The Pixel 3a is a welcome move by Google. In what feels like a return to the Nexus formula, here we have a well-specced Android phone at a sensible price with a ‘pure’ interface.

Don’t assume it’s simply the Pixel 3 with a slower processor though, as there are quite a few differences. All of which we’ll outline below so you know whether or not the Pixel 3a is the one for you.

(Read our full reviews of Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a)

Price & availability

The highlight is the new price: the 3a costs £399 / $399 from Google, making it a lot more affordable than the Pixel 3 at £739/$799. You can also buy it at Argos, Carphone Warehouse and Currys PC World in the UK. 

However, if you shop around and don’t pay Google’s prices, you can find the 64GB version of the Pixel 3 for as little as £489 / $499 now. And as you’ll see, there are enough reasons to make the Pixel 3 worth the extra.

Features & design

Although there are plenty of similarities, the 3a is quite different to the Pixel 3. As you can probably tell by the lower price, this isn’t a mid-term upgrade to tide us over until the Pixel 4 arrives: this is a new, cut-price offering.

To save money, Google has dropped the waterproofing, fitted a cheaper processor, removed wireless charging and the group selfie camera. Plus, there’s no 128GB option now, so you’re stuck with 64GB of non-expandable storage.

You still get stereo speakers, but the bottom speaker on the 3a is downward- instead of front-firing.

There are a couple of positives: the return of a standard headphone jack, a slightly larger screen (and smaller bezels) and a new Purple-ish colour option instead of Not Pink.

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This table summarises how the two phones compare.

Pixel 3a

Pixel 3

5.6in, 2220×1080, 18.5:9 OLED screen

5.5in, 2160×1080, 18:9 OLED screen

Android 9.0 Pie

Android 9.0 Pie

Snapdragon 670

Snapdragon 845

4GB RAM

4GB RAM

64GB storage

64/128GB storage

12Mp f/1.8 rear camera with dual autofocus

12Mp f/1.8 rear camera with dual autofocus

8Mp, f/1.8 selfie camera

8Mp + 8Mp, f/1.8 dual-selfie camera

Rear fingerprint sensor

Rear fingerprint sensor

No waterproofing

IP68 waterproofing

USB-C 2.0

USB-C 3.1

Headphone jack

USB-C to 3.5mm adapter

3000mAh battery

2915mAh battery

No wireless charging

Qi wireless charging

151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm

145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm

147g

148g

Available in Just Black, Clearly White and Purple-ish

Available in Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink

Put simply, then, you’re trading off some performance, storage and a few features that you might not even want for a lower price. The specs we haven’t listed above, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, eSIM and NFC are all the same in both phones. Just note that it’s a slower USB 2.0 port on the 3a, even though it has the same USB-C connector.

Active Edge is present in the 3a, so you can squeeze the sides to bring up the Google Assistant just as you can on the Pixel 3.

Cameras

Apart from the ‘missing’ wide-angle selfie camera, you’re getting the same hardware as the Pixel 3. And that’s important as the Pixel 3 is still one of the best phones for photography.

It may not have the extra lenses of some rivals, but the 12Mp rear camera still snaps some of the best images around. And even with the mid-range 670 processor, you still get software features such as Night Sight and Top Shot, plus a new Timelapse mode which makes it simple to capture sunsets.

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Photobooth mode has an additional trigger: it will automatically take a photo when it sees a pouty kiss. There’s ‘fused video stabilisation’ for the rear camera which works up to 4K but is most effective at 1080p, and digital stabilisation for the front camera.

The downside is that you don’t get free storage in Google Photos for Original Quality. So it’s the same as any other phone: you have unlimited free storage for High Quality photos and videos.

Software

This is where the two phones are identical: you get unadulterated Android 9.0 Pie with some handy features including Flip to Shhh, Wind Down, Adaptive Battery and Smart Storage.

Google Assistant is pretty useful on the 3a, too, being able to turn on and off Wi-Fi, the torch, open Photobooth mode and also screen calls for you.

Verdict

The Pixel 3a is a great new option in Google’s range which lets you have a phone that’s almost as good as the Pixel 3 for considerably less. That phone is available for a lot less than Google’s price if you look elsewhere, though, and it can be well worth splashing out the extra £89/$99 or so if you value waterproofing, wireless charging and better performance. But conversely, if those features will make no difference to you, you’re better off with the Pixel 3a.

The 128GB Pixel 3 still commands a higher price, and is your only option between the two phones if you can’t live with just 64GB of storage.





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