Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 — biggest expected differences

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8
(Image credit: OnLeaks / SmartPrix / Tom's Guide)

With Google I/O 2024 coming up, we're getting close to the expected launch of the Pixel 8a. And when Google finally shows off its latest lower-cost phone, a Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 comparison seems inevitable.

After all, if you're considering one of Pixel's cheaper A Series phones, knowing how it differs from the regular Pixel flagships can help you figure out if the lower cost is worth it. While the Pixel 8a will have a lot in common with the Pixel 8, you're still going to see some key differences that allow Google to charge less for its midrange handset.

We won't know what those differences will be officially until we get a Pixel 8a preview directly from Google. But there are enough rumors out there to give us an idea of likely Google Pixel 8a vs.Pixel 8 differences and whether the Pixel 8a offers enough to make it a compelling alternative to the pricier flagship phone.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Google Pixel 8a (rumored)Google Pixel 8
Starting price$499 - $549$699
Screen size6.1 inches6.2 inches
Refresh rate120Hz120Hz
Maximum brightness1,400 nits1,400 nits
CPUTensor G3Tensor G3
Storage128GB, 256GB128GB, 256GB
Rear cameras64MP main; 13MP ultrawide50MP main, 12MP ultrawide
Front camera13MP10.5MP
Battery size4,500 mAh4,575 mAh
Size6 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches / 152.1 x 72.6 x 8.9mm5.9 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches / 150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9mm
ColorsObsidian, Bay, Mint, PorcelainObsidian, Rose, Mint, Hazel

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 price

There's currently a $200 gap between the $699 starting price for the Pixel 8 and the $499 Pixel 7a. In an ideal world, we'd see that continue once the Pixel 8a arrives on the scene. However, Pixel 8a pricing rumors suggest that won't be the case.

Instead, reports on European pricing suggest a €60 increase for the Pixel 8a compared to the Pixel 7a's price. That would give the Pixel 8a a starting price of €569 for the 128GB Pixel 8a, compared to €799 for the Pixel 8 in that part of the world.

Price increases in one region don't always follow in another, but it's true that phone prices have been on the rise lately. As a result, we've heard some rumblings that the Pixel 8a could carry a U.S. price of $549.

Narrowing the pricing gap between the A Series device and the flagship wouldn't be an unprecedented move for Google. When the Pixel 7a debuted at $499 — a $50 price increase from the 7a — that left a difference of $100 between the cost of the 7a and the Pixel 7. Should the price of the Pixel 8a go up, Google will have to explain why its cheaper phone is still a good value compared to the Pixel 8.

We should find out pricing soon enough. The Pixel 8a is expected to get a preview during Google I/O. That developer conference gets underway on May 14.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 design and display

Google Pixel 8a leaked render from @OnLeaks

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

There's generally very few design differences between the A Series and the Pixel flagship it's replicating, though the A Series device tends to have more prominent bezels. Indeed, leaked images purporting to show off the Pixel 8a suggest that will be the case again this year.

Otherwise, you'll have a hard time spotting any Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 visual differences. Both phones should feature the vertical camera bar that's become typical of Google's phones. The Pixel 8a will likely incorporate more plastic into its design as a cost-saving maneuver, but that's really it as far as design changes.

Easily, the biggest visual difference will come down to color. The Pixel 8 is available in Rose, Hazel, Obsidian and Mint — that's pink, gray, black and light green to you and me. Rumored Pixel 8a colors suggest the new phone will come in Porcelain, Obsidian, Bay, and Mint, with the white and blue hues replacing the pink and gray options.

Four colors of Google Pixel 8a.

(Image credit: Android Headlines)

Like its predecessor, the Pixel 8a should come with a 6.1-inch display, which would be fractionally smaller than the Pixel 8's 6.2 inch panel. But the Pixel 8a could offer up an improvement upon the 90Hz refresh rate of the Pixel 7a's display, as rumors say the new phone will feature a 120Hz rate. That would put the Pixel 8a on par with the Pixel 8.

That may not be the only display feature the two phones share. Rumors tip the Pixel 8a display to offer the same peak brightness of 1,400 nits you already get from the Pixel 8.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 cameras

Google Pixel 8 shown held in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We're not expecting a lot of changes to the camera hardware with the Pixel 8a, so a Pixel 8 vs Pixel 7a camera comparison would remain apt. 

