Incredible value

Google Pixel 3a

True flagship

Google Pixel 3

The Pixel 3a is particularly interesting because it brings the Pixel 3's excellent camera to the mid-range segment. That means you get the same image quality as a true flagship for nearly half the cost. Google is also reintroducing the headphone jack, and in essence, the Pixel 3a is the Nexus successor we've all been waiting for.

$399 at Google Store

Pros

  • Same great rear camera as Pixel 3
  • Astounding value
  • Headphone jack
  • Stereo sound
  • Three years of updates

Cons

  • No wireless charging
  • No IP rating

If you're looking for a small phone with top-notch hardware, the Pixel 3 is your go-to option right now. The phone has robust internals combined with one of the best cameras available on Android today, and you get wireless charging, IP68 dust and water resistance, and three years of guaranteed updates.

$659 at B&H

Pros

  • Great for one-handed use
  • Dual front cameras
  • Excellent rear cameras
  • Wireless charging
  • Three years of updates

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • Average battery

Google has thus far focused on the flagship segment with the Pixel series, but that's changing with the Pixel 3a. The phone is the first mid-range offering from Google since the Nexus days, and even though the phone is debuting at half the price of the Pixel 3, it retains the same 12.2MP camera at the back and a similar design aesthetic. Let's see if Google has cracked the mid-range segment.

The Pixel 3a has the same great camera as the Pixel 3

Google Pixel 3a vs. Pixel 3: Which should you buy?

At first glance, it's easy to see that the Pixel 3a shares a lot of similarities with the Pixel 3. Aside from minor variations in dimensions, these are identical devices from a design point of view. That said, both phones use different materials. The Pixel 3 has a glass back with a coating that gives it a matte finish, whereas the Pixel 3a is made out of polycarbonate.

The Pixel 3a has the best camera of any $400 phone in the market today.

But what makes the Pixel 3a truly stand out is the camera on offer. Google is offering the same 12.2MP rear camera that you get on the Pixel 3, and the result is that the Pixel 3a blows every other device in this price point out of the water when it comes to image quality.

I shot photos extensively with the Pixel 3a XL over the course of the last week, and was constantly amazed by how close the phone was to the Pixel 3 series in this regard.

Essentially, the Pixel 3a is a lightweight version of the Pixel 3 that has the same camera but with a few other features missing. The 3a is powered by the Snapdragon 670, and while it holds up to scrutiny for everyday tasks, it isn't quite as powerful as the Snapdragon 845 on the Pixel 3 for heavy-duty gaming.

The Pixel 3a also has stereo speakers, but they're both located at the bottom of the device. They deliver an impressive amount of sound, but it's not the same as the front-facing stereo sound that you get with the Pixel 3. That said, the Pixel 3a marks the return of the headphone jack, a welcome move from Google.

You also get a marginally larger 3000mAh battery on the Pixel 3a, and the phone has the same capacitive fingerprint sensor as the Pixel 3. Best of all — particularly considering how much the Pixel 3a costs — Google is providing the same three years of guaranteed security and platform updates, making the Pixel 3a that much more enticing.

Elsewhere, you get the same 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but there's no 128GB option on the Pixel 3a. There's also a single camera at the front, and while the selfie quality is almost as good as what you get on the Pixel 3, you miss out on the wide-angle lens at the front.

Category Google Pixel 3a Google Pixel 3
Operating system Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie
Display 5.6-inch gOLED
2220x1080 (18.5:9)
Dragon Trail
5.5-inch OLED
2160x1080 (18:9)
Gorilla Glass 5
Chipset Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
Adreno 615
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Pixel Visual Core
Adreno 630
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 64GB 64GB/128GB
MicroSD slot No No
Rear camera 12.2MP, 1.4-micron, PDAF
f/1.8, OIS
12.2MP, 1.4-micron, PDAF
f/1.8, OIS
Front camera 1 8MP, auto focus
f/2.0, 84-degree lens
8MP, auto focus
f/1.8, 75-degree lens
Front camera 2 No 8MP, fixed focus
f/2.2, 97-degree lens
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Audio Stereo speakers
3.5mm jack
Stereo speakers
USB-C
Battery 3000mAh
Non-removable
2915mAh
Non-removable
Charging 18W USB-C PD 18W USB-C PD
Qi wireless
Water resistance No IP68
Security Fingerprint sensor Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm
147g
145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9mm
148g
Colors Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish Just Black, Very White, Not Pink
Security Updates Minimum 3 years of security updates Minimum 3 years of security updates
OS Updates Minimum 3 years of OS updates Minimum 3 years of OS updates

You do get a few extras with the Pixel 3

You do get a few extras with the Pixel 3

Although the Pixel 3a offers great value, Google has removed a few features to bring it to that $400 price point. Key among them is wireless charging and water resistance. So if you need those features, you'll have to shell out an additional $400 and pick up the Pixel 3.

Pixel 3 has wireless charging, water resistance, and better cameras up front.

The Pixel 3 also has dual cameras up front that are better than what you get with the Pixel 3a. The primary sensor uses an f/1.8 lens (versus f/2.0), and the phone also has a secondary wide-angle lens that makes a lot of difference when taking group selfies.

Last of all, the Pixel 3 XL lets you upload all your photos and videos to Google Photos at original quality for free, and this includes 4K video as well. For me, this is one of the standout features of the Pixel series as I usually upload all photos at original quality.

But with the latest Pixels aimed at a more mainstream price point, Google isn't offering the feature on the 3a or 3a XL. So that means you'll only be able to upload photos at high-quality resolution — like hundreds of other Android phones — for free. If you want to upload photos and videos at their original quality, they will count toward your storage quota.

Pixel 3a is the better choice for value

Google Pixel 3a vs. Pixel 3: Which should you buy?

If I had to pick a winner of the two, it would have to be the Pixel 3a. The one standout feature on the Pixel series has always been the camera, and the 3a brings that to the mid-range segment. Yes, it doesn't have the same hardware as the Pixel 3, and it's missing out on wireless charging and water resistance, but it excels at the basics.

Best of all, it has a 3.5mm jack. So if you're looking for a phone for under $500 that has an excellent camera and is great for everyday usage, the Pixel 3a is the obvious choice. If you need the extra features, then you'll have to pay more to get your hands on the Pixel 3.

Incredible value

Google Pixel 3a

The best compact mid-range phone of 2019.

By retaining the same 12.2MP camera as the Pixel 3, Google has basically ensured that the Pixel 3a is the king of the mid-range segment. Then there's the fact that the Pixel 3a also has three years of guaranteed security and platform updates, and you begin to see just how good a deal it is for $400.

True flagship

Google Pixel 3

Everything you want from a flagship.

The Pixel 3 is still the best compact phone overall in 2019. It has outstanding cameras both at the front and back, and it includes wireless charging as well as IP68 dust and water resistance. You also get unlimited Google Photos uploads, but you also end up paying for the extras.

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