Pros: The Pixel 3A is cheaper than the original Pixel 3 but packs the same grade-A camera that shoots great in lowlight. It can also record time-lapse videos and has a headphone jack.
Cons: The phone isn’t water resistant and doesn’t have wireless charging. Local storage is capped at 64GB, and Pixel 3A owners have unlimited uploads to Google Photos at a compressed high quality resolution, not original.
In General: The Pixel 3A has the best camera for its price. But if a fast processor or more memory is your priority, get the OnePlus 6T instead.
Google is trying its hand at something new. Its signature phone, the Pixel, is jumping into the midrange market with the Pixel 3A and 3A XL. At $399 and $479 (£399 and £469 in the UK, and AU$649 and AU$799 in Australia), the handsets are essentially reworked Pixel 3 phones. They have the same rear camera and overall look, but there are a few hardware downgrades that contribute to the lower price.
But perhaps the biggest factor are the phones’ prices: $649 for the 3 and $769 for the 3 XL. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL aren’t as expensive as their iPhone XS and Galaxy S10 competitors, but they’re pricey enough.
With a lower price, the Pixel 3A has a better chance of attracting a new set of customers and ultimately increasing sales. And while it doesn’t have as many features as the other “budget” options of its competitors, such as the iPhone XR and the Galaxt S10E, the Pixel 3A is still at least $250 cheaper. If you want the latest software from Google and the ability to take fantastic photos — all at under $400 — then the Pixel 3A is the phone to get.
Pixel 3A and Pixel 3: What’s different?
- The Pixel 3A comes in a new color, “Purpleish” (in addition to black and white)
- It has a 3.5mm headphone jack
- Battery capacity is slightly bumped up, from 2,915 to 3,000 mAh
- 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 Pixel Buds earbuds
- It has the less powerful Snapdragon 670 chipset
Pixel 3A looks nearly identical to Pixel 3
Both the Pixel 3A and Pixel 3 have a lightweight, unibody design, a matte finish with a glossy shade on the back and a rear fingerprint reader.
But there are some differences. The Pixel 3A is bigger and made out of polycarbonate instead of glass like the Pixel 3. Its bottom bezel is thicker and the display is a tad larger. The phone also uses a different type of OLED display that features glass as its base layer instead of plastic. Even when both displays are in the same color mode (which you can change in Settings), the Pixel 3A looks a bit punchier at times. Reds, yellows and oranges are warmer and whites look brighter, purer. In contrast, the Pixel 3’s screen is bluer and despite being the more high-end device, it has much more obvious color shift.
Other design takeaways
- It’s a drag that the Pixel 3A isn’t water resistant.
- You can still launch Google Assistant or silence an incoming call by squeezing the phone’s sides. Google calls this Active Edge. Unlike other phones that have the same feature (like the HTC U11), you can’t reprogram the squeeze to do anything else. Bummer.
- The phone has stereo speakers and the bottom audio speaker moved from the chin to the bottom edge of the phone.
Pixel 3A camera: Same camera but with time-lapse
One new feature is time-lapse video. You can set your frames to record at various time intervals — for example, you can condense between 50 seconds or 20 minutes of recorded footage into 10 seconds — 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, and I love that I can see how long my video will be in the end. But the quality isn’t as good as the iPhone XR.
Because the Pixel 3 and 3A have the same camera, photo quality is still excellent. Images are clear, bright and vibrant. You can still take portraits with that dramatic, depth-of-field effect and adjust the focus and blur of the picture after you take the shot.
Other important camera features
- Unlike other phones at its price range, the Pixel 3A still has its own dedicated low-light mode. Called Night Sight, it’s incredibly impressive how it brightens up dimly lit settings. Compared to the iPhone XR, Galaxy S10E and Moto G7, the Pixel 3A takes superior low-light photos with this tool.
- A recently rolled out feature in Photobooth, which autorecognizes kissing poses comes on the Pixel 3A too.
- The phone still has Top Shot, which helps you choose the best image out of a series, and Super Res Zoom, which improves detail when you zoom in at faraway objects. On the Pixel 3A, objects that were zoomed in had more details and looked sharper than on the iPhone XR, Galaxy S10E and Moto G7.
- Google changed its Google Photos storage policy with the Pixel 3A. Unlike Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 users, who can save pictures to the cloud at their original resolution, Pixel 3A owners have unlimited storage only at a compressed size it calls “high quality.” This should be enough to satisfy most people, but if you take image quality seriously or want to back up all your 4K videos, the Pixel 3A only has 64GB of onboard memory with no option to expand.
Other software notes
- The Pixel 3A and 3A XL come with three months’ free subscription to YouTube Music.
- Still one of the favorite features from the Pixel 3 is Call Screen, which screens spam calls and telemarketers and shows you a live transcription of the conversation so you can decide whether to accept or reject a call.
- Digital Wellbeing comes natively on the Pixel 3A, but other Android phones can get it from the Play Store. It helps curb phone usage by giving you info about how much time you’re spending on the phone and it lets you set time limits for apps.
- To help reduce eye strain, you can schedule Night Light to turn your screen to a yellowish, sepia color. There’s an option for grayscale too.
- Like with other Pixel phones, the Pixel 3A will likely be one of the first to receive software updates as they roll out from Google. If you bought your phone through a carrier though, you may experience some delay.
Pixel 3A performance and battery
The Pixel 3A and Pixel 3A XL have the same Snapdragon 670 processor, which is less powerful than the Snapdragon 855 in the Pixel 3.
As for battery, Google bumped up the capacity in the new Pixels. Lab tests showed that the Pixel 3A had a slightly longer battery life than the Pixel 3. With continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the Pixel 3A lasted an average of 16 hours, 35 minutes while the Pixel 3 clocked in 15 hours. Sixteen hours is quite impressive, and it puts it about on par with the Galaxy S10E and One Plus 6T. The iPhone XR, however, lasted nearly 20 hours.