The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are high-end phones with cutting-edge features – but this means they’ve also got high price tags, a problem Google has tried to solve by releasing the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.
The newer Pixel 3a handsets retain many of the features of their older Pixel 3 cousins, like impressive camera specs and Active Edge as a convenient way to summon the Google Assistant, but they’re also downgrades in certain ways to accommodate the lower price point.
But just as the Google Pixel 3 XL was a step up from the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3a XL is bigger and better than the Pixel 3a – so if you’re looking for a Google handset, with all the perks attached, you’ve got more options than ever.
To help you get your head around Google’s new Pixel 3a range, we’ve put the two handsets head-to-head to work out what’s different about them.
Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL: price
As the name suggests, the Google Pixel 3a is a smaller and therefore cheaper phone than the Pixel 3a XL. You can get the former for $399 / £399 / AU$649, but you’re paying $80 / £70 / AU$150 more for the Pixel 3a XL at $479 / £469 / AU$799.
Both of those price points are roughly half the original price of their Pixel 3 counterparts, but you’re getting lighter specs in these new phones. For example, both come with only 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, so you’re getting internals that match the low price point.
Design and display
Again, the name gives a lot away when it comes to the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL's design – one is larger than the other, and there are no prizes for figuring out which.
The bigger device, the Google Pixel 3a XL, has a 160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2mm body, which is a relatively big step up from the Pixel 3a’s 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2mm frame, and at 168g it’s 20g heavier too.
Both handsets have plastic bodies, which feels a little less ‘premium’ in the hand than the glass of the Pixel 3, but they’re still sturdy, and this isn’t something you’ll notice once you put a case on anyway. The phones also have 3.5mm headphone jacks, which isn’t something you’ll get on many high-end handsets.
Bigger bodies mean bigger screens, and the Pixel 3a XL’s 6-inch display tops the Pixel 3a’s 5.6 inches. The screen tech used is actually the same, as both are Full HD+ OLED displays, which will show media in good quality relative to the low price.
The smaller Pixel 3a actually has a higher screen resolution than the Pixel 3a XL, at 2220 x 1080 as opposed to 2160 x 1080, and that means the smaller phone has a significantly higher pixel per inch count at 441, over 402ppi in the XL phone.
You're actually getting the same camera on the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, which is a 12.2MP dual-pixel rear snapper, joined by an 8MP selfie-cam on the front.
There are loads of features that help the camera to take great shots – these include an impressive Night Sight mode, and Google’s Top Shot mode which takes several snaps before and after you press the shutter, so you can choose from a range of similar images, as well as a few other options.
Portrait mode is especially competent, as its depth sensing technology creates ‘bokeh’ background blur in shots with great accuracy, although the phones do have fewer beauty features than some other phone cameras.
Specs and battery life
Powering each of the phones is a Snapdragon 670 chipset – that’s a fair mid-range spec, and while you won’t be speeding through the user interface or playing many high-end games, the phone’s battery will last for a little longer as a result.
One difference between the two devices is battery capacity, as the Pixel 3a has a 3,000mAh battery whereas inside the Pixel 3a XL there's a chunky 3,700mAh power pack.
Because of the bigger screen, in practice both phones will likely last around the same amount of time, however on standby Google estimates the Pixel 3a XL will last a few hours longer.
Neither the Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL supports wireless charging, which the main Pixel 3 devices do, but they do have fast charging of up to 18W, which according to Google is snappy enough to power the phone up for 7 hours of use in only 15 minutes.
Compared to other phone series like the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus, the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL's differences are fairly light – other than screen and body size, and battery capacity, they’re basically the same phone.
So if you’re considering buying one of Google’s affordable handsets, you’ll have a better time playing media on the Pixel 3a XL with its extra real estate, but the Pixel 3a is a daintier device that will fit in your pocket a little bit easier.