Google unveils new mid-range smartphones - the Pixel 3a and 3a XL

Alphabet Inc’s Google launched more affordable versions of its Pixel smartphone on Tuesday at about half the price of its current models.
Google Pixel 3a, the new mid-range smartphone from Google.
Google Pixel 3a, the new mid-range smartphone from Google.PHOTO: GOOGLE

MOUNTAIN VIEW - Google has unveiled its latest mid-range smartphones, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, which are nearly half the price of its current flagship handsets.

The Pixel 3a and larger 3a XL will be sold in Singapore for $659 and $779 respectively, much lower than the flagship Pixel 3 (starts from $1,249) and 3 XL (from $1,399).

The new phones were announced during the keynote address at the search giant's annual developer conference Google I/O in Mountain View, California early Wednesday (May 8), Singapore time.

Last week in an earning calls with the media and analysts, Ms Ruth Porat, chief financial officer Alphabet, Google's parent company, said that recent industry-wide pressure on high-end smartphones led to fewer Pixel smartphone sales last quarter compared to the same period last year.

With its lower price point, the Pixel 3a smartphones are essentially stripped down versions of the flagships. The Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch display (2,220 x 1,080 pixels), while the Pixel 3a XL has a 6-inch display (2,160 x 1,080 pixels). Apart from the size and display differences, the Pixel 3a models have the same innards.

In terms of design, the Pixel 3a models look practically the same as the flagships. However, the 3a XL does not have a display cutout, or screen notch, unlike the Pixel 3 XL. In addition, the 3a models feature a polycarbonate unibody instead of the flagships' aluminium and glass frame.

The 3a models are also only splash resistant, unlike the flagships' rating of IP68, which means the premium handsets can withstand being submerged up to 1.5m underwater for 30 minutes. But the Pixel 3a models have a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is missing from their higher-end cousins.

The 3a models also feature the slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor, compared to the flagships' top-line Snapdragon 845 processor. While both handset lines have 4GB of RAM, the mid-range phones have only 64GB of storage, unlike the Pixel 3 devices which can have up to 128GB storage. Also, the 3a models do not support wireless charging.

However, Google kept the most important trait of the flagships for the 3a models - the rear camera. They have the same industry-leading 12.2-megapixel rear camera found in the Pixel 3 models. This means Pixel 3a users can use photo features like the Night Sight low-light photography mode and a new Time Lapse feature.

But the Pixel 3a phones feature only a 8-megapixel front-facing camera and thus lacks the additional wide-angle camera found in the flagship phones.

Both Google Pixel 3a models are available now at Singapore's Google online store (https://store.google.com/sg) and come in two colours - black and white. A third colour option, purple, is not available in Singapore.