Google just announced two cheaper versions of its Pixel 3 smartphone and they seem like a no-brainer buys. The new Pixel 3A and the Pixel 3A XL cost just $399 and $479, respectively, which are significant markdowns from the $799 and the $899 that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL go for; the killing feature is that both cheaper models have virtually the same best-in-class camera system, as well as Portrait Mode and Night Sight (for low-light photography). Essentially, you’re getting an elite-level camera in a mid-range smartphone. So what’s the catch?
The main differences aren’t in the looks department, as the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3A are near indistinguishable. Both smartphones are similar sizes and have pretty much the same OLED displays — you won’t notice much difference (if any) in the screens’ color vibrancy or black levels. In fact, the Pixel 3A actually has something that’s missing from the flagship smartphones: a traditional headphone jack. This means if you still frequently use wired headphones, the Pixel 3A might actually fit better in with your lifestyle.
There are definitely differences. The Pixel 3A runs on a Snapdragon 670 processor, which is slower than the current crop of Snapdragon 845 processors in most flagship Android smartphones. It also doesn’t support the fastest Wi-Fi networking speeds; it can’t push more than 600 Mbps. Like other mid-range smartphones, the Pixel 3A isn’t water-resistant and doesn’t support wireless charging. It can only be bought with 64GB of storage, too, with no microSD card slot.
To clarify, the Pixel 3A doesn’t have exactly the same camera capabilities as the Pixel 3. Dieter Bohn of The Verge, who has already had hands-on with the Pixel 3A, noted that it “lacks Google’s custom Pixel Visual Core processor” and thus does its image processing on the main CPU and GPU, instead. Dieter said that this wasn’t game-changing, but it did make the images take longer to save. Additionally, the Pixel 3A isn’t able to shoot wide-angle selfies like the Pixel 3.
Another big difference: unlike with the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3A doesn’t net you the same great deal with Google Photos; in other words, Google Photos doesn’t back up all your photos in their original resolution for free. If you’re a big user of Google Photos, this could be a deal breaker.
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