Everything you should know about Google’s new under-$500 smartphone

Google/Mic Illustration
ByTebany Yune

During the May 7 Google I/O 2019 keynote, the Google Pixel 3A and 3A XL were formally announced as alternative options to the pricier smartphone models available in the Android market. Although each of the phones costs less than $500, Google did not skimp on providing necessary features as well as the excellent Pixel camera. With these new models, the company boldly stands up to competition such as the Samsung Galaxy S10 ($899.99) and the Apple iPhone XS ($999) to prove that getting a great smartphone might not require you to start calculating payment plans.

The Pixel's high-quality camera does so much

Google/Google Blog

Google uses the same award-winning camera that's on the Pixel 3 and turns it into the highlight of the 3A and 3A XL. In a review for The Verge, author Dieter Bohn noted this camera is "better than the camera on the iPhone XR, and [is] in the same league as (if not better than) the cameras on the Galaxy S10 and the iPhone XS."

This is good news for interested buyers. With the Pixel 3A models, you will receive a smartphone camera that's the same quality as some of the latest Android models produced by other companies. Google's phones also keep the same camera features as the Pixel 3 such as time lapse and portrait mode; Photobooth, a feature that will automatically take your picture when you smile or make a face at the camera; and Night Sight, a mode that enhances photos taken in extremely low light. Bohn also admitted that there are phones with better cameras, such as the Huawei P30 Pro, but none compare to the Pixel 3A models in terms of price.

"[A]ll of those phones cost about twice as much as the Pixel 3A," he wrote. "I cannot stress enough how remarkable it is to have a camera this good on a phone at this price."

Features that were sacrificed for the price


There have to be some trade-offs to make up for the low price, but whether they're worth it is up to you. Google appears to have tried targeting features that aren't extreme necessities such as wireless charging and front-facing speakers (the speakers face downward instead). However, there are still a few absent features that people might miss. (On the plus side, though Google has added a headphone jack — not present on the Pixel 3 — to make up for them.)

The Pixel 3A and 3A XL do not have SD card slots, so users are stuck with the 64 GB of space available on their phone. In exchange, Google offers additional storage space using Google Photos. The lack of a wide-angle lens for the front-facing camera will also make group selfies difficult for the selfie lover. And the phones are not water-resistant, meaning customers will have to be extra careful about splashes or invest in a very protective phone case.

These phones also have a slightly downgraded processor compared to the Pixel 3, but the reviewers at BuzzFeed News and Wired did not notice significant performance issues during their testing. "I encountered no slowdowns or lag whatsoever," wrote Wired's author. "Games run fine, too. These phones work as well as anything you can buy."

Possibly the most impressive budget-friendly phone


Overall, however, it seems the Pixel 3A and 3A XL offers budget-conscious consumers a high-end phone without the high-end cost. The Verge praised the phone's batteries for lasting all day during their review and made a positive note of the quality and clarity of the phone's screen. CNET praised the battery for similar reasons, stating there was no noticeable difference between using a Pixel 3 and Pixel 3A XL on a day-to-day basis. Google Assistant is still here to help for any questions or suggestions, and users can rest assured that both Pixel 3A models will be treated like any other Pixel and will receive updated features such as the new augmented reality mode for Google Maps.

Reviews are painting a picture that makes the Google Pixel 3A and 3A XL sound like the ultimate budget phone. "There’s little that casual technology users would want from a phone that the Pixel 3A doesn’t provide," wrote Brian X. Chen for The New York Times. He believed Google was making a statement with their newest model. The editor-in-chief at Tom's Guide seemed to agree, noting that Google's attempts to court mid-range buyers should give "both Samsung and Apple have two big reasons to be looking over their shoulders."

The Google Pixel 3A and 3A XL are available now in stores or on the Google Store.