Home Business After Using Google’s Pixel 8A, I’m Questioning the Pixel 8’s Purpose

After Using Google’s Pixel 8A, I’m Questioning the Pixel 8’s Purpose

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After spending just a couple of days with Google’s new $500 (£499, AU$849) Pixel 8A, I have one big question: Why would anyone pay $200 more for the $700 Pixel 8? While there are some differences between the two, the Pixel 8A hits all the important notes, from its similarly sized 6.1-inch screen to its dual camera. 

The Pixel 8A also comes with improvements that address some of my criticisms about last year’s Pixel 7A, which had a dim screen and limited software upgrade lifecycle. While I haven’t had the chance to fully review the Pixel 8A just yet, my impressions so far make me believe this could be the Android phone to beat for those who want to stay well below the $1,000 mark.

Of course, there’s one big caveat here: sales and discounts. Carriers and retailers sometimes discount the Pixel 8, bringing it down to around the same price as the Pixel 8A. Some wireless service providers also offer promotions that make the Pixel 8 essentially free. 

However, those deals typically require you to meet specific circumstances, such as opening a new line on a particular plan or trading in an eligible device. And deals expire, meaning you may not always be able to get the Pixel 8 for a lower price. 

In that case, the Pixel 8A is probably the best choice for most people, although I’ll have more to say about it once I’ve had a chance to fully review and test it.

Read more: Google Pixel 8A vs. Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

Watch this: Google’s Pixel 8A Is Here: What’s New and Different

Pixel 8A design and display

The Pixel 8A being held in someone's hand The Pixel 8A being held in someone's hand

The Pixel 8A has a 6.1-inch display, making it slightly smaller than the Pixel 8’s.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A’s design strongly resembles the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Google rounded out the edges, giving it a softer feel compared with the Pixel 7A. The back also has a nice matte finish that feels more premium and is also likely less prone to fingerprint smudges compared with the glossy Pixel 7A and Pixel 8. 

But Google’s cheaper phone has a lower water and dust resistance rating than the Pixel 8 (IP67 versus the 8’s IP68), which may be important to consider if you spend a lot of time outdoors and prefer not to use a case. The difference in the ratings means that the Pixel 8 can be submerged under more water (1.5 meters versus 1 meter) than the Pixel 8A.

You have four color options to choose from: Aloe (green), Bay (light blue), Obsidian (black) and Porcelain (white). I’ve been using the aloe green color, and I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s like a slightly bolder and brighter mint shade of green. 

The Pixel 8A has a 6.1-inch screen that’s slightly smaller than the Pixel 8’s. The bezels framing the Pixel 8A’s screen are noticeably larger than the Pixel 8’s, although you’re not going to be thinking about this unless you’re looking at the two phones side by side.

Google says it boosted the Pixel 8A’s display brightness compared with last year’s Pixel 7A, which I was happy to hear considering the previous model’s screen looked dim to me outdoors. So far, I haven’t had the same problem with the Pixel 8A, but I’ll know for sure once I’ve had more time with the device.

Pixel 8A camera

The back of the Pixel 8A The back of the Pixel 8A

The Pixel 8A’s camera is essentially the same as the Pixel 7A’s.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A essentially has the same camera as the Pixel 7A: a 64-megapixel main camera with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. That may sound like a step above the 50-megapixel main camera on the Pixel 8’s rear camera system (which also includes a 12-megapixel ultrawide shooter), but resolution isn’t everything. 

The Pixel 8A’s camera has a smaller pixel width, which is important for light absorption, and there’s also no laser autofocus. You also won’t get macro focus mode on the Pixel 8A.

Regardless, photos taken on the Pixel 8A look colorful and detailed so far. I did notice that the Pixel 8 captured more detail when snapping a photo of my husband during a night out at dinner, although the difference was only truly noticeable when zooming in. But in other circumstances, photos between the two looked nearly identical, as shown in the photo of flowers below.

Pixel 8A

A vase of flowers on a wooden table outside. A vase of flowers on a wooden table outside.

This photo of flowers was taken on the Pixel 8A.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Pixel 8

A vase of flowers on a wooden table outside. A vase of flowers on a wooden table outside.

This photo was taken on the Pixel 8.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

So far, I prefer the Pixel 8A’s camera over the one found on the cheaper $400 Samsung Galaxy A35 5G. Detail and color seem to be more accurate on photos from the Pixel 8A’s camera, although I’ll know more after doing more testing.

The Pixel 8A also inherits some AI-powered photo and video editing features from the Pixel 8, such as Best Take, Magic Editor and Audio Magic Eraser. Those first two features, which let you swap a subject’s facial expression after multiple images have been taken in a row and remove or manipulate objects in a photo, work the same way they do on the Pixel 8. Samsung’s AI editing features haven’t made their way to the Galaxy A35 5G yet, although I suspect they’ll arrive through an update eventually. 

Pixel 8A battery, performance and software

The Pixel 8A against a yellow background The Pixel 8A against a yellow background

The Pixel 8A runs on Google’s Tensor G3 processor like the Pixel 8.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A’s battery is more than capable of getting through a full day on a single charge. On a busy day that involved leaving the house around 8:30 a.m., spending the day at the office and then going out to dinner with friends, the Pixel 8A still had 66% of its battery left at 12:43 a.m. That’s roughly 16 hours of use. 

