News: Everything You Need to Know About the Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL

Everything You Need to Know About the Google Pixel 3a & 3a XL

After poor sales of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google needs to reinvigorate its Pixel lineup, devices it's been pushing heavily over the last couple years. On May 7, Google had the eyes and ears of the technology industry at its Google I/O keynote, making it the perfect time to announce new devices that would attract a different crowd of users. Meet the Pixel 3a and 3a XL.

This is the first time in Google's history that its releasing four smartphones for one generation. The old Nexus lineup didn't do it, and up until now, neither did the Pixel lineup. So what exactly made Google decide to do it now? It starts with the value. At a price much cheaper than the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, Google offers very similar performance on the 3a and 3a XL without sacrificing on the camera department.

The new Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL embody the value that the Nexus 5X once did, a phone beloved by many in the Android community still. With these latest smartphones, Google has once again answered the question, "How good could we make a budget phone?"

Jump to a section: Standout Features | Dates | Storage | Price | Body | Basics | Software | Skin | Display | Performance | Battery | Front Camera | Rear Camera | Audio | Media Formats | Sensors | Connectivity | Security | Box Includes

Standout Features

For the first time, Google has created a Pixel device aimed at the budget crowd. At a price that's between $400 and $420 lower than their Google Pixel 3 equivalents, you can now get access to one of the best smartphone cameras on the market without going into debt for a whole year.

While these mid-range versions do lose some premium features such as a dust and waterproof IP rating and wireless charging, you also gain the lost feature of 3.5 mm headphone jack. The Google Pixel 3a family comes in two variants, the 3a at 5.6 inches and 3a XL at 6 inches. Both models retain their OLED panels and stereo speakers making this, in some ways, a better value than the Pixel 3 models.

Important Dates

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL were announced on May 7, 2019, during Google I/O. They're available right away on May 7, which means there aren't any preorder dates to mess with. The Google Store online started selling them right away, while carriers can list them for sale the night of May 7 or early May 8.

  • Release date: May 7, 2019
  • Preorder date: N/A
  • Announced: May 7, 2019

Storage Capacity

There is one storage option available, 64 GB. It will not support expandable storage, meaning you are stuck with this amount. However, it will not get the same unlimited photo storage as a Pixel 3 would. It will instead only apply to high-quality photos or compressed images or videos, so videos are capped at 1080p and images compressed to 16 MP.

  • Storage available: 64 GB
  • Expandable storage: no

Price for Everything

The Pixel 3a retails for $399 while the Pixel 3a XL costs $479. It's possible that there could be deals in the future, but these are already pretty cheap smartphones for what you get.

  • Price: $399 (Pixel 3a), $479 (Pixel 3a XL)

Body

The body of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL is entirely plastic. It's a much cheaper material to use, contributing significantly to their inexpensive costs. Plastic also helps those tired of leaving fingerprint marks on their phone as the plastic back cover won't be subjected to this issue.

As far as colors, it comes in three options: Clearly White, Just Black, and Purple-ish. The latter is a new color for Pixel phones and helps to distinguish the phone from their more expensive siblings easily.

  • Frame: polycarbonate
  • Finish: clearly white, just black, and purple-ish

Basics

For the first time, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are officially available at T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular. They also remain in-stores at Verizon, and they're being sold through Google Fi as well. There's also GSM-unlocked versions sold through the Google Store that will work on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. That means this is the first Pixel device to work with all five major wireless carriers plus Google Fi (only AT&T won't sell it directly). Unlike the Google Pixel 3, it does not come with an official IP rating.

  • Height: 6.0 inches (Pixel 3a), 6.3 inches (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Width: 2.8 inches (Pixel 3a), 3.0 inches (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Depth: 0.3 inches (Pixel 3a), 0.3 inches (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Weight: 5.19 ounces (Pixel 3a), 5.9 ounces (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Dust/water resistance: Unrated
  • Supported carriers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular
  • Infrared blaster: no

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL have operating temperatures between 32°F to 95°F, similar to most smartphones.

  • Operating temp: 32º to 95º F
  • Nonoperating temp: Unknown
  • Relative humidity: Unknown
  • Operating altitude: Unknown

Software

Just like all Pixel phones, these run the latest version of Android. While it's not pure stock Android, it's the closest option available official to smartphones from OEMs. As with all Pixel devices, it has at least three years of security patches and three full OS updates, including Android Q, R, and S.

  • Version: Android 9.0 Pie

Skin

While technically it doesn't run a skin, there a few differences between the AOSP and Pixel versions of Android. Namely, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have features such as always-on display and Now Playing, the latter being exclusive to Pixel devices.

