Earlier this week, Google unveiled the Pixel 3a series during I/O 2019. The Pixel 3 series failed to sell in numbers that Google had hoped for and the mid-range Pixel 3a series is its another shot at success. How does Google’s mid-range Pixel 3a series compare to Apple’s ‘budget’ iPhone, the iPhone XR? Find out in this comparison.
While the iPhone XR is cheaper than the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, it is still priced at $749 which makes it notably more expensive than the $400 Pixel 3a and the $479 Pixel 3a XL. While it does offer more for the money, the Pixel 3a series delivers in two key areas where it really matters: camera and software experience. Despite the mid-range internals, the Pixel 3a series packs the same rear camera as the more expensive Pixel 3 series which is ultimately what matters to a lot of people.
So, between the Pixel 3a and the iPhone XR, which one should you buy? Is the iPhone XR worth the extra money?
iPhone XR vs Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3a XL Comparison: How Are They Different?
The iPhone XR has the same design language as the iPhone XS series albeit with a few compromises. It features a unibody aluminum chassis and while it does have a bezel-less design at front, they are slightly bigger than what you see on the iPhone XS. The iPhone XR has IP67 certification making it dust and water-resistant.
As for the Pixel 3a series, it features the same design language as the more expensive Pixel 3 series. However, it features a unibody plastic body which means it does not feel as premium as the Pixel 3 series. Plus, you will find plenty of bezels at the front which is reminiscent of a phone released in late 2017 with its relatively thick bezels.
The Pixel 3a series lacks any kind of IP certification, though for what it is worth, they do feature a headphone jack. The extra moolah that one pays for the iPhone XR ends up giving them a more premium build quality and IP certification.
- iPhone XR – 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD, 1,792×828 resolution
- Pixel 3a – 5.6-inch OLED panel, 2220 x 1080 resolution
- Pixel 3a XL – 6-inch OLED panel, 2220 x 1080 resolution
Despite carrying a relatively low price tag of $400, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL feature an OLED panel. While they are not as pixel-dense as the Galaxy S10, they are still great OLED panels which are good enough for day-to-day use.
In comparison, the iPhone XR features an LCD panel. While it is bigger than what the Pixel 3a series offers, it actually has a lower resolution than them. Plus, being an LCD panel, it cannot compete with the Pixel’s OLED display in terms of contrast, saturation, and colors.
- iPhone XR – 7nm A12 Bionic chipset
- Pixel 3a – Octa-core Snapdragon 670 @ 2GHz
The iPhone XR is the clear winner here. It features the same A12 Bionic chipset as found on the iPhone XS series which makes it a beast in terms of raw horsepower. This is a flagship chipset which can easily handle anything you throw at it.
The Snapdragon 670 chip inside the Pixel 3a series is a mid-range chip that’s not as powerful as the Snapdragon 845 chip found inside the Pixel 3 series. Thankfully, with Google’s optimizations, the Pixel 3a series offers largely the same UI experience as the Pixel 3 series. However, this is not a phone that will take kindly to heavy tasks and show some signs of lag and stutter then.
- iPhone XR – 12MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, 1.4um pixel pitch, OIS, Smart HDR, Focus Pixels, Portrait mode with advanced bokeh
- Pixel 3a – 12MP camera with f/1.8 aperture, 1.44um pixel pitch, OIS, HDR+, Portrait mode
Both phones feature a single camera at the rear and while the specs are primarily the same, the Pixel 3a series wins thanks to Google’s computational prowess. Despite the mid-range chip, the Pixel 3a captures the same level of photos like the ones shot on the Pixel 3. That’s really, really good since the Pixel 3 series is still considered to have among the best rear camera in smartphones.
However, that’s only true for still photography as the video recording capabilities on the iPhone XR are better. It can record 4K videos at 60fps with better dynamic range and stereo sound while the Pixel 3a is limited to 1080p videos.
Storage and RAM
- iPhone XR – 3GB RAM, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
- Pixel 3a/XL – 4GB RAM, 64GB
There’s no contest here. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL are only available with 64GB storage. They do not feature a microSD card slot as well so if you run out of storage, you are out of luck. The iPhone XR comes with the base 64GB storage but it does offer consumers the option of buying 128GB and 256GB variants.
As for RAM, while the Pixel 3a series comes with an additional gig of RAM over the iPhone XR, it won’t really make much of an impact in daily use.
- iPhone XR – Face ID
- Pixel 3a – Fingerprint sensor
While most Android smartphones have jumped on the in-display fingerprint sensor bandwagon, the Pixel 3a comes with a traditional capacitive fingerprint sensor located at its rear. That’s not really a bad thing since it is faster and more accurate than in-display fingerprint sensors found on most devices.
The iPhone XR packs Face ID which is slightly slower than using a fingerprint sensor. However, when it works and in most cases, it is more convenient than using a fingerprint sensor.
- iPhone XR – Dual SIM/eSIM, LTE, Wi-Fi ac with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, VoLTE, NFC with reader mode
- Pixel 3a – Single SIM, LTE, Wi-F- ac with MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
To reach their lower price tag, the iPhone XR and Pixel 3a series both make compromises in terms of connectivity. While the iPhone XS and Pixel 3 feature Gigabit LTE, the iPhone XR and Pixel 3a give Gigabit LTE a miss. This means lower data speeds on these phones and slightly weaker network reception as well. The iPhone XR at least has dual-SIM support which the Pixel 3a series lacks.
- iPhone XR – 2942mAh, Wireless charging
- Pixel 3a – 3000mAh, 18W fast charging
- Pixel 3a XL – 3700mAh, 18W fast charging
The mid-range internals of the Pixel 3a series means they can delivery really impressive battery life. The same is true for the iPhone XR which thanks to its power-sipping LCD display can easily last a day of heavy use.
While the iPhone XR supports fast charging, Apple bundles a 5W power adapter with it. On the plus side, it does come with wireless charging which is missing from the Pixel 3a series. On the other hand, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL come with an 18W power adapter which means they can rapidly charge to around 50 percent.
- iPhone XR – Starts from $749
- Pixel 3a – $399
- Pixel 3a XL – $479
This is an area where the Pixel 3a series scores a massive win over the iPhone XR. Even if one goes for the bigger and more expensive Pixel 3a XL, they are still going to save over $250. And this is without taking into account the different promotion deals being offered on the Pixel 3a series right now in which you can easily save around $100 or more on them. Apple is running some attractive trade-in programs on the iPhone XR and if you are a heavy gamer, you should spend the extra moolah towards it.
What are your thoughts on the Pixel 3a and 3a XL? Do you think they are impressive smartphones considering their price? Or do you think they are just another run of the mill Android smartphones?