The Pixel 3a is a completely new kind of a budget Android phone

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Pixel 3a is a completely new kind of a budget Android phone
Just like that, the Google Pixel 3a is here and it has changed affordable Android phones in one fell swoop.

And I don't mean this lightly: the Pixel 3a is a monumental change and it could become the one phone you can safely recommend to everyone this year.

And here is why: it focuses on bringing the best camera experience and the best software experience, NOT the best looks. It's not about the looks, it's about the substance. And this is the exact opposite of every affordable phone currently out there!

The Exact Opposite of other affordable phones


Take the more expensive Galaxy A50, for instance, a great-looking phone, but a decidedly mediocre camera that borders on useless at night, a not very reliable in-screen fingerprint reader, and very unlikely chances of it getting software updates in the future. It's not about this one particular model: it's about all phones in the $300 to $500 price range, and even with more expensive phone. Heck, even flagship, $1,000 Android phones get updates much later than this $400 phone would!

Yes, the Pixel 3a has the big bezels and it looks a bit outdated, but it simply has no alternative if you want a cheap phone with that experience. This is a big change.

Here are the three pillars of success, the things that make the Pixel 3a a fundamentally different kind of a budget phone:

1. Flagship-grade camera
2. Three guaranteed major software updates (Android 10 Q, Android 11 R, Android 12 S)
3. Google software optimizations for buttery smooth performance

Like a Nexus, only better


In many ways, the Pixel 3a is the return of the Google Nexus that we all missed so much: an affordable phone with a clean Android experience, prompt software updates and a touch of Google magic when it comes to speed and smoothness of operation.


But I think it's even better than a Nexus: while the Nexus series featured the best processor in exchange for mediocre cameras, the Pixel 3a has a top-notch camera AND a very good (but not top-notch) processor. I know far more people that would settle for a slightly slower than flagship processor in exchange for a great camera, and I bet you do too.

Only Google could have made the Pixel 3a


There is one more thought that kept occurring in my mind: just like the Nexus, only Google could have made an affordable phone as awesome as the Pixel 3a.

It has the "luxury" of not having to worry about cannibalizing some $1,000 flagship phone that it is also trying to sell (it has the Pixel, but it does not really seem to care about it that much and sells it on few carriers and without much success). It has the luxury of not having hardware be its main business. It has the luxury of not having to chase hardware profits that you could only achieve with overpriced phones.

That might be bad news for other phone makers, but it's absolutely great news for customers all across the world.

As for me? The Pixel 3a is the phone I would love to try next and most importantly, the phone I would easily recommend to a bunch of non-techie friends who roll their eyes every time I tell them they should spend a $1,000 if they want a phone that takes great photos.

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
Pixel 3a XL
  • Display 6.0" 1080 x 2160 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670, Octa-core, 2000 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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35 Comments

1. lyndon420

Posts: 6824; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Better than a Nexus? We'll see about that. Keep the cost low by not putting any kind of fingerprint scanner on it and maybe I'll consider a pixel (gawd I hate that name though).

34. TBomb

Posts: 1572; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Cheap, stock Android, regular updates... I'd say it's pretty similar to the Nexus line. As for the name, yeah it's not the coolest but you could call it by its internal fish-like name. No one is going to call i by the name though (Who says "Hey, let me see your iPhone XS Max (or Galaxy S10e)", they just say "Hey, let me see your phone"; so don't let a name limit you to a product that is great

2. Cat97

Posts: 1933; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

It is indeed something that will change the Android scene. Many (actually...most) people buy flagships for their camera, not for their speed or RAM quantity. Ask a girl and she will not know what RAM is, but she wants the best possible camera for the money. Android manufacturers will take quite a hit from phones like the Pixel 3a, they will have to compete by producing cheaper phones with flagship cameras, which will drastically lower their flagship sales (that's why, until today, no manufacturer put a decent camera with OIS in a midrange phone). 99% of customers do not care about Gorilla Glass 6, vapor chamber, 12GB of RAM, etc. They just want a good camera, a decent screen and enough storage, the rest is really not important.

3. chris2k5

Posts: 283; Member since: Nov 17, 2012

No point in a good camera if Android version of Instagram sucks. Compression ruins image quality. The girl will not choose the Pixel 3a.

9. AngelicusMaximus

Posts: 730; Member since: Dec 20, 2017

Right, because the only thing people use their cameras for is Instagram. Good call.

