A review of the Google Pixel 3a

Possibly one of the best Mid-range devices!

Early Days

So it’s been nearly two weeks with the new Google Pixel 3a and I have to admit so far the experience has been a good one! As a long term iPhone user both in my professional and personal life, my experience with Android has been mostly limited to using the devices for product testing against EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) platforms and other application tests. Apart from a brief dalliance with the Nexus 5X a couple of years ago I just can’t escape the grip of the fruit from Cupertino!

However that grip has been loosened with the arrival of the new Pixel. For a few months now I had been meaning to pick up a new Android device, and one which would support the upcoming Android Q release so I could test against our company applications, I didn’t expect however to swap out my work iPhone 8 and use it on a daily basis!

Is that Purple?

Device colour choice will always be an emotive subject and for many years this has been limited to Black, white or perhaps silver. Many manufacturers offer various choices now and Google is no different and you too can order/buy your new Pixel 3a in “Just Black”, “Clearly White” and the somewhat different “Purple-ish”!  Yes you guessed correctly I went for this and you know what – it does look good! With the neon yellow Power button and the deep black screen it contrasts well. Depending on the light it does look white at times!

The Pixel 3a comes in two variants: the larger Pixel 3a XL and the standard Pixel 3a. The device specifications are identical: Octa-core Snapdragon 670, 4GB RAM and 64GB Storage. The XL sports a 6” vs 5.6” screen for the standard 3a and 3700mAh vs 3000mAh battery size. They do both come with a 3.5mm headphone jack but scrimp on the Wireless charging capabilities, this has been removed to keep costs down. Google has also ported across the great camera from the Google Pixel 3 to the 3a

However it should be pointed out that these devices are not a replacement for the Pixel 3, that honour will fall to the rumoured Pixel 4 which is likely to be announced later this year. Now you could be fooled into thinking that these phones are just a cheap stop-gap and one to appease the market following the flood of super high end uber expensive devices – yes I’m looking at you Samsung Galaxy Fold!

Despite the more mid-range spec the 3a doesn’t feel sluggish during normal tasks. As I alluded to earlier I swapped my iPhone 8 out for the 3a as my main work device, so using for a variety of apps beyond email! Thankfully my company is a GSuite shop so the Pixel was well placed to take advantage of this – enrolling the device to our EMM solution via Android Enterprise and adding additional accounts and setting up my common apps was no trouble. Apart from some small cosmetic changes from iOS to Android they all worked as expected.

As the Pixel was to be used daily, I was curious to see how the battery would fare over the working day. I also travel a fair amount for work, so roaming and tethering are common occurrences. That 3000mAh battery really is good and I found that my normal use meant that I was getting a full days use without charging – something that the older iPhone 8 just couldn’t cope with (I have to admit that my personal iPhone XS Max does occasionally struggle here). After making some changes to the settings, such as enabling the Battery Saver to enable automatically (which was a lifesaver on a late train journey home) and also turning on the Digital Wellbeing app to set the screen to Grayscale after 9pm. The latter I thought perhaps was a gimmick but I’m converted. Whilst I’m not sure how much battery it saves overall, I can say that the muted display does reduce the need to keep checking and I found that if I needed to check the phone late at night the lack of glaring blue light was a relief.

Long Term Relationship

I’ll own up now and say that this is not the start of my transition from Apple as main device choice but for someone who had a reluctant approach to Android – the Pixel 3a for me is the perfect work device. Yes the storage is limited but isn’t that what cloud storage is for now and I do have some long term doubts on the CPU by the time we get the Android version beyond Q and the lack of wireless charging is a minor frustration. I can overlook all this for a decent and bright screen, excellent battery life and a “bloatware” free Android Experience and full Android Enterprise support and it’s an AER (Android Enterprise Recommended device). I’m also looking forward to the Android Q beta support for the Pixel which should be released soon. The Android Pie experience is great and you can see this how Google envisioned the OS and hardware coming together – Q brings new enhancements and features which many of us in the mobile work have been looking forward to!

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