Google’s Pixel lineup has two new little brothers, and they’re named the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. These affordable variants of Google’s regular Pixel 3 and 3 XL feature stripped down tech specs and hardware, but still include Pixel’s beloved camera. So how do the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL stack up to their predecessors? Find out below.

Major Changes Processing Speeds Pixel Screens 4G and USB Speeds Specs Pixel Camera Overview

Biggest Changes to the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are essentially budget versions of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. They feature slightly lower quality screens and slower processors. However, the physical design, fingerprint reader and button placement, and two-toned back are mostly identical to their more expensive cousins. Plus, the Pixel 3a sees the return of a good ol’ headphone jack.

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL’s Slower processor Could make everyday smartphone tasks feel like a slog

The Google Pixel 3a and Google Pixel 3a XL are Google’s first budget Pixel devices.

Pixel 3a Processing speeds

The Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL feature slower processor chips than both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 2 models. This affects general snappiness when opening apps, browsing the web, or even taking photos (check out our stopwatch times below to see the results).

Activity Google Pixel 3a Google Pixel 3 Google Pixel 2
Opening Music Apps (Spotify) 4.54 seconds Instant 1.91 seconds
Processing a photo 5.6 seconds Instant 1 second

*Stopwatch times taken from video footage of the Pixel 3a and compared to real-world use of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL’s Snapdragon 670 processor only delivers 2GHz speeds, which could make everyday smartphone tasks feel like a slog when compared to newer and more powerful Snapdragon chips. The Pixel 2 and 3 models feature Snapdragon chips with octa-core processors hitting 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz speeds. Nevertheless, video streaming and graphically-intensive games have been shown to run just fine on the Pixel 3a with the Snapdragon 670 and its graphics processor.

The biggest speed drawback, however, is the Pixel 3a models’ lack of an image processing chip (or Pixel Visual Core), making the wait time for photo processing especially painful at 5.6 seconds per capture.

Pixel 3a Screens and Glass

While the Pixel 3a and 3a XL’s screen resolution and pixel density specs are similar to previous models, reports have noted that color accuracy and visual pop are not as spectacular as the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. But it’s still a great screen, particularly given the 3a’s $399 price tag. With 1080 resolution and ample brightness, you can still watch traditional HD videos on it see the display in direct sunlight.

Google chose a different glass with the 3a models, known as Dragontrail. While thriftier than more traditional Gorilla Glass found on other Pixel phones, it’s still damage and scratch-resistant glass that can take some bumps and bruises before shattering.

4G LTE and USB Speeds

There are a few other minor changes Google made to the Pixel 3a and 3a XL to keep them under $500. One affects the actual cellular speeds, as Google did not include antenna bands compatible with 4G LTE Advanced. However, this is something you’re unlikely to notice.

Also, the Pixel 3a’s USB-C port uses USB 2.0 rather than USB 3.1. This limits potential data transferring speeds to 60MB/s rather than 10Gbps. Again, this may be a drawback, but it will not affect the majority of people who backup files and media to Google Drive storage and Google Photos over WiFi or cellular data instead.

Notable Spec Differences of Google Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2 Models

Google Pixel 3a/3a XL Google Pixel 3/3 XL Google Pixel 2/2XL
Processor Speeds 2.0GHz 2.5GHz 2.3GHz
4G Peak Speeds 4G LTE limited to 600Mbps 4G LTE Advanced 1.2Gbps 4G LTE Advanced 1.2Gbps
USB Speeds USB-C 2.0, 60MB/s USB-C 3.1, 10Gbps USB-C 3.1, 10Gbps
Materials Polycarbonate Plastic, Dragontrail Glass Aluminum, Gorilla Glass Aluminum, Gorilla Glass
Speakers Mono speaker Stereo speakers Stereo speakers
Headphone jack Yes No No

Google Pixel Specs: 3a/3a XL vs. Pixel 3/Pixel 3 XL

Google’s new Pixel 3a and 3a XL took the essence of Google’s Pixel 3 models and made them cheaper with better battery life. While there is much the same between these Pixel specs (memory, storage, rear cameras, and general physique), sacrifices were made including:

