Google’s Pixel 3a has the best camera of any budget phone

The Google Pixel 3a comes in a choice of either Just Black, Purple-ish and Clearly White (Google)

Google’s new smartphone, the Pixel 3a, is the best budget option for anyone who uses their phone primarily for taking pictures.

It’s basically a scaled-down version of the full fat Pixel 3 that Google released towards the end of last year in order to compete with the iPhone XS. Because it’s a Pixel, it carries a very clean version of Google’s Android operating system and will be first in line for security patches and software updates.

But that’s not the main reason for buying this phone. The main reason is the excellent camera and the £399 price point for the entry-level version.

We’ve reached a point where companies don’t blink at offering top-level smartphones for between eight hundred and a thousand pounds. That cost can be obscured by the network contract but it’s definitely still there. So the fact that Google has come out with the 3a and its larger sibling the 3a XL is refreshing.

If you primarily use your phone for the camera and camera-related apps (Instagram, Tik Tok or Snapchat to name a few) then you’ll find a lot to like about the newest Pixel.

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The Pixel 3a is the best budget phone you can buy (Google)

The rear-facing camera is the same as the one as the main Pixel 3, which many tech reviewers have found to be the best in the business. It doesn’t have three lenses like some of the newest phones so the resulting zoom isn’t as good, but the software-based processing under the hood is second to none.

Google’s Night Sight feature means that low-light photography with the Pixel 3a is often better than the iPhone XS or XR. It picks up and processes detail extremely accurately. Unfortunately, it does fall down somewhat when it comes to recording video.

The Pixel 3a took the picture on the left, while the iPhone XS took the one on the right (
This time the iPhone XS took the image on the left while the Pixel 3a took the one on the right (

Google has made a few concessions in order to keep the pricing down: the build quality is a step down from the main Pixel phones because Google has substituted glass for polycarbonate. That also means there’s no wireless charging on either the 3a or the 3a XL.

The Pixel 3a doesn’t have wireless charging as the casing is polycarbonate rather than glass (Google)

And while the rear-facing camera is the same as the main Pixel, the selfie camera misses out the 19mm and 28mm ultrawide lens that gave the Pixel its wide group-shot selfie feature.

But because Google provides so much of its photographic powers through software, the 3a is likely to have more features come out for it in time. For example, a new Timelapse mode is on the way in a future update.

Even though the processor on the 3a and 3a XL isn’t the top-of-the-range option, most people won’t notice any difference. If you put it next to a flagship Pixel you’ll see it takes a fraction of a second longer to launch apps but, in truth, it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day usage.

A great phone at an excellent price (Google)

And, just as an aside, Google has brought back the headphone jack for this phone.

The company has managed to redefine what we should expect from a ‘budget’ phone with the Pixel 3a and proved that you don’t need to spend huge amounts for a great gadget.


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