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Pixel 3a vs. Nokia 7.1: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 3a XL
Google Pixel 3a XL (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Google Pixel 3a

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With the Pixel 3a, you're essentially getting 80% of the experience found on the $800 Pixel 3 for half the cost. The Pixel 3a has a truly unbeatable camera for its price, an OLED display, and a stock build of Android Pie with guaranteed updates for three years.

Google Pixel 3a

Can't be beat

Phenomenal camera
Vivid OLED display
Android Pie w/ Google customizations
Three years of guaranteed updates
Plastic construction
Larger bezels
More expensive

Nokia 7.1

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The Nokia 7.1 isn't as impressive of a package as the Pixel 3a, but that doesn't mean you should ignore it. For less money, the 7.1 has a more premium design than the 3a, along with a display that supports HDR10. Just be prepared for a slower processor and less impressive cameras.

Nokia 7.1

Cheaper alternative

Modern glass + metal design
Display supports HDR10
Expandable storage
Android One
Slower processor
Cameras are just OK

Overall, the Pixel 3a is the phone we'd recommend most people buy. For a bit more money than the Nokia 7.1, it delivers a substantially better camera, newer processor, and more. However, if $400 is too much for you to spend and/or you really need expandable storage, the Nokia 7.1 is still a solid option.

It's worth paying extra for the Pixel 3a

We've recommended the Nokia 7.1 quite a lot over the last few months as one of the very best mid-range phones you can buy in the United States. The Nokia 7.1 is still a really great phone, but now that the Pixel 3a has arrived, it's quickly become the new "budget" king in the country.

There are a few things that help the Pixel 3a stand out, but without a doubt, its biggest strength is its rear camera. The Pixel 3a uses the exact same 12.2MP camera found on the $800 Pixel 3, and more importantly, uses the same post-processing techniques. In real world use, this means the Pixel 3a captures some of the best pictures of any smartphone you can buy — regardless of price.

If that alone hasn't sold you on the Pixel 3a, that's far from the only thing it brings to the table.

The phone ships with a clean and smooth build of Android 9 Pie out of the box, and since this is a Pixel phone, it's guaranteed to receive fast software updates and security patches for the next three years. The Snapdragon 670 CPU is also quite a bit faster than the Nokia 7.1's Snapdragon 636, allowing for improved performance across the board.

Google Pixel 3aNokia 7.1
Operating SystemAndroid 9 PieAndroid 9 Pie
Display5.6-inch
2220 x 1080
OLED
18.5:9
5.84-inch
2220 x 1080
LCD
19:9
HDR10
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 670Qualcomm Snapdragon 636
Storage64GB64GB
Expandable StorageUp to 400GB
RAM4GB4GB
Rear Camera 112.2MP
f/1.8 aperture
1.4μm pixel width
12MP
f/1.8 aperture
1.28µm pixel width
Rear Camera 25MP
f/2.4 aperture
1.12µm pixel width
Front Camera8MP
f/2.0 aperture
8MP
f/2.0 aperture
Battery3,000 mAh3,060 mAh
ChargingUSB-CUSB-C
NFC✔️✔️
3.5mm Headphone Jack✔️✔️
SecurityRear fingerprint sensorRear fingerprint sensor

Why you may still want the Nokia 7.1

The Pixel 3a is our top recommendation between these two devices, but there are some instances where we'd suggest you still check out the Nokia 7.1.

For starters, it costs a lot less than the Pixel 3a. That difference in price might not matter a whole lot to some people, but if you're on a particularly tight budget, the Nokia 7.1 will be the more appealing of the two options.

It also has a much more premium glass and metal design compared to the Pixel 3a's polycarbonate body, and if you like storing a lot of local files, the Nokia 7.1 gets big points for having microSD card expansion up to an additional 400GB. On the Pixel 3a, you're stuck with the 64GB that's available out of the box and that's it.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.