For the last year or two, I’ve consistently recommended a refurb Google Pixel or Pixel 2 as The Phone To Get for most people looking to buy in the $200 to $400 range. Their excellent cameras, software, and just overall solid-ness made them hard to beat despite perhaps not having the best value spec-for-spec. With the Pixel 3a, there’s now a great value alternative to old Pixels. It’s the new Pixel.
We’ll have our full review later this week, but I just couldn’t wait to drop this initial impression given the 3a’s launch promotions. Sure, we’ll get into the details of what’s good and what’s bad about these new phones, but I think it’s already safe to say that the Pixel 3a and 3a XL are just an incredible value at standard price, but especially at their currently-discounted prices.
Forget the phone. Getting a camera as good as this one for effectively $300 (with one of its launch promotions) is just uncontested. The value can be found in the camera alone. If you are…
- A kid with a parent that wants you to have a phone that nails the basics
- A parent wanting an affordable phone that can capture great photos of your kids
- Someone who’d prefer to buy a cheaper phone with cash instead of going on a monthly plan
- Anyone who wants a world-class camera (read: indistinguishable from a DSLR) for cheap
- A photographer wanting a throwaway “backup” camera
- A student who wants a “good enough, it’ll last me halfway through college” phone
- Me, if I didn’t use premium phones for a living
… the Pixel 3a is a no-brainer. Getting a smartphone that’s as powerful or more powerful than a 2017 Android flagship (one that comes with as many perks as the Pixel, no less) is a bonus. It just means you can super-easily share and store the photos you capture with your new $300 pocket camera.
The closest alternative in my mind would be a used or refurbished Pixel or Pixel 2, both of which bring a host of compromises. You’d be buying something dated, with less software support, presumably without a warranty, second-hand, with risk of not knowing exactly what you’ll get. Until now, in my view, those compromises we were actually worth it for the package you were getting.
Looking at the total value-for-your-money package, the closest to these phones that I can remember in their time were the Moto X, Nexus 5 and the OnePlus One. They weren’t the best or most powerful phones on the market, but at their price points, they were all-around holistically great options for just about anyone with those budgets. I think the Pixel 3a captures this mid-range value with one critical differentiator: a top-notch premium camera.
And don’t yell at me in the comments section about all the mid-range Android phones that you can buy for $400 or less that have better spec sheets than the Pixel 3a. I’m not interested in even talking about the Galaxy A70 or the Redmi Note 7 Pro or even the Moto G7, really. This is value beyond simple components and feature lists.
Following yesterday’s announcement, 9to5Toys did a roundup of all of the best Pixel 3a deals, including up to $100 credits, free devices with trade-in, and more. B&H is offering what I think is the most compelling deal: a $100 B&H Photo E-Gift Card and a 3-month 8GB prepaid Mint SIM. And Best Buy is offering up to a $100 gift card when you buy an unlocked, Verizon, or Sprint Pixel 3a.
What do you think? Is the $300 Pixel 3a the best smartphone value on the market right now?