Updated: May 2
The Google Pixel 3a is Googles first budget-friendly phone! Since the big Silicon Valley company released its first phone they have always been the top of the range 'flagship' phone, but that is no longer true! Since the release of the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL in May 2019, Google now provides a mid-range budget-friendly phone for the customer that either can't afford or just doesn't want to fork out £700 - £800 for their handset. The Google Pixel 3a is an excellent phone which in my opinion far exceeds any of its competitors in that price range on the market for many reasons which I will go into more detail below.
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WHAT COMES IN THE BOX?
1m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
18W USB-C power adaptor
Quick switch adaptor (USB-C to USB-A)
The Pixel 3a comes with a fast-charging power adaptor, cable, SIM tool for removing/changing your sim card and also a brilliant 'switch adaptor' meaning you can transfer data from an older phone/different brand of phones onto your Google Pixel incredibly easily. My personal process of transferring data etc from my old iPhone onto my Google Pixel was as easy as plugging it in with the switch adaptor and the selecting which pieces of information I wanted to transfer over, then leaving it to work its magic. I was originally a bit unsure about switching from Apple to Google as I've had iPhones for years, but I was really impressed with how streamlined the process was!
The design of the Google Pixel 3a is incredibly similar to the design of it's older (more expensive) brother the Google Pixel 3. Obviously, with the huge price difference, they've had to adjust some things to reduce the cost of manufacturing, one being the fact that the back of the phone is constructed with plastic instead of glass, this can be very noticeable if you hold the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a side by side, but it doesn't make any difference to the functionality of the handset itself, in fact, it probably makes it less fragile! I've dropped mine a few times (Shh! Don't tell my husband!) and it hasn't got a scratch on it!
Like most of the other google phones, the Pixel 3a features a glossy, shiny texture at the top of the handset and a matt, slightly more 'soft touch' feel to the bottom meaning it feels quite easy to hold without it feeling too slippery!
The Pixel 3a comes in 3 different colours: Just Black, Clearly White and Purple-ish this last colour comes with the option to have a neon green/yellow power button too which is pretty cool!
The fingerprint sensor is nicely placed in the middle of the top half of the back exactly where you'd naturally place your finger while holding the phone in one hand. The handset also features a standard 3.5mm jack port for your headphones which is a nice addition if you don't want to pay extra for Bluetooth earbuds. As with the other Google phones, the volume and power buttons are stacked nicely on the right-hand edge, and the speaker and microphone are placed symmetrically across the base of the phone either side of the power port.
2,220 x 1,080 Full HD+ resolution
18.5:9 aspect ratio
The display on the Pixel 3a is brilliant, it doesn't at all look like the quality of a 'cheap' phone. It has nice bright 'true to life' colours. I do tend to have the brightness boosted right up to 100% if I'm outside but Google allows you to adjust the colour tone to your preference too.
Some people would rather go with the 3a XL as it's 6inch screen is just that little bit bigger than the 5.6inch on the 3a, but I personally like the smaller handset as I like to be able to type and hold the phone in one hand.
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The Google Pixel 3a comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor which is just another way Google has managed to reduce the cost of the phone. The Pixel 4 which was released just a few months after in Oct 2019 with the Qualcomm SM8150 Snapdragon 855 which is a higher range processor and from reading other reviews I know there is a slight difference (literally milliseconds) in processing time if you hold the phones side-by-side, but if you remove the Pixel 4 from the equation you can't notice it at all! The performance is incredibly snappy, never needing to wait for apps to open etc.. The only time I have noticed the phone taking a little longer to load after using the camera to take a photo in portrait mode.
The built-in storage is 64 GB with 4GB RAM with no option to upgrade, but being a photographer that doesn't really matter for me as you get unlimited storage for photos and videos at high quality with Google Photos at no extra cost! So unless you use your phone for gaming apps that use up a lot of 'in-phone' storage 64GB should be plenty!
The Pixel 3a comes with a 3,000mAh battery, 18W fast charging, but no wireless charging.
