RIP Google Pixel 3a – a modern classic that deserves a longer run 2022-05-01 07:00:39


Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL on the back

Believe it or not, May 2022 marks the third anniversary of The Google Pixel 3a series launched. This means that there will be no more Google Pixel 3a updates from now on (although Google may have another this month, perhaps). The phones will still work just fine, but the lack of future Android security updates makes them unsafe. It would be recommended for users to upgrade.

Not only that, but the Pixel 3a has also changed the budget and mid-range smartphone segments as a whole. The presence of the Pixel 3a itself has forced competitors – most notably Samsung – to up their game when it comes to non-flagship hardware.

Our picks: The best budget phones you can buy right now

In other words, May 2022 not only marks the end of a typical smartphone’s life. With the Google Pixel 3a updates now over, we’re saying goodbye to a modern classic – one from the history books.

In 2019, the Pixel line needed a reorganization

Google Pixel 3a XL side power button in orange

When the Pixel 3a series launched in May 2019, the newest Pixel phones were the two phones in the Pixel 3 series as of October 2018. They weren’t miserable failures, but they were deeply divisive. For example, the huge notch on the Pixel 3 XL garnered a slew of bad reviews. Overall, the two phones don’t seem to deviate from – or advance – significantly in Google’s niche in the smartphone world.

Despite this, the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL were different. Both were similar to the Pixel 3, had the same camera system as the Pixel 3, and had most of the same software features, including the same speed and longevity of updates. However, Google cut the specs and design elements to make the Pixel 3a literally half the price of the Pixel 3 at just $399.

When the Pixel 3a came out, no other Android company was doing anything like it.

In a sense, these new phones were an impressive lineup of blockbuster songs for the band: all killer and no filler. This may sound not very fun, but at the time, no other Android company was doing this (I’ll explain more about this in a bit). The closest fax we had was the 2016 launch The first iPhone SE, which offered some high-end features (such as the processor) while dispensing with others to keep the price low. The thing that Google realized Apple didn’t do, though, is that buyers don’t want a phone that looks like the one from five years ago.

This destabilized Google’s entire smartphone strategy. Can you imagine trying to explain to a high-ranking corporate executive why buyers are more interested in your cheap plastic phone than your expensive, flagship phone from the previous and current year?

After your Pixel 4 phone crashed and burned Pixel 4 A Continuing with the massive success of the Pixel 3a, Google has attempted to combine its premium ambitions with its budget designs, resulting in Google Pixel 5. With this phone, Google has abandoned the Pixel 4 design language and adopted the Pixel 3a/4a language instead. A mid-range processor and a rework of the same old camera system brought the price down, too. Unfortunately for Google, this strategy didn’t work as well as I thought, which is why the company has finally completely renewed its ambitions with the Pixel 6 series.

Basically, the Pixel 3a changed everything for Google. Its success has pushed the company in directions it probably didn’t anticipate needing to go. But Google wasn’t the only company affected.

The industry needed to be reorganized too

Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL screen

I previously mentioned that no other Android companies are adopting the Pixel 3a strategy. In general, this is true, but it still needs clarification.

First, many Android OEM device manufacturers had try to To do something like Pixel 3a. The OnePlus X is a great early example. This phone cuts out some of the most distinctive elements of the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 while keeping the basics, such as the main processor. However, the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 weren’t priced like premium phones, so a cheaper alternative wasn’t necessary. There was no follow-up to the OnePlus X.

Related: History of the complete OnePlus lineup so far

Samsung also kind of tried a Pixel 3a-like strategy with the Galaxy S10 line, which also launched in 2019. It introduced the Galaxy S10e. In spite of rave reviews And loyal followers, the phone failed to gain a large consumer base, likely because Samsung simply didn’t go far enough. The phone was priced at $749, which is only $150 cheaper than a decent Galaxy S10, so it was still quite a bit. As with the OnePlus X, there has been no follow-up to the Galaxy S10e – although Galaxy S20 FE And Galaxy S21 FE Repeat this formula.

With the Pixel 3a, Google was the first company to really prove the concept of a cheap version of the flagship. This success forced all the other Android companies to take notice. Suddenly, we saw a flood of “light” models or new versions of phones with a lowercase letter attached to the name. You know what they say about imitation and flattery, right?

The Pixel 3a has set the bar for what the budget version of the flagship should be.

However, competitors have shrugged off one of the Pixel 3a’s best aspects: its software and support. Remember, for less than $400, the Pixel 3a gave you the latest version of Android on day one plus monthly security updates like a watch. Meanwhile, competitors have been committed to one Android upgrade (or two if you’re lucky) and sporadic security patches. Of course, savvy consumers saw through this trick.

However, the company that got the most attention was Samsung. This may have been the relative failure of the Galaxy S10e combined with Google’s success in the budget category, but Samsung completely changed its strategy after 2019. At that point, buying something like the Galaxy A was pointless, since you’d be spending a lot more money. Than you think for a totally sub-par experience. Fast forward to today and the Galaxy A line is Full of great phones at very reasonable prices.

Likewise, on the software front, Samsung’s recent Galaxy A line gets a solid commitment. In 2019, a user will be lucky if their Galaxy A phone gets two years of support with most of them only getting one Android upgrade. In 2022, high-end Galaxy A phones get four years of Android upgrades with three-year commitments to move to cheaper models. It’s a completely different market.

Google Pixel 3a XL within reach

Google is clearly not going to stop launching A-series phones. If the Pixel 6a can replicate the same formula as the Pixel 3a and offer a Pixel 6-like experience at a price approaching $400, the thing will fly off the shelves. We just hope Google doesn’t make the mistake Samsung made with the Galaxy S10e — if the Pixel 6a’s price is too close to the Pixel 6’s, it won’t work.

Regardless, this month marks the end of the original Pixel 3a. We probably won’t see more Google Pixel 3a updates, but we can think of their significance in the smartphone history books. A lot has changed since its launch and the industry is much better for it.

Here’s the Pixel 3a: gone early, but not forgotten.