- The best of the Pixel 3, at a much more affordable price
- The Pixel 3 camera makes them the best mid-range camera phones.
- Coming to multiple carriers in the US
One of the best phones of last year was the Pixel 3, with Google's flagship showing that one camera sensor and excellent software can be better than multiple hardware sensors. However, a starting price of $800 made the Pixel 3 too expensive for some people, and at the same time, put it in direct competition against flagships from the likes of Huawei and Samsung.
Fast forward a few months and Google is resolving the first problem with its new Pixel 3a and 3a XL smartphones that were just announced. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL – confusing names aside – could be the best mid-range smartphones on the market, and bring the very best of the Pixel 3 at a much more affordable price.
The aluminum and glass build of the Pixel 3 is replaced by a "polycarbonate unibody" which you can read as a plastic finish. Yet, it has the same style of the Pixel 3 and as noted by Android Central in their Pixel 3a hands-on preview, "it's feels remarkably, almost eerily, like the Pixel 3's combination of aluminum and glass."
We have no doubt that the Pixel 3a will have the best mid-range smartphone camera.
The biggest reason you'll want to buy the Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL, is the camera. Simply put – it will be incredible. It has the same set up as the Pixel 3 and we have absolutely no doubt that Google will deliver the best camera experience of any mid-range phone. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL will probably also rival the top flagship devices, just like the regular Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL do. Here's some first camera samples from the Pixel 3a so you can see just how good the camera actually is.
There are few notable cutbacks from the flagship Pixel 3 however, and these aren't so much a deal breaker, as a good-to-know. A lot of these have been deemed necessary by the reduced price of the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, which start at just $399. There's no wireless charging, or waterproofing but these feel like necessary compromises. The screen has dropped from the outstanding QHD display on the Pixel 3 series, to a Full HD panel on the Pixel 3a which, crucially, is still an OLED panel. According to first reports, the display is just as good as the Pixel 3 series, and one of the best on a mid-range device right now.
There's still dual speakers, but one of the speakers is now down-firing instead of front-facing so there'll be a slight drop in the overall quality of sound. The earpiece speaker still pulls double duty so it'll likely be a fine all-round experience. One big addition is the headphone jack: Google's flagship doesn't have a headphone jack, but they've managed to add it to the mid-range Pixel 3a. Considering the target market – which is also developing countries where the price of the Pixel 3a is just too expensive – it's not surprising as many people won't have wireless or USB-C powered headphones.
A big drop is in the processing package, with the Pixel 3a dropping the flagship Snapdragon 845 in favor of the new Snapdragon 670 processor. There's likely a little drop in performance but Qualcomm's latest mid-range processors are plenty powerful and we wouldn't expect too large a drop in performance. It also comes with a Spectra image signal processor so photos from the Pixel 3a should be just as good as the Pixel 3. Unfortunately, there's only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, and given the Pixel 3 suffers from RAM issues, it's likely the Pixel 3a will do as well.
Overall, the Pixel 3a series seems to bring everything you'd expect from a mid-range device, with the outstanding camera that made the Pixel 3 one of our favorite phones. The camera itself is a really important part of the Pixel 3a, and allows it to compete against any smartphone on the market. As such, it's likely to be one of the fastest selling phones of the year, and is already our bet for best mid-range phone of 2019!
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