I manage to get through every day using my phone throughout the day for social media, playing videos, replying to emails, making work phone calls etc without having to recharge until I go up to bed at night. The fast charging is very impressive, only taking just over an hour from being completely dead to fully charged. Even if you realise you're nearly dead before going out you can boost it back up to 20/30% in just a few minutes of charging!
12.2 MP dual-pixel rear camera
Autofocus + dual pixel phase detection
Optical + electronic image stabilisation
8 MP front camera
ƒ/2.0 aperture, fixed focus
If you want to make photos taken on your phone look prim, proper and professional for sharing on Social Media, then check out my Lightroom presets: designed to bring your mobile phone photography to a new level!
Now, onto the part that you've been waiting for: the camera.
Being a photographer, the rear camera on this phone was one of the biggest reasons I bought it. For a mid-range phone, this camera beats anything out there and can even compete with the likes of the iPhone 11 and many other flagship-level phones!
Simply put, Google decided to take the camera from its big brother: the Pixel 3 and put it into the 3a so there was no 'downgrading' at all for the camera even for this 'budget' phone.
The camera features several different modes and features including Night Sight, Portrait Mode, Panorama, Timelapse, Photosphere and the Google Lens.
The Night Sight option is a game-changer for phone photography. With Night Sight only just being released in 2019 certain environments that would've needed harsh flash to render a recognisable photo can now be taken with natural light due to the up to 1-minute exposure on the Pixels night sight. This allows the camera to let in more light into the lens and renders a far more beautiful, natural and defined photograph in low light conditions. See some examples below.
Without Night Sight With Night Sight
The Portrait Mode on the Google Pixel 3a is also quite hard to beat. With only one lens compared to the 2 or 3 lenses in other flagship phones google have impressed the world by being able to create great 'depth of field' or bokeh in their images. This means that you can choose the focus point in your photograph by tapping the screen and it makes the background or the foreground blurry while still keep the focus of the image tack sharp. On top of this, if you find the bokeh or 'blurriness' too much you can go into google photos afterwards and adjust the strength of the bokeh manually with their editing tools. I absolutely love this particular mode on the camera. It means you can take certain photographs and edit them in a way that you wouldn't believe they hadn't been taken on a DSLR! Again see some examples of unedited, straight from the camera examples of with and without using the portrait mode.
The panorama and timelapse features are pretty useful but also standard for phones today. The one other thing I really like with the camera on the Google Pixel 3a is the Google Lens. With the Google Lens, you can get details or take actions on your photos, objects around you, and image searches. By simply facing the camera towards a sign or some other form of type, you can choose to translate it into a different language, Google search an aspect of it, copy and paste it etc.. You can also use the lens to 'find a look you like' so if you see an outfit or piece of furniture you like the look of either in real life or in a photo you can use the lens to search for similar items without trying to type out an explanation of it into the search bar. The lens can also be used to find out information about landmarks or sights around you, you can decide what to eat in a restaurant by scanning a menu and reading other peoples reviews on them from google maps. You can even figure out different species of plants or animals by pointing the lens towards them!
For me, the price is what sets this phone apart from the rest. Sure you can get a better phone but it comes at a cost. This phone, in my opinion, is far superior to the rest of the phones within its price range and the difference of quality between this and its 'flagship' competitors is, again in my opinion, not vast enough to warrant such a jump in price. You can pick up a Google Pixel 3a for £329 and it is often available on offer for £299. That is an absolute bargain for a phone of this standard and quality.
I can wholeheartedly say that I am happy with my own purchase of the Google Pixel 3a and I'm certain that you wouldn't be disappointed either. I'm aware that one of the biggest jumps for people is from Apple to Android but I personally found the change simple and stress-free. As a photographer and a YouTuber, I find the camera quality and functions an absolute dream and I now have some extra pennies available to treat myself as I have saved a few hundred pounds by snapping up this bargain phone.
Please comment in the section below any other reviews you would like me to cover and if you have the Pixel 3a what camera functions you love having fun with - like the playground app.
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