Google has just announced the Pixel 3a: a cheaper version of its flagship Pixel 3 smartphone. With the falling sales and rising prices of high-end smartphones, Google is clearly eager to carve out a niche in the affordable sector.
Of course, with a lower price comes some sacrifices. Let’s take a look at some of the big areas where the two phones are different.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Price
The Pixel 3a comes in just one size (64GB) and costs £399. If you want a bigger screen, the Pixel 3a XL costs £469, again with 64GB capacity. Both are available to order today.
Pixel 3, on the other hand, retails for £739 (at the time of writing) for the 64GB model and £839 for the 128GB version. Google has been known to reduce these prices though and there was recently a (short-lived) sale on the Pixel 3.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: The cameras are very similar, but not quite the same
Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a have exactly the same camera specs: 12-megapixel sensor, f/1.8 aperture lens and OIS (optical image stabilisation). The Pixel 3 does benefit from the dedicated Pixel Visual Core chip which is there to help with image processing.
A lot of Pixel camera magic comes from Google’s software and the company has brought these smarts over to the Pixel 3a too. There’s the same low-light Night Sight mode, Top Shot, for picking the best snap from a bunch and a new Timelapse mode Google is introducing.
So what is different? Well, even though Google does a lot of processing through its software, some does take place on the chipset. The Snapdragon 845 SoC boasts more capable image processing compared to the 670 that powers the Pixel 3a. Google has also removed some minor Google Lens features from the camera, including the ability to scan text.
Pictures from the Pixel 3a do an excellent job of matching those from the Pixel 3. Detail is excellent, dynamic-range gives a lovely contrasty image and even the portrait mode offers a nice bokeh effect.
Some of the differences are visible in lower light, where the Pixel 3a camera can sometimes struggle to properly gauge exposure.
4K video is supported by both and each has an 8-megapixel front camera, although the standard Pixel 3 also benefits from a secondary wide-angle sensor.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Performance gets the big hit
If you’re looking for the obvious areas where Google saved money, then the Pixel 3a’s performance really stands out.
Instead of the Snapdragon 845, which you’ll find in the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3a is instead powered by the much more mid-range Snapdragon 670. This is still a capable chipset but it doesn’t have the pure oomph of the 845.
General performance on the 3a is good: lag is minimal and apps load up quickly. The difference in gaming quality is a bit more obvious though, with the 3a loading intensive titles up slower and dropping a few more frames along the way.
Both phones have 4GB RAM though and both start at 64GB storage. Neither has microSD expandability though and only the Pixel 3 has the option of a roomier 128GB model.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Some notable omissions on the feature list
Chipset aside, the Pixel 3a loses some of the more luxurious features of its pricier sibling. There’s no IP rating for water resistance and Qi wireless has also been ditched.
While both these features are great, they seem like easy areas Google can save a bit on the production costs. We’d also assume Google still wants to entice users to pony up and splash the cash on the top-end models.
Dual front speakers have been chopped – there’s just one forward-facing grille on the Pixel 3a and a secondary downward-facing one along its bottom edge.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: A similar design, with some sacrifices
Google has kept the minimalistic look of the Pixel 3 around for the 3a. This means you’re looking at a rounded slab of a phone with a two-tone finish on the back and an 18.5:9 display on the front.
The mixture of glass and metal has been switched for a unibody polycarbonate body and it feels ever so slightly lighter as a result. Importantly, the 3a doesn’t feel plasticky, however.
What really sets the 3a apart from other phones at this price range is the size. This is a small phone – similarly sized to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 – that’s perfectly usable in one hand. The rounded, soft nature of the phone’s aesthetics also help it fit comfortably in your palm.
Both phones feature a circular fingerprint sensor on the back and lack any form of facial unlocking. It’s a good job then that the fingerprint reader is fast and accurate, unlocking the phone instantly. NFC is onboard both too, for Google Pay transactions.
Colour-wise the Pixel 3a comes in three hues: black (dubbed ‘Just Black’), white (aka ‘Clearly White’) and a new light lilac colour Google is dubbing ‘Purple-ish’. While it’s nice, the purple is so mild and pastel it looks like white from a distance.
The regular Pixel 3 comes in both the black and white, plus an equally pastel pink colour, whimsically-named ‘Not Pink’.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3: Benefits include a reappearance of the headphone jack
One of the biggest features the Pixel 3a has that the Pixel 3 doesn’t is a headphone jack. This is the first Pixel phone to boast the 3.5mm port since the original Pixel.
USB-C audio is also supported, so if you’ve got a pair of Pixel Buds or another pair with a USB-C connection they’ll work just fine here.
The Pixel 3 relied solely on USB-C (and, of course, Bluetooth) for connecting headphones.
Google has also stuck with OLED for the display tech, bringing virtually the same screen down from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 3a. Both feature a notch-less design, Full HD+ resolution and various screen colour modes to suit your personal tastes.
Battery life is another area where the two phones are similar. The Pixel 3a features a 3000mAh battery, marginally larger than the 2900mAh cell on the Pixel 3. Both have quick 18W fast charging that’ll take you from 0-100% in about 80 minutes.
What do you think of the Pixel 3a? Lets us know over on Twitter @trustedreviews.