Want a good Android smartphone without the $1,000+ price tag? Then buy Google's Pixel 3a

Ad goliath's latest has struck all the right compromises


Plenty of battery time

The more important factor is that the battery feels like the old days when your phone used to comfortably last the day and part of the next day. God alone knows why companies like Apple keep sticking in batteries that only just make it to the end of the day just to shave a few millimeters off a phone's thickness.

Anyway, this reviewer used the phone as normal and at the end of the day it was at 22 per cent. The next day, it was given a punishing bored-waiting-at-the-airport usage and made it through with seven per cent left. In short, the Pixel 3a has a better-than-average battery.

Charging was pretty standard: 50 per cent charged after half-an-hour; around 80 per cent after an hour; fully charged after 90 minutes.

pixel 3a

Good sized battery charging

Like we said at the beginning: the $399 (£399) Pixel 3a is a great phone that is basically identical to the high-end phones that cost upwards of $800. And the larger 3a XL is $479 (£469); again half the price of larger phones that cost $1,000.

In fact, we love the Pixel 3a for the simple fact that it has put something into the market that isn't about having the very latest, very best technology no matter what the cost or utility. And then you have $400-$600 left over to do with what you wish. What's more, the phone is old-school in that you can actually get into it and repair it. iFixit has given it a 6/10 for repairability.

Houston, we have a headphone jack

All that said, there was one thing that we really didn't like and continues to baffle us: the sound coming from the headphones was terrible. It was good coming out the speakers at the base, and worked great streaming to external speakers, but the headphones? It felt like we were at the back of the hall and kept increasing the volume in the hope the sound would get stronger and clearer.

This didn't make much sense so we tried multiple different headphones, and compared the same song with the same headphones on different phones to make sure we weren't going mad. We weren't. Whether this is just the socket in this particular phone or a design flaw introduced to the Pixel 3a we can't be sure.

The Pixel 3 – the earlier, higher end version of this same phone – does not have a headphone jack, so it is possible Google screwed up here somewhere when they added the jack in. And, weirdly, that is the one thing that would stop this reviewer from ditching the iPhone when his current iPhone 8 Plus is due for retirement and going for a Pixel 3a (or, likely, Pixel 4a by that time). By then an iPhone will probably baseline at $1,500 thanks to some new feature that Samsung introduced six months earlier.

It won't be the screen, or the speed, or camera, not the lack of wireless charging or dual front cameras that stops this reviewer, but the headphone jack, which cost cents. Sort it out please Google.

The good news? It's modular so you could take the Pixel 3a to a repair shop and get a better jack for $50 – still saving significant sums for a phone that punches way above its weight. Which, incidentally, is 147g and so lighter than the iPhone XR (194g), Galaxy S10 (150g) and Huawei P30 Pro (192g).

So, to sum up, this is a really good phone, not a good enough phone, and the price is superb. Well worth a look. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021