Google has been making an affordable smartphone for a while. But waiting was worth it. Not everyone needs an iPhone XS, a costly piece of glass and metal that feels more like a priceless artifact than a tool you’re carrying every day. The ever-increasing megapixel camera, the ever-increasing processor, the endless creeping price.
Apple’s “cheap” phone option— the iPhone XR— still starts at $750, as an example of how far things have gone. These are the familiar steps in an endless dance of technological excess that we have all learned.
Not to pick on Apple, of course— Samsung is no better, with a nearly $2,000 folding phone that doesn’t really fold very well, and Google is playing the game. You could score a Pixel 2 starting at $650 in 2017, but with only marginal improvements the Pixel 3 jumped up to $800. Meanwhile, the top-of – the-line Pixel 3 XL approached nearly the $1,000 mark last year.
Because the price is the real thing selling the new Pixel 3a. Starting at $ 400—half of the original Pixel 3 asking price — the Pixel 3a (and the 6-inch Pixel 3a XL starting at $ 480) is an affordable telephone worth lusting about.
It doesn’t sound like high praise at first, but the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are amazingly mediocre. A little less muscle comes in the processor. The Pixel 3a is wrapped instead of aluminum in plastic. The display shifts to a full HD screen of OLED. Wireless charging is entirely MIA.
The Pixel 3a is DOA for the most spec-obsessed, another needless mid-tier phone that in no meaningful way pushes boundaries. What about the rest of us? There’s a lot to love, but let’s go through these perceived negatives first.
Is this display? Can’t say I noticed the pixels that were missing. The Pixel 3 may edge out the Pixel 3a in terms of color accuracy in a side-by-side comparison, but it is a near-dead heat during daily use.
As for the plastic / metal discussion, it won’t really matter if you’re using a case.
No wireless charging is the only thing that could be a setback. But with USB Type-C’s ever-increasing domination (even the latest laptops from Apple are using the standard), your friends and family are more likely to have a usable cord around them than some dedicated Qi-compatible charging pad.
GETTING THINGS RIGHT
In fact, the Pixel 3a improves in a few key ways on the Pixel 3.
The most obvious addition is the headphone jack re-introduction. Finally, when my headphone jack adapter (inevitably) broke, I can dust off my noise-canceling Bose earbuds, which became almost unusable.
Battery is another big one. While not making huge gains over the batteries of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, the Pixel 3a packs in a few more mAhs to help you get through a whole day without charging.
On the software side of things, with Android Pie 9.0, the Pixel 3a gets Google’s latest and biggest, and as a Google device, you’ll be the first to get updates and features from Google as they become available.
GREAT CAMERA, GREAT PRICE
One of the best shooters out there is the Pixel 3 camera. His 12.2mp dual-pixel camera captures amazing detail on the hardware side of things, while software enhancements such as Night Sight help capture shots even in the darkest lit scenes. It’s one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy — and the rear shooter inside the Pixel 3a is an accurate clone. The same sensor, the same stabilization tech, the same aperture, the same 4 K video specs — and the results show the close match.While the front-facing camera does not receive the dual-lens system from the Pixel, the possibility of getting this camera in your pocket for just $ 400 is the point of sale, especially since you will save money by never buying a point-and-shoot again.
A RETURN TO CHEAP
Google’s triumphant return to the cheap phone fold is represented by the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. The Pixel 3a feels remarkably premium without an outlandish price tag attached, just like its old “Nexus” devices, designed by a rotating parade of phone makers. For those of us who don’t mind buying a new phone — as long as it doesn’t cost near-laptop prices, it’s a good sign.
These new phones are available in white, black and purple (pictured) and are available for the Pixel 3a and $480 for the Pixel 3a XL starting today at $400.
Simply put, the spec sheet of the Pixel 3a is uninspiring. It is a fantastic camera. For the rest of us, it’s a phone.
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