  • Version: stock Android (Pixel version)

Display

Both sizes ditch the notch found in the Pixel 3 XL. Instead, they adopt a similar design to the Google Pixel 3 and its symmetrical forehead and chin. The Pixel 3a will have a slightly bigger screen than its predecessor at 5.6 inches. It will sport a resolution of 2220 x 1080p for a pixel density of 441 ppi.

The Pixel 3a XL has a screen size of 6 inches with an 18:9 aspect ratio. It has the same resolution as the Google Pixel 3 at 2160 x 1080. Both phones use the new OLED panel and support always-on display. Be aware that to keep the cost down, Google opted for new screen protection for the front glass, Dragon Trail. We are not sure how well this compares to standard Gorilla Glass, so be cautious when dropping this phone.

  • Screen size: 5.6 inches (Pixel 3a), 6 inches (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Screen resolution: 2220 x 1080 (Pixel 3a), 2160 x 1080 (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Total pixels: 2,397,600 pixels (Pixel 3a), 2,332,800 (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Pixel density: 441 ppi (Pixel 3a), 402 ppi (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Screen type: OLED
  • Notch: no
  • Screen-to-body ratio: Unknown
  • Aspect ratio: 18.5:9 (Pixel 3a), 18:9 (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Minimum brightness: Unknown
  • Maximum brightness:Unknown
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz (60 Hz for touch-sensing)
  • Color temp: Unknown
  • Color gamut: Unknown
Image via MrMobile

Performance

The SoC, which is the heart of both the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670. This is a high -end 600 series system on a chip that uses eight Kryo 360 cores clocked at 2.0 GHz, the same cores in the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710. It uses the X12 LTE model for Cat.12 download speed and Cat. 13 upload speeds. Just like the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, it will use 4 GB of RAM.

  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
  • Chip size: 10 nanometer
  • CPU frequency: 2.0 GHz (2x Kyro 360) + 1.7 GHz (6x Kyro 360)
  • CPU cores: 8
  • GPU: Adreno 615
  • GPU cores: Unknown

Battery

The Pixel 3a XL will come with a respectable 3,700 mAh battery, which is larger than its predecessor. The combination of the more efficient SoC, smaller display, and larger battery should lead to better battery life than original Pixel 3. The Pixel 3a comes with a 3,000 mAh, nearly identical to its predecessor.

Both support Quick Charge 4+ and USB Power Delivery and include an 18-watt charger. However, they do lose wireless charging thanks to their plastic back covers.

  • Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Capacity: 3,000 mAh (Pixel 3a), 3,700 mAh (Pixel 3a XL)
  • Wired charging: Quick Charge 4+,USB PD (18 W)
  • Wireless charging: no

Front Camera

The front camera is the same as the standard lens in the Pixel 3 model. It's an 8 MP lens with a field of view of 84 degrees. It has an ƒ/2.0 aperture and uses a fixed focus.

  • Resolution: 8 MP
  • Aperture: ƒ/2.0
  • Zoom: yes, 2x digital
  • Flash: yes, screen flash
  • Image stabilization: Unknown
  • RAW support: yes
  • Object detection: Unknown
  • Formats: JPEG, RAW

Rear Camera

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL use the Sony IMX363 sensor, the same camera sensor as the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. In theory, it should provide nearly identical performance to the more expensive Pixel 3 but will be harder (to a degree) due to the midrange SoC. However, thanks to Google's familiarity with the sensor, with some programming, it minimizes the differences giving users, for the first time, an amazing camera at a budget price.

Additionally, the rear camera offers the same industry-leading stabilization thanks to the combination of Google's unmatched EIS and OIS. All the same camera features found in the Pixel 3 have made their way to Pixel 3a including Night Sight, Top Shot, HDR+, and Super Res Zoom.

Google's Visual Core, however, is not present, meaning that all image processing and HDR+ processing is handled by Qualcomm's ISP which isn't as good. With everything we know about Google Pixel 3a, it appears the camera is close but just not as good.

  • Resolution: 12.2 MP
  • Sensor size: 1.4 µm
  • Aperture: ƒ/1.8
  • Zoom: 5x digital
  • Flash: yes, LED
  • Image stabilization: yes, optical and electronic image stabilization
  • RAW support: yes
  • Lens cover: Unknown
  • Object detection: no or yes (bodies, faces, winks, tongues, etc.)
  • Formats: JPEG, RAW
Image by The Verge/YouTube

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL will also likely share a similar DxOMark Video score to the Pixel 3 as they offer nearly the same features and performance but on a weaker SoC. Recording at 4K resolution is limited to 30 fps just like its Pixel 3 models, which can also stabilize with optical and electronic stabilization.

For live streamers, the front camera can record up to 1080p at 30 fps.