  • Premium build materials
  • Water resistance
  • General processing speeds
  • Inclusion of virtual reality (VR) compatibility with Google’s Daydream

The 3a and 3a XL are the only Pixel phones For Sale with A headphone jack

Google Pixel Specifications 

Google Pixel 3a/3a XL Google Pixel 3/3 XL Google Pixel 2/2 XL
Screen Size 5.6″, 6.0″ OLED 5.5″, 6.3″ P-OLED 5.0″, 6.0″ P-OLED
Processor and Speed Snapdragon 670 (2.0GHz) Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz) Snapdragon 835 (2.3GHz)
Internal Storage 64GB 64GB/128GB 64GB/128GB
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB
Rear Camera 12.2MP f/1.8 12.2MP f/1.8 12.2MP f/1.8
Front Camera 8MP f/2.0 Dual selfie camera: 8MP f/1.8 wide-angle, 8MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle 8MP f/2.4 wide
Battery Capacity 3,000mAh, 3,700mAh 2,915mAh, 3,430mAh 2,700mAh, 3,520mAh
Water Resistance None IP68 dust and water resistant IP67 dust and water resistant
OS Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie Android 8.0 Oreo
AR/VR Ability Supports Augmented Reality (AR) only Supports Google Daydream VR and AR Supports Google Daydream VR and AR
Price $399, $479 $799, $899 Discontinued, $849.99

Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL Cameras

google pixel 3Google included the same famously great 12.2MP Pixel Camera with the 3a and 3a XL that came with previous models. This results in photos that are just as sharp, colorful, and attractive as the Pixel 3’s, and arguably more so than recent iPhone X models. Unfortunately, the lack of an image processing chip might take the joy out of using it. Reviews of the shots are great, but if you’re looking for a great and speedy camera, definitely choose a Pixel 3 or 3 XL instead.

Google also offers unlimited FREE online storage for all photos and videos with their Pixel phones. Unfortunately, Google won’t allow Pixel 3a models to download their photos in their original HD quality, which isn’t the case for the Pixel 3 or Pixel 2. There are different specifics on this policy for each phone generation, and original high-quality storage is not guaranteed.

Google Pixel Unlimited Storage Policies:

  • Pixel 3a and 3a XL: Unlimited high-quality uploads, but Google may compress or resize them. No end date set.
  • Pixel 3 and 3 XL: Free unlimited storage from original quality through January 2022.
  • Pixel 2 and 2 XL: Free unlimited storage at original quality through 2020. Unlimited high-quality storage available after.

Overview: Google Pixel 3a vs 3 vs 2

Google is making a smart move by making the Pixel 3 and 3a available for half the price of other flagship devices. Most flagship devices cost anywhere from $700 to upwards of $1,000, leaving ample room for less expensive—but high performing—phones like the Pixel 3a to capture market share.

Google’s Pixel 3 and 3 XL have more premium hardware and build materials than the Google 3a and 3a XL and cost twice as much.

Overall, Google’s budget Pixel 3a and 3a XL devices are getting rave reviews. You don’t often hear that about budget phones outside of Motorola. They’re also being sold by all major wireless carriers, which hasn’t been the case for Pixel phones in the past. Whether or not Google succeeds with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, you can expect to see more of these “lite” versions of higher-end phones from other manufacturers soon after.

Android 9.0 Pie
Affordable pricing
Amazing Pixel Camera
Lighter materials mean a lighter phone
Headphone jack included


Mid-range screen quality
Slower processors
No wireless charging
No stereo sound
No dust/water resistance
Made of plastic vs aluminum and glass

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As an industry expert and content strategist for Let’s Talk, Maddie has her finger on the pulse of all things wireless. With a background in Economics and experience in tech marketing, it’s no surprise she loves getting into the nitty-gritty data of topics like consumer trends and MVNO operations. On the off chance she’s away from her iPhone, you'll probably find her off-the-grid in the Wasatch mountains—painting, hiking or skiing.