America finally has an answer to Chinese phone prices, the Pixel 3a

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

All major US carriers, with the notable exception of AT&T, sport a pretty pathetic by global standards phone roster to choose from. The midrange is especially hurt, as on Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint, it's usually last year's flagships from Samsung, Apple or LG, that take a midranger role the next year when the new model is introduced and they get discounted in price.

As you can see, the postpaid choice on Verizon is pretty pathetic in comparison with other carriers, both home and abroad, but we may have its legacy CDMA network to blame, and that one is being retired by the end of 2019. T-Mobile has no such excuse but it does position itself as the discount and promo carrier so it strives to hit the value-for-money spot, as exemplified by its choice to be the first US network to officially sell the OnePlus portfolio.

AT&T, on the other hand, is doing pretty well in postpaid choices, even though it, as all US carriers, suffers from the case of Huawei-titis and general Chinese brand malaise due to reasons beyond their will. This may be the single biggest reason why there is such a paltry choice of phone brands in the US. Apple, Samsung, LG and Motorola take the lion's share of the American market, while globally the arrangement is very different, as you can see from the IDC stats below.

Can you tell where the US discrepancy with the global trend stems from? Why, Chinese brands, of course. The alphabet soup of national security agencies are convinced that retail phone makers are an immediate security threat on par with "made in China" 5G base stations, and are globetrotting to convince anyone who'd listen, too. 

As a result, not only is the US deprived of excellent high-enders like the P30 Pro and its 10x zoom system, of the increasingly unique phones that come from brands like Xiaomi, Oppo or Vivo, but also from a true midrange market competition. There is a dearth of phones in the sub-$500 category in the US, if we don't count last year's Samsung or Apple flagships at promos which can very well be filled by phones like the P30, the F1, or any OnePlus equivalent from Oppo or Vivo. 

Heck, the new Axon 10 Pro that is trying to sneak into the US market through the back door with little fanfare costs $600 and offers all the trappings of a flagship phone from the top 5 brands, including a Snapdragon 855 chipset and 3x telephoto zoom. 

Enter Google. In one fell swoop, amidst rants how it's commoditizing or cannibalizing its Pixel brand, mainly from Apple-centric publications, Google occupied what's perhaps the widest underserved niche in the US phone market - that of capable midrangers or cheap flagships that is usually teeming with Chinese brand models. Since those are banned in the US because 'Murica!, there is now simply no better choice than the Pixel 3a or 3a XL if you are looking for a new sub-$500 handset with minimum compromises on major US carriers, and that's where the bulk of the sales are. 

Pixel 3a is the elephant in the US market's China store

The Pixel 3a at $399 and the 3a XL at $479 shoot many birds with one stone. In an increasingly image-centric world, they offer cameras on par or often better than those on $1000 phones. The oily stock Android with 3-year upgrade guarantees, free media backup, large batteries, durable polycarbonate bodies that you don't have to baby, or easy and cheap repairability only add to the already formidable appeal of Google's computational photography. 

In fact, barring some unforeseen production or launch mishaps, the Pixel 3a may be the only affordable phone to reach for if you are looking for a more compact device, and the 3a XL your obvious pick for a full-size smartphoning on a budget. What makes the midrange Pixels an actual answer to the Chinese phone conundrum in the US is also their wider availability - on Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and compatible with AT&T - compared to their predecessors. 

"Google is not a hardware company" mantras aside, the Pixel 3a may usher in a whole new Age of Aquarius for the US phone market, just when the trade war with China is threatening to dry out our options to the bottom, what do you think?

Related phones

Pixel 3a
  • Display 5.6" 1080 x 2220 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3000 mAh



1. micmic9999

Posts: 21; Member since: Jan 03, 2012

pixel 3a and pixel 3a XL is a stupid phone for 2019 64GB only no expandable storage mid range proc!? PA is comparing its price to Chinese phones!? there are much better Chinese out there compare this crap!!!

9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2260; Member since: May 04, 2015

Design wise Pixels have always been fugly phones and price doesn't change that. The front looks like a 2015 phone. Surely they could have at least reduced the size of the top and bottom bezels? Otherwise the 3a and 3xl are a welcome alternative in the price range. The only other option in the US market would be a Motorola model. But in that price range the Chinese are still way ahead overall in terms of bang for the buck.

14. GalaxyLeads_iCrapFollows

Posts: 216; Member since: Nov 29, 2017

Why not just buy the Samsung Galaxy series? With all the extremely generous Samsung promos, you can get a super premium phone, superior Samsung quality, with the best looking aesthetics in the world at cheaper than chinese prices. No need to buy butt ugly Pixel or cheap quality chinese phones that will break in a few months

22. Fred3

Posts: 521; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

That's what made me leave Oneplus and Google for Samsung. Plus it's more customize-able, more features and you get expandable storage.

