Google is widely tipped to be working on a new version of the Pixel smartphone. Instead of being the fourth-generation replacement to the current Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL, the handset is instead expected to be a cheaper model.
The phone will likely go up against the iPhone Xr and Samsung Galaxy S10e, both of which are cheaper versions of their respective iPhone XS and Galaxy S10 stablemates. But you should not expect the Pixel to be 'cheap;' instead, like the Apple and Samsung, it is likely to merely be slightly more affordable, without a couple of shortcuts made to its hardware to keep the price down.
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It is likely that Google will break with tradition and announce the Pixel 3a at its I/O event in May, instead of at its usual hardware event in the fall. What follows is everything we know so far about the Pixel 3a, and what this means for readers looking to upgrade.
Google Pixel 3a: Launch date
Google is preparing to make a product announcement on May 7
As we alluded to above, the Pixel 3a is expected to arrive at Google's I/O developer conference, which this year kicks off with a keynote address on May 7. Adding further fuel to the flames is a teaser invitation which Google sent out on April 15.
For an event on May 7, the same day as the start of I/O, the invitation states: "Help is on the way. On May 7, something big is coming to the Pixel universe."
A new page of Google's online store with the same information includes "Avengers" in its URL, as a nod towards Google's tie-in with upcoming Marvel movie Avengers Endgame. It is thought the new handset may tie in further with the movie franchise.
In short, we expect the Google Pixel 3a (and a larger model called the Pixel 3a XL) to be launched on May 7.
Google Pixel 3a: Design, cameras and hardware
Leaked image claimed to be of the upcoming Google Pixel 3a
It is likely that the new phones will be a little smaller than their Pixel 3 relatives, with a less impressive specification sheet to ensure they meet a lower price point. According to 9to5Google, which claims to have a first-hand source with information from Google itself, this means a pair of phones with OLED screen sizes of 5.6 and 6.0 inches. Their resolutions will be 2220 x 1080 for the Pixel 3a, and 1080 x 2160 for the larger 3a XL.
UPDATE: On April 34, the ever-reliable technology leaker Evan Blass tweeted a photo, above, which he claims to be of the Pixel 3a. The image shows a handset which looks very similar to the original Pixel from 2016, complete with screen bezels and no display notch.
Both phones will, according to the source, be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor, which is less powerful than the Snapdragon 845 fitted to the Pixel 3, and they'll have 4GB of RAM - the same as the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
Battery capacity is expected to be almost identical, and so too is storage (starting at 64GB) and the inclusion of features like Active Edge, where a squeeze of the phone launches the Google Assistant.
So far, the new models appear almost identical to their older relatives. But what will be of most interest to many potential buyers is the camera system. Google earned huge praise for its AI-powered cameras in the Pixel 3, which substituted the multiple lenses used by rivals for clever software to produce better photos.
The leaks so far sound promising, with the Pixel 3a expected to get the same camera resolutions as the full-fat Pixel 3, meaning eight megapixels for the front and 12 for the rear. It remains to be seen for now if the same artificial intelligence can be run on the newer phone's less powerful processor.
It is claimed the 3a only has a single camera on its front, instead of the two which the Pixel 3 and 3 XL use to shoot wide-angle selfies. It's a shame this feature seems to be missing from the 3a, as we found it rather useful when trying to fit more people (or more of the background) into a self portrait.
Finally, color options are expected to be 'Clearly White,' 'Just Black' and purple.
Google Pixel 3a: Software
The Google Assistant will be a cornerstone of the Pixel 3a's softwareGearBrain
The Pixel 3a duo are expected to run the same version of Android as the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. This means the current build, called 9 Pie, will come pre-installed on the new phones — and of course, the Google Assistant will be present and correct.
We expect to see some more information about Android 10 Q from Google at I/O, ahead of its release to the general public in the fall. This release will likely coincide with the launch of the Pixel 4, and Android 10 Q will almost certainly be available for the Pixel 3a, too.
One of the real benefits of buying a Pixel phone over a different brand of Android is that Google makes sure they get the latest software as soon as possible. In comparison, Samsung flagships often do not receive new versions of Android for several months after Google releases it.
We expect the Pixel 3a to be the cheapest way for Android fans to ensure they always get the newest version first with each update.
Google Pixel 3a: Price and release date
Google will likely put the Pixel 3a on sale soon after its May 7 launch eventiStock
The regular Pixel 3 costs $799 for the 64GB model and $899 for 128GB of storage. The larger Pixel 3 XL increases each of these prices by $100.
As for the price of the 3a and 3a XL, a leak published by Phandroid on April 15 suggests the new phones will cost $649.99 and $799.99 in Canada. This translates to roughly $500 and $600 in the United States.
A circa-$300 saving over the Pixel 3 sounds a lot, and we're keen to see if this turns out to be true - and if so, what Google has done to achieve this low price point. Bear in mind that the iPhone Xr and Samsung Galaxy S10e each cost $750, yet are seen as more affordable than the flagships; we wonder if the Pixel 3a will compete with these, or be a true mid-range handsets.
As for a release date, Google fans should mark their calendar now, as pre-orders could open on May 7 right after the announcement. This would likely lead to an in-store date between May 13 and 17 the following week.
Google Pixel 3a: Will it be worth upgrading to?
Owners of the Pixel 3 should wait until the Pixel 4 before upgrading, unless they want to spend much less on their next Google smartphoneGearBrain
This will depend on a lot on what phone you currently have, and whether you want to wait for the Pixel 4 or not. If your budget does not stretch much beyond $500 (and the leaks are accurate), the we think the Pixel 3a will represent excellent value for money. Just so long as the performance of the lesser processor is acceptable, and the Pixel 3's AI camera technology is included, at least to some extent.
The Pixel 3a may not be worth upgrading to if you already have a flagship smartphone launched in the last couple of years, but if your current handset is older and you would rather spend less this time around, the new Google phone could be worth a look. We should find out for sure on May 7.