Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3
Which of Google's more pocket-friendly phones should you buy?
Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3: What to look for
Google's Pixel phones are very much phones for the Google faithful, with clean, Google-centric interfaces, the latest Google operating systems guaranteed and a lot of AI goodies that take their sweet time landing on any other phone – if they ever do.
In the small phone space the Google Pixel 3 has been the device of choice, but now there's a new competitor in the lower-cost Google Pixel 3a. So which device should you choose? Let's compare to help you decide.
Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3: Power
The Google Pixel 3a runs on the Snapdragon 670 processor with 4GB of RAM, where the Google Pixel 3 runs on the Snapdragon 845 with the same 4GB of onboard RAM. While the Snapdragon 670 is technically a newer processor, the Snapdragon 845 is a higher-end processor that should offer superior performance overall.
Both phones are currently running Android 9 ("Pie"), and that's what they've launched with, which should mean that they're both on the same 3 year track for Google Pixel phone updates. That should see both phones get Android Q later in 2019, as well as Android R in 2020 and Android S in 2021. Google heavily optimises Android for its Pixel phones, which generally leads to better and smoother performance than comparable devices. But with the same software base, the Pixel 3 should be the overall leader here, which is what you should expect from the pricier handset.
Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3: Camera
It's a closer race than you might expect from the two phones, at least on specifications. Google is essentially throwing the same rear camera array into both phones, and the same AI-assisted camera app too. That means you get features like the very popular Night Sight camera, portrait effects and Google Lens built into both devices.
It's not quite the same story at the front. The Google Pixel 3 features dual front-facing cameras to enable wider group selfies, where the Google Pixel 3a only has a single lens camera.
Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3: Battery
There's a very slight advantage in strict numerical terms for the Pixel 3a over the Pixel 3, with an 85mAh advantage in play. You're probably not going to notice that 85mAh in real world usage though.
The Google Pixel 3 isn't the best performing phone in our benchmark tests, but it's certainly adequate for a single day's usage, and that's roughly what we'd expect out of the Google Pixel 3a.
Google's claim is that it uses adaptive technology to expand the battery life out to a potential 30 hours of battery life, but it's not clear if this is inbuilt hardware or software optimisations, or if it's talking about a phone that is used very minimally to hit that figure. If it's a software optimisation, it would be very surprising not to see that come to Pixel 3 phones rather rapidly.
The one big feature that the Pixel 3 can laud over the Pixel 3a is wireless charging. Drop the Pixel 3 onto any Qi charger – Google would prefer it if you used the Google Pixel Stand – and it will gladly pick up power. Drop the Pixel 3a onto any Qi charger, and absolutely nothing will happen at all.
Google Pixel 3a vs Google Pixel 3: Pricing
Google's big pitch for the Google Pixel 3a is that it's a more affordable Pixel phone. Affordable in this case puts it squarely in the mid-range of pricing, with the Pixel 3a available locally for $649 in Clearly White and Just Black finishes. There is a Purple-ish colour model, but that's not coming to Australia officially.
The Google Pixel 3 is a more premium play, and that means premium pricing, as well as a choice of storage variants. It sells outright in Australia for $1,199 with 64GB of onboard storage or $1,349 for a 128GB model. It's available in Just Black, Clearly White or Not Pink finishes.
The Pixel 3a will be available on contract terms only through Vodafone in Australia. You can check the full range of Google Pixel 3a plans on Vodafone here.
The Pixel 3 has been available since launch on contract with Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. You can check out current plan pricing below.