Like the Pixel 7a before it, we think the Pixel 8a will offer a 64MP main lens, augmented by a 13MP ultrawide camera. That compares to the 50MP main camera and 12MP ultrawide shooter on the back of the Pixel 8.

Don't go looking for a dedicated telephoto lens on either the Pixel 8a or the Pixel 8. That feature remains the distinguishing factor on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Google's approach to camera phones has always been more about software features and computational photography. Since the Pixel 8a is getting a version of the Tensor G3 chipset found in the Pixel 8 — more on that in a moment — we'd anticipate the same Tensor-powered features to appear on the new phone. In terms of photo editing, that means the ability to move around and resize objects. That you'll enjoy these capabilities on a device that's cheaper than the Pixel 8 adds to the Pixel 8a's appeal.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 performance and special features

Google Pixel 8 shown held in hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As noted above, the Tensor G3 found in the Pixel 8 appears to be bound for the Pixel 8a. (Google's done the same thing with past A Series phones, turning to the silicon from the previous fall's flagship release.) Leaked benchmarks indicate that the Pixel 8a is using an under-clocked version of the Tensor G3, so its performance may fall a little short of what the Pixel 8 delivers. (It's also possible that the shipping version of the Pixel 8a will feature a more optimized chipset.)

Then again, performance really isn't the main focus of the Tensor silicon. Rather, it's the neural engine on the system-on-chip, which is responsible for powering the many unique features we've come to expect from Google phones. In the case of the Pixel 8, that means improved call screening with a more natural sounding assistant, along with web page summaries and a proofreading button baked into the keyboard. We imagine those features will wind up on the Pixel 8a.

In addition to the generative photo editing features mentioned above, you can also expect the Pixel 8a to pick up the Audio Magic Eraser capabilities introduced with the Pixel 8 phones. With that feature, you can remove distracting noise from video footage, so that the edited video only highlights the sound you want. 

One AI feature likely not coming to the Pixel 8a is the Video Boost tool for optimizing the look of videos. That's a Pixel 8 Pro-exclusive, so we wouldn't expect to see it on the more modestly priced Piel 8a if it's not even available on the standard Pixel 8.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 battery life and charging

Pixel 8a photo from X

(Image credit: Abhishek Yadav/X)

We haven't heard much in the way of battery rumors for the Pixel 8a — which is somewhat surprising, given how this is one area where Google phones typically under-perform their rivals. With the Pixel 7a relying on a 4,385 mAh battery, that phone managed to match the average smartphone's result on our battery test, but only when we disabled the higher refresh rate on the phone's display.

The Pixel 8 features a 4,575 mAh battery, and its time on our battery test was slightly below average for a smartphone. (In our test, where phones surf the web until they run out of power, we typically see times of around 10 hours.) There's a lot of room for improvement here, so we'll see if the Pixel 8a is up to the task. Rumored specs for the Pixel 8a indicate that a 4,500 mAh battery will come to the new phone, so maybe there's reason to hope for a longer-lasting device.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 software

Besides the Tensor-powered software features likely to ship with the Pixel 8a, there's one other software item to keep an eye on. The Pixel 8 introduced a more generous update policy from Google, where the phone will receive software and security support for the next seven years.

We're eager to see if the Pixel 8a also gets treated to that same degree of support since it has the same chipset as the Pixel 8. It's also possible Google concludes that its midrange phone doesn't merit the extensive support that flagship phones get and sticks with the Pixel 7a's policy featuring three years of software updates and five years of security support.

The Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 should both support the upcoming Android 15 software, which is currently in public beta, but the final version likely won't be available until late summer. 

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 outlook

We have plenty of blanks remaining to fill in before we can make a truly informed Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 comparison. Finding out more about the battery planned for the Pixel 8a and how camera performance compares will be two big factors in determining how these Google phones measure up to one another.

But the biggest wildcard remains the price of the Pixel 8a and how it compares to the $699 Google charges for the Pixel 8. The price difference will go a long way toward determining whether the Pixel 8a is a better value than the more expensive flagship that inspired it.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.