Pictures of the Pixel 3a.

Enlarge / The three color options of the new Pixel 3A. (credit: Google)

Google launched a new Pixel yesterday, and it looks like a good deal. The Android maker’s latest smartphones, the Pixel 3A and 3A XL, start at $399 but appear to pack many of the things that make Pixel phones what they are in the first place. That includes an optimized version of Android, three years of updates direct from Google, and, most notably, a rear camera that’s virtually identical to the top-notch shooter found on the back of the original Pixel 3, a phone that’s about twice as expensive. Google even added a headphone jack.

There are trade-offs, of course, to hit that lower price point. The Pixel 3A trades the glass-heavy finish of the flagship Pixel 3 for a mostly plastic design, which in turn means there’s no wireless charging. There’s little in the way of water-resistance, too, and the glass used on the (still OLED) display isn’t as high-quality as the usual Gorilla Glass. Performance also takes a hit, as the phones use a decidedly midrange Snapdragon 670 chip that will make them slower to launch apps and play games. (Though it should still be fast enough for most purposes.) And while the Pixel 3A does come with unlimited Google Photos storage like past Pixel phones, it limits your backups to “high quality” files instead of their original resolution.

Those are real sacrifices, and it’s worth keeping in mind that some Pixel 3 users have experienced notable performance degradation over time. But a lower price tends to make some of these issues more forgivable. A not-insignificant number of Android users may even prefer the feel of the Pixel 3A’s plastic to the slippery, more fragile glass of the Pixel 3.

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