Google has introduced a new addition to its popular Pixel smartphone range – Pixel 3a XL. The new handset was unveiled alongside the diminutive Pixel 3a during the opening keynote of its annual Google IO developer conference.
The new Pixel 3a series is designed to bring some of the best features of the Pixel series – unlimited full-resolution photo and video storage in Google Photos, latest Android OS features and security updates direct from Google, and the industry-leading smartphone camera – to a slightly more affordable price point.
- Google Pixel 3a review (early verdict)
- Google Pixel 3a XL review (early verdict)
- Google Pixel 3a release date, price, specs
Whereas the Pixel 3 XL starts from £869, the Pixel 3a XL starts from £469. That’s a saving of £400, which more than anything we’ve ever seen on a Google Pixel in the Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday sales.
To achieve this price point, Google has dropped a few of the features you’ll find on the pricier Pixel 3 XL. First off, there’s no Gorilla Glass 5 case and wireless charging, that’s been swapped for a plastic shell, although it does still carry the same dual-tone design.
There’s no IP68 rating for water and dust resistance to be found either, and Google has traded the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 for a mid-range Snapdragon 670. The Pixel Visual Core chip, designed by the teams at Google specifically for the Pixel to boost photography performance, has also been dropped from the Pixel 3a, too.
But enough about what is missing from the Pixel 3a XL, what do you get in this £469 Google-branded handset? For starters you get the trademark Google Pixel camera ...well, almost. As we’ve already mentioned, Google isn’t using the powerhouse Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset combined with its Pixel Visual Core, so it’s not quite a match for the Pixel 3 XL, despite boasting the same 12MP Dual Pixel camera hardware.
That said, Google says it has managed to wrestle almost the same camera performance from the Snapdragon 670 sans Pixel Visual Core using a mixture of Artificial Intelligence and software as the costlier Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL achieve with the flagship Qualcomm silicon.
That’s a bold claim for any manufacturer debuting a new mid-range handset, but it seems especially bold here, given the photography chops of the Pixel 3 range.
Launching the camera app on the Pixel 3a XL, it’s almost impossible to tell that you’re holding a more affordable handset with features like Night Sight, Portrait Mode, Panoramas, Motion Shots seen on the Pixel 3 XL all present and correct. Of course, we’ll have to spend some time putting the Pixel 3a XL through its paces to see whether the performance of the camera matches Google’s claims. However, if the US company has managed to achieve a comparable performance from this lower-cost alternative, this is phone is a big deal.
One camera feature that definitely cannot be replicated on the Pixel 3a XL is the ultra-wide angle selfies Google introduced with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL last year. That’s because Pixel 3a XL has lost the secondary, ultra-wide front-facing camera that enables the feature in an inevitable cost-cutting measure. Whether the feature, which expands the field of view enough that you won’t have to worry about a selfie stick, is worth paying the £400 premium for the flagship Pixel 3 XL model will depend on just how many selfies you take / how much you loathe being seen in public with a selfie stick.
One advantage of the secondary selfie camera being ditched is that abhorrent notch design seen on the Pixel 3 XL display is gone. In its place, we have the same curved borders at the top and bottom of the screen present on the Pixel 3, and Pixel 3a.
Bezels aside, the Pixel 3a XL carries a 6-inch Full HD OLED display, which is slightly smaller than the 6.3-inch Quad HD panel you’ll find on its pricier sibling. However, that should result in better battery life – as the Pixel 3a is pushing less pixels around the display at all times.
As with the other smartphones in the Pixel range, Google guarantees you at least three years of operating system and security updates – a little more of a rarity in Android handsets at this price range. You’ll also enjoy much faster access to new Android OS features, since they’re all rolled-out directly from Google itself.
For example, Pixel 3a XL launches with a nifty new Google Maps feature that lets you superimpose Augmented Reality (AR) directions floating in front of you to help navigate around urban areas where the standard blue dot might be a little inadequate.
Pixel 3a XL comes with the same unlimited photo and video storage in Google Photos, too. So you can happily snap away on your shiny new Pixel camera without worrying about having to cough-up for more cloud storage, or delete treasured memories.
Active Edges, which lets you squeeze the sides of the phone to quickly summon Google Assistant have made the transition from Pixel 3 XL to Pixel 3a XL, too. As does Now Paying – an always-on Shazam-like feature that displays the name and artist of any track the Pixel can detect playing on the always-on display, so you don’t have to seek-out a specific app and wave your device in the air like you’re struggling to find signal.
In the box, you'll find an 18-watt charger that provides 7 hours of battery life on a 15-minute charge and up to 30 hours on a full charge, Google says.
Google Pixel 3a XL price, release date
Google Pixel 3a XL is available to order online now, and will start to appear on high street shelves from tomorrow, May 8, 2019.
Pixel 3a XL starts from £469 for 64GB of storage, while a beefier 128GB configuration is available, too. Google Pixel 3a ships in three colours – Just Black, Clearly White, and Purple-ish, with the latter exclusive to the range.