The Pixel 3a is less than half the price of leading smartphones, but packs many of the same features. (Image: Dan Howley) Google ( GOOG , GOOGL ) on Tuesday took the wraps off its latest smartphones: the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. The handsets, which were shown off at Google’s annual I/O developers conference in Mountain View, California, are designed to be budget-friendly versions of the company’s existing Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL devices .
Available Tuesday for $399 and $479, respectively, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, which I’ve been using for the past week, pack so many features into such inexpensive devices, they seem almost too good to be true. Apple’s ( AAPL ) low-cost iPhone XR , for comparison, starts at $749.
Running Google’s Android 9.0 Pie, and sporting the company’s powerful camera technology, vivid OLED displays and all-day battery life, the 3a XL is on a par with far more expensive smartphones.
There are some drawbacks, namely the phone’s lack of an edge-to-edge screen and lack of waterproofing. But for the price, this phone is incredibly hard to beat. Plastic, but pretty
The Pixel 3a XL isn’t rolling out with a glass-coated or metal body. Instead, to keep prices down, Google has outfitted the phone with a plastic shell. Despite that, the handset feel sturdy. There’s no cheap creaking noise when you hold it tightly, and the styling matches the Pixel brand’s overall aesthetic look. What’s more, the phone is surprisingly durable.
I accidentally dropped my Pixel 3a XL review unit a few times onto my apartment’s marble floor, because I’m incredibly clumsy, and the phone came through without a scratch each time. Google doesn’t make any claims as to the phone’s durability, so you’re still going to want to get a case for yours — but it’s nice knowing the phone isn’t built like a Faberge egg.
It’s important to note that the Pixel 3a and 3a XL aren’t water-resistant like the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Instead, they are splash resistant. In other words, you’re not going to want to take these phones to the pool, or leave them out while at the bar.
Up front, Google has outfitted the Pixel 3a XL with an OLED display, which makes for brighter, more vivid colors and deeper blacks than traditional LCD panels. The 3a XL has a 6-inch panel, while the 3a’s panel measures 5.6 inches, making it the go-to version for individuals looking for a more compact device. Google’s existing Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL come with 5.5-inch and 6.3-inch displays. The Pixel camera and Android software
Despite their lower prices, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL get the same cameras as the more expensive Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
That’s a big deal considering the Pixel 3’s camera is among the best on the market. Images taken with the Pixel 3a XL were clear, and colors popped. Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus and the iPhone XS Max embellish colors making them a bit more vibrant than those in the Pixel 3a XL’s images, though whether you like that more than the Pixel’s more realistic colors is a matter of personal preference.
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