  • Resolution: 720p, 1080p, and 4K
  • Max frame rate: 60 fps at 720p, 60 fps at 1080p and 30 fps at 4K
  • Slow motion: yes, 720p at 240 fps, 1080p at 120 fps
  • Time-lapse: no
  • Photos: 8.3 MP stills while recording 4K
  • Zoom: yes, 5x digital
  • Flash access: yes (see above)
  • Image stabilization: yes (see above)
  • Object detection: Unknown
  • Autofocus: dual pixel phase detection
  • Audio: stereo
  • Formats: H.264, H.265

Audio

In regards to audio, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are better than the Pixel 3 variants. While they do lose the dual front-facing speakers, they maintain stereo speakers, moving the second speaker to the bottom edge. Unlike the Pixel 3 models (and most other flagship smartphones), there is a headphone jack. Original Pixel users rejoice! You can finally upgrade your phone to another Pixel device without sacrificing your headphone jack.

As far as wireless audio, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL support aptX and aptX HD, the latter of which provides high-quality audio to supporting wireless speakers and headphones.

  • 3.5 mm headphone jack: yes
  • Stereo speakers: yes, one front- and one bottom-firing
  • Mics: 2
  • Max speaker volume: Unknown
Image by Pocketnow/YouTube

Media Formats

The Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL support the usual set of codecs found in Android phones.

  • Audio: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WAV, FLAC, APE, OGG, MID, M4A, IMY
  • Video: MKV, MOV, MP4, H.265(HEVC), AVI, WMV, TS, 3GP, FLV, WEBM

Sensors

The Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL have the same arrangement sensors as the Google Pixel 3 including Active Edge, the pressure-sensitive side which lets you call up Google Assistant.

  • Accelerometer: yes
  • Ambient light: yes
  • Barometer: yes
  • Color temperature: no
  • Compass: yes
  • Gravity: no
  • Gyroscope: yes
  • Hall: no
  • Infrared: no
  • Laser: no
  • Pedometer: no
  • Proximity: yes

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL support GLONASS and Galileo satellite navigation systems.

  • GPS: yes
  • aGPS: no
  • Glonass: yes
  • BeiDou: no
  • Galileo: yes
  • QZSS: no

Connectivity

With Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 at the helm, the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL have access to several connectivity technologies includes Wi-Fi 5 (802.11 ac). They also use Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless transfer and music and USB Type-C 3.1 for wired connection. There is also native support for Google Cast, meaning a screen-mirroring icon is available in Quick Settings. So your phone can mirror to an external display (such as your television) with less of a hit to the battery.

  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
  • Bluetooth: 5.0 + LE
  • NFC: yes
  • Cellular: nano-SIM and eSIM (select countries only)
  • Port: USB Type-C 2.0

Both phones are GSM-unlocked allowing them to work on either T-Mobile or AT&T. Additionally, there will be carrier versions through Verizon which will work on Verizon network. The Snapdragon 670 comes equipped with a Cat. 11/Cat.5 modem, which translates to a theoretical maximum download speed of 600 Mbps and theoretical upload speed of 75 Mbps.

Model number G020A/ G020E.

  • GSM/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: 1/2/4/5/8
  • CDMA EVDO Rev A: BC0, BC1, BC10
  • LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/32/38/40/41/66

Model number G020C/G020G.

  • GSM/EDGE: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: 1/2/4/5/8
  • CDMA EVDO Rev A: BC0, BC1, BC10
  • LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/20/25/26/28/29/30/38/40/41/66/71

Security

Both phones use the same rear-mounted fingerprint scanner known as Pixel Imprint. It's one of the fastest fingerprint scanners on the market and will ensure you're both protected from hackers while not be inconvenient to use.

The Titan M security module also returns. This new component is a separate processor which handles all sensitive data such as the mapping of your fingerprint. Android 9 Pie also opens this up to apps to use so that sensitive transactions could be conducted in a secure module that offers tamper protection from hackers abroad and nearby.

  • Fingerprint scanner: yes, rear-mounted
  • Face scanner: no
  • Iris scanner: no
  • Manual authentication: password, PIN, pattern, swipe
Image by MrMobile/YouTube

Box Includes

In the box, you will get the same accessories as the Pixel 3 and 3 XL with one exception: The headphones use a 3.5 mm headphone jack connector instead of USB-C.

  • Google Pixel 3a or 3a XL
  • USB-C to USB-C (USB 2.0) Cable (1 m)
  • 18 W USB-C power adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Quick Switch Adapter
  • SIM card tool
Cover image via Pocketnow/YouTube

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2 Comments

Plastic isn't a deal breaker, and camera doesn't sound too bad. Don't care for the notch, glad there's none. We'll see what performance it brings, compared to others in this price range, and there should be plenty roms for it.

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