15. SayMobile

Posts: 157; Member since: Jan 29, 2014

Exactly . The Plastic body 4GB RAM, non IP rated snapdragon 600 series pixel 3a is launching in India at a price of $570 and that is not Cheap by any means. $570 will be One Plus 7 territory.

21. TheOracle1

Posts: 2260; Member since: May 04, 2015

Agreed. Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo etc offer far more at that price level plus dual-sim which is essential for international markets. Most international operators don't support E-sim so forget that.

24. XyAzario

Posts: 42; Member since: Mar 15, 2019

Yep, and to add on to that, if a Chinese company came up with a Pixel equivalent (meaning everything just the same) it would have costed less than what Google is charging.

2. Sparkxster

Posts: 1228; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Smart move from Google and it will be good it they offer 128gb storage versions of the new mid-range pixels.

4. srgonu

Posts: 548; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

Folks Never settle :)

3. Mikele

Posts: 152; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

Probably it would only affects Americans mid range experience compares to other OEMs hike prices on their phones. Chinese stays up all time on mid range capabilities

5. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1420; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Things the Pixel 3A doesn't have that other Chinese phones do have for that price: More RAM, 128GB storage, dual SIM, expandable storage, smaller bezels, Gorilla Glass and a bigger battery.

19. savagx

Posts: 33; Member since: Sep 15, 2015

That's all true but it has pixel camera and Google software experience and for many people that's enough.

20. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1420; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

The Pixel camera I'll admit is damn good. The Google software experience, sure the quick updates are nice, but often so buggy like with iOS updates and to me that's a bad thing. I'd rather wait a few months to get a stable properly tested update. If you ask me the Motorola Z4 that's coming should have a great camera too and has better specs, more RAM, bigger battery, Gorilla Glass, 128GB storage, smaller bezels, dual SIM which matters to me and costs the same.

26. savagx

Posts: 33; Member since: Sep 15, 2015

I'm on Q beta right now and it's not buggy, I guess it depends how you use your phone. Dual SIM would be nice, more flagships should have it or we should switch to eSIM all together.

6. guest

Posts: 372; Member since: Jun 13, 2012

Just received the 3a xl gotta say so far I don’t notice much difference in speed compared to my pixel 2. Camera works as advertised. Traded in a SE I had as a back up for $250 credit plus $100 coming for google store and may check out fi service with the $100 credit to see how it works in China. Lots of reports say fi bypasses the Chinese firewall with unlimited lte data. This will be a great back up even a daily driver. Some say never settle but I made out like a bandit.

13. thxultra

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I agree tempted to pick one up with that $100 credit deal and the trade in value on my old Iphone 6 plus that I just have sitting on a table. Would be a great travel phone since it is unlocked also.

7. foreverNOOB

Posts: 160; Member since: Jul 07, 2017

That price of both Pixel 3a will gonna be applied to USA only, for the rest of the world? These pair of phone will still cost more than phones with S855 like Axon10Pro,Mi9,iQoo,Z5Pro GT,Z6pro,Zenphone6,16s,OP7 etc.

16. hansip87

Posts: 227; Member since: Nov 10, 2015

true. seems like US people still thinks US = the whole world.

8. bill718

Posts: 23; Member since: Jul 28, 2014

look around this site or check the web you would find Pixal 3a phone is a joke, google selling overprice phone always

11. BuffaloSouce unregistered

I've checked plenty of other sites and YouTube reviews.... It's always you wrinkled ball sacks here on PA who bitch and cry about every little thing

12. thxultra

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I agree the 3a is a bargain especially now. Best Buy and Google are giving $100 (best buy gift card or google pay money). Google will give you $234 for a iphone 6plus also so you can get this phone really cheap. On top of all that you know you are getting Android updates day one. For the things most people use the 3a is a great phone.

10. Vogue1985

Posts: 459; Member since: Jan 24, 2017

I've noticed there's slot of exaggeration of features. Got a pixel 2xl,the night mode is great but the iPhone version not far behind, although Samsung's does better. You are actually paying more for less with the pixel a. Same old body but cheap plastic,poor process (the pixel flagships always overheat or froze with pushed, pic processing can be slow) and that with a high end processer,can image with will happen with a less chip. Don't waste your on the a get a 2xl or refurbished 3/xl,they can all be had for under 400.

17. TS020

Posts: 40; Member since: Feb 16, 2019

Better off getting a Galaxy S9 or another flagship from last year unless you MUST have the Pixel camera. 64GB of non-expandable storage is completely unacceptable.

23. Fred3

Posts: 521; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

Exactly and i don't care about Google getting updates first especially when the features on their new updates are already on Samsung's phones.

25. perry1234

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

People would be dumb enough to suggest "cloud" but I understand the limitations of low internal storage !

18. bwcruiser

Posts: 4; Member since: Oct 18, 2014

Pocophone usd 300, sd845, so whatever you say

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