Updated May 22 at 4:29 p.m. ET: We've added battery test results after reviewing both the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
Google has put the Pixel 3's amazing camera in the more affordable Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. They're both available to buy now for a very affordable $399 and $479, respectively.
But which new is the best for you? Let’s take a look at the (miniscule) differences between the two before you buy. Hint: it all comes down the display size and battery life.
Price and Availability
The $399 Pixel 3a and $479 Pixel 3a XL come in just one variant: 64GB of storage with 4GB of RAM. Both phones are available to order now through Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon’s discount carrier, Visible. The carriers will sell both Pixel 3a models online and in-store, and Google will carry the devices on its website as well as on Google Fi.
You can buy an unlocked Pixel 3a from Google that will work on any CDMA or GSM carrier, so AT&T customers can still get in on the action.
You can find deals on the new Pixel 3a — and even a few discounts on the older Pixel 3 deals — so check out your options to make sure you don’t leave any money on the table.
Pixel 3a vs. Pixel 3a XL: Specs Compared
|Phone||Pixel 3a ||Pixel 3a XL |
|Screen (Resolution)||5.6-inch OLED (2280 x 1080)||6-inch OLED (2160 x 1080)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 670||Snapdragon 670|
|Rear Camera||12MP (f/1.8) with OIS and EIS||12MP (f/1.8) with OIS and EIS|
|Front Camera||8MP (f/2.0)||8MP (f/2.0)|
|Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)||11:59||11:44|
|Colors||Clearly White, Just Black, Purple-ish||Clearly White, Just Black, Purple-ish|
|Size||6 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches||6.3 x 3 x 0.3 inches|
|Weight||5.2 ounces||5.9 ounces|
Design and Size
The Pixel 3a wins on price, but if you want a bigger display, the Pixel 3a XL is the Pixel to buy.
The cheaper Pixel 3a sports a 5.6-inch panel, while the pricier 3a XL has a 6-inch screen.
Otherwise, the 3a and 3a XL share the same design details. Both are all-plastic, but with the same matte and glossy backs, and both come in three colors: Just Black, Clearly White and Purple-ish. You’ll notice that the 3a XL doesn’t have a notch, like its predecessor did, which makes the 3a and 3a XL even more similar to each other.
Both Pixels offer a rear fingerprint sensor beneath the camera lens and a headphone jack (which the pricier Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sacrificed last year). The plastic backs and headphone jacks mean no wireless charging and no water resistance — you’ll have to splurge for last year’s Pixels for those features.
When it comes to photography, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL have the same exact camera hardware and processing power, so we expect them to shoot photos of the same exact quality.
Both devices sport a 12.2-megapixel camera lens on the back and a lon 8-MP front-facing lens. Google’s image processing prowess is in its software, which in the Pixel 3a and 3a XL makes use of Snapdragon 670 processor and Adreno 615 graphics chip.
Both versions of the 3a have the same powerful photography features that we loved in the flagship Pixel 3, including Night Sight, Super Res Zoom and HDR+. Those features put every other flagship smartphone camera to shame, and it’s possible that the Pixel 3a and 3a XL will reign supreme, too — especially for the price.
The Pixel 3a XL has a larger display, but both budget Pixels offer an 18:9 aspect ratio for their full-HD+ OLED panels.
There are a couple of tiny differences between the two displays, apart from size.
The Pixel 3a has a slightly wider 18.5:9 aspect ratio with a slightly higher number of pixels — 2220 x 1080 compared to the larger Pixel 3a XL’s 2160 x 1080 resolution.
You would think that the Pixel 3a XL would last longer on a charge than its smaller sibling. It packs in a 3,700-mAh battery, which is larger than the 3a’s 3,000-mAh pack.
However, that wasn't what happened when we tested both phones. The Pixel 3a had the better time on our battery test, in which we have the fully charged phones continuously surf the web over T-Mobile's LTE network until they run out of power. The 3a held out for 11 hours, 59 minutes — 15 minutes better than the Pixel 3a XL's 11:44 time. Still, both of those times mean the latest Pixels are among the longest-lasting phones we've tested recently.
Both the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have power-saving features, including an Adaptive Battery tool that learns your habits and knows when to prioritize battery life, that help both devices llast about 30 hours on a charge. (That’s according to Google’s estimates.) Both Pixel 3a models use 18-watt USB-C Power Delivery for fast-charging. Google says a 15-minute charge can add seven hours of battery life — we’ll put that claim to the test, of course.
Whether you should buy a Pixel 3a or a 3a XL depends on what size screen you want and how important battery life is. Otherwise, you get the same great camera on both phones, and you also get the same processing power — and a headphone jack, if that's important to you.
If you’re trying to decide between a newer, cheaper Pixel 3 and last year’s flagship model, we compared the 3a lineup to Google’s higher-priced options to see how they stack up. But given how great the camera is on the Pixel 3a and its sub-$400 price, we've placed that device on our list of best available smartphones.
Check out all the news Google announced at its developer conference on our Google I/O 2019 hub page.
Photo credit: Tom's Guide