10. Reviewerofstuff

Posts: 129; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

Also instagram has recently optimized its app for android has it not? I might be mistaking it for another social media app though. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

15. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

snapchat did... but i believe instagram did last year or so

4. LawnBoy

Posts: 198; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

I agree with virtually everything you said. The caveat though is that phones, especially high end phones are status symbols. For now anyway. And despite this Pixel 3a being able to mop the floor with most flagships and all Apple products, people don't want to be caught dead with the old hooptie looking tech. Imo

7. mackan84

Posts: 555; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Tell that to everybody who is still rocking their iPhone 6 and galaxy s6. To anyone but the internet smartphones are not as hot anymore. This is a bold statement from google, like cat said the camera is the holy grail in premium smartphones. It will force Samsung, apple and Huawei to act if the internet gives it enough buzz. Let’s hope I don’t need that horsepower anymore, just a better camera.

27. Mikele

Posts: 175; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

I have Honor 8X with excellent camera performance same as Samsung S8!!

30. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

i see so many people with old iphones because they do not want to pay for the new ones... with cracked screens EVERYWHERE... the price point is substantial and all carrier availability

35. thxultra

Posts: 457; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

On top of that this phone is running stock android with no extra overhead so you don't need as much horsepower just to run the os. This phone also gets the new versions of Android on Day one. Only downsides I see is it doesn't have wireless charging (not the end of the world) and isn't water resistant.

12. Reviewerofstuff

Posts: 129; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

This phone will be successful because it is a perfect phone for older people who just wants a good camera but don't want to shell out 1,000. Or this could be good for students who just don't have enough money for a flagship so they get this instead for the camera. There are many different demographics this phone could appeal to.

33. Legic

Posts: 1; Member since: May 08, 2019

Student here. ^Exactly this. I needed a better camera for my documenting work in the field. 3a is finally a decent camera I can afford, integrated with Google software that is in all my classes.

19. LAgurl

Posts: 113; Member since: Dec 05, 2018

im a girl and i know everything about ram, processors the latest technology etc... and yes i do like a flagship camera and this phone has one which is kinda tempting i like that purpley one, my current phone is crapping out and right now its tough to shell out 1.000 + dollars . so ill just wait ill look into this phone and wait for the one plus 7 pro

5. pogba

Posts: 112; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

Better than a nexus... No way.

13. Droid1

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

I hope it's better than my Nexus 6p.

6. superguy

Posts: 464; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

The bezels don't bother me and for the most part, the plastic case doesn't either in that price range. Throw a bumper or other case on it and it won't be missed much anyway. If they're going to have upgrades up to Android S, I much rather would have seen a little beefier chip like the SD730 and 6 GB of RAM. It might not be needed now, but we all know how software bloats over time - even Linux based stuff.

14. Droid1

Posts: 30; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

I think they are saving the 6gb of ram for the pixel 4.

8. Valinor

Posts: 182; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

This phone is being hyped so much...... lets wait and see shall we. Reading all the articles its like the messias is here.... Yes google camera is nice but how is the build quality, screen quality? Lets wait and see.

11. Reviewerofstuff

Posts: 129; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

It has a very good 1080p gOled display which most reviews say gets plenty bright and vivid and offers good viewing angles.

16. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

yeah, but at that price... very easy for people to switch and see what android is about.... i just hope it doesn't flop... we need something to bring down these prices... or like people have started to do, just keep their phone longer

17. mackan84

Posts: 555; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

But the thing with “keeping the phone longer” don’t have anything with price. Even if flagships would be priced at $600 dollar we would still keep as long as they work smoothly and that is the difference. 2013-14 two-three year old phones were slow as mud. Not an issue with today’s, even midrange

31. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

tell that to the people with the cracked iphone 6's... first thing they say is they aint paying for a 1000 dollar phone

18. athos07m

Posts: 137; Member since: Apr 22, 2012

The price puts it against such phones as the Poco F1, Mate 20, or even Xiaomi Mi 9. All respectable nighttime shooters, with vastly more capable CPUs, some level of water resistance, solid metal unibodies, even huge AMOLED screens. Sure against the overpriced plastic A50 this plastic Pixel is a good buy, but the A50 wasn't the pick of the price range.

20. meanestgenius

Posts: 22272; Member since: May 28, 2014

This is exactly my point. For the price of the Pixel 3a XL, you can get a smartphone with really good cameras like the Mate 20 (used) or brand new for about $35 more, which also has a better design, bigger battery, and a flagship SoC with more RAM and RAM.

21. BuffaloSouce unregistered

Not everyone had access to those devices especially in the US.

23. lemonboy

Posts: 7; Member since: Oct 25, 2014

And not everyone has access to Pixel. Only US and very few European countries. Chinese brands are killing it in Europe and offering more value for the money at the moment compared to Pixel 3a (unless all you care about is camera)

25. meanestgenius

Posts: 22272; Member since: May 28, 2014

You can easily get Huawei Mate 20 on Amazon's U.S. site, so yes, people in the U.S. do have access to them. And as lemonboy stated, Pixels have limited accessibility outside of the U.S.

29. XRN5AI unregistered

And for those people who prefer stock Android they can get Xiaomi Mi A2

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