But as always, battery life will vary depending on how you’re using your device. I had the brightness set to at least 50% or higher throughout the day and mostly used the phone for browsing social media and email, taking a few photos, making a brief phone call and playing mobile games for about 15 minutes. 

The Pixel 8A has the same Tensor G3 processor found in the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, and performance seems smooth so far. Apps open quickly, the camera launches easily and games run without issue. Benchmark tests like Geekbench 6, which measures general computing performance, and 3DMark for assessing graphics, aren’t available for the Pixel 8A yet.

Hardware isn’t the only similarity between the Pixel 8A and Google’s pricier Pixels; they share a lot of software features in common too. You’ll get features like Hold For Me, which can wait on hold for you when calling certain businesses, and Circle to Search, which lets you search for almost anything on screen by drawing or scribbling on it.

Circle to Search is one of Google’s newer Android features, and it has a lot of potential. I still find myself going out of the way to use it rather than fitting it into my natural phone usage patterns, but I’ve been impressed by how it’s been working so far. When I circled an image of the main character from the popular anime series Attack on Titan and asked for “shows like this,” Google pulled up stories about the series, including one article recommending similar content.

Most importantly, Google will support the Pixel 8A with seven years of Android operating system upgrades and security updates. That matches the Pixel 8’s support timeline and marks a big jump from the three-year pledge Google made with last year’s Pixel 7A. It’s great to see Google extending this policy to its cheaper phone too. 

But the Pixel 8A doesn’t have everything the Pixel 8 has. For example, it looks like Google’s generative AI wallpapers aren’t available on the Pixel 8A. 

Pixel 8A thoughts so far

Google's Pixel 8A on a yellow background Google's Pixel 8A on a yellow background

The Pixel 8A seems like a better choice for most people compared to the Pixel 8. 

James Martin/CNET

Each year, Google improves on its A-series phones in ways that address the previous generation’s criticisms and shortcomings. As such, the gap between Google’s regular Pixel and A-series Pixel has gradually become narrower. And at this point, it’s so small that I’m seriously questioning whether the Pixel 8 is worth it.

There’s a laundry list of things you’ll get with the Pixel 8 that aren’t available on the Pixel 8A, such as the ability to wirelessly charge other devices on the back of the phone, a slightly larger screen, macro focus mode in the camera and a higher durability rating. But taken together, these don’t feel significant enough to make the Pixel 8 a more compelling option for most people.

But I’ll have more thoughts to share once I’ve spent more time with the Pixel 8A.

Google Pixel 8A vs. Other Phones

Google Pixel 8A Google Pixel 7A Google Pixel 8 Samsung Galaxy A35 5G
Display size, tech, resolution, refresh rate 6.1-inch OLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels, 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate 6.1-inch OLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels; 60/90Hz 6.2-inch OLED; 2,400×1,080 pixels; 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate 6.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED; 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Pixel density 430 ppi 429 ppi 428 ppi 389 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6 x 2.9 x 0.4 in 6 x 2.9 x 0.4 in 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.4 in 6.4 x 3 x 0.3 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 152 x 74 x 10.2 mm 152 x 74 x 10.2 mm 150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9 mm 161.7 x 78 x 8.2 mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 193 g (6.8 oz) 193 g (6.81 oz) 187 g (6.6 oz) 209 g (7.4 oz)
Mobile software (at launch) Android 14 Android 13 Android 14 Android 14
Camera 64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide) 64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide) 50-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 50-megapixel (main), 8-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro)
Front-facing camera 13-megapixel 13-megapixel 10.5-megapixel 13-megapixel
Video capture 4K at 30/60 FPS 4K at 30/60 FPS 4K at 24/30/60 FPS UHD at 30 FPS
Processor Google Tensor G3 Google Tensor G2 Google Tensor G3 Samsung Exynos 1380
RAM/storage 8GB + 128GB or 256GB 8GB + 128GB 8GB + 128GB, 256GB 6GB + 128GB
Expandable storage None None None up to 1TB
Battery 4,492 mAh (18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging) 4,385 mAh (18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging) 4,575 mAh (27W fast charging, 18W wireless charging with Google Pixel Stand, 12W wireless charging Qi chargers) 5,000 mAh (25W fast wired charging)
Fingerprint sensor Under-display Under-display Under-display Optical fingerprint sensor
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack None None None None
Special features 5G (5G sub6 / mmWave), IP67 rating, VPN by Googe One, Circle to Search, 7 years Android OS updates, 7 years security updates, Best Take, Audio Magic Eraser 5G (5G sub6 / mmWave), IP67 rating, VPN by Google One, Circle to Search, 3 years Android OS updates, 5 years security updates 5G (Sub 6,/mmWave); IP68 rating; VPN by Google One; 7 years of Android OS updates, 7 years of security updates; Best Take; Audio Magic Eraser; Magic Editor, 2x “optical quality” zoom; macro focus, Battery Share 5G, Samsung Knox Vault, 4 generations of Android OS updates, 5 years of security updates, expandable storage





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