the amount of built-in memory and a faster processor. You’ll have to cough up $70 more.
- Galaxy S10E: As Samsung’s most affordable Galaxy phone, the Galaxy S10E is water resistant, has wireless charging (and can charge other devices too), has a headphone jack and more onboard storage, and looks beautiful. It also packs a camera that beats the Pixel 3A in some aspects. But at $750, it’s still notably pricer than the Pixel 3A.
- iPhone XR: The iPhone XR shoots better video and like the Galaxy S10E, has water resistance and wireless charging. But it doesn’t have a headphone jack and you’ll need to consider a totally different OS. Its $750 price tag is also steep compared to the Pixel 3A.