Google Pixel 8a gets big screen upgrade, price increase

Google Pixel 8a colours

A brighter and smoother screen, more storage, and more power come to the newly announced Google Pixel 8a, along with a $100 price increase.

On both the inside and outside, the Pixel 8a represents a noticeable step up from the well-regarded 7a model. It uses the same Tensor G3 chip as the rest of the Pixel 8 range, powering AI features like the object-removing Magic Eraser, and smarter voice recognition. This time around, you can get the phone with either 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage.

It’s also the first A-series phone from Google to use the brand’s Actua display technology. This makes it 40% brighter than the 7a – up to 2,000 nits – while adding support for the smoother 120Hz refresh rate. As for Actua, the label refers to Google’s take on OLED, with the Pixel 8a sporting a 1080 x 2400 6.1-inch screen made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

Google also claims a 15% battery improvement versus last year’s phone. The Pixel 8a has a 4,492mAh battery capacity, supported by 18W wired charging, which is on the slower side. It also supports wireless Qi charging but not the faster magnetic-based Qi2 chargers.

Software smarts

If you look at the official Tensor G3 announcement from last year, it’s obvious Google isn’t interested in chasing the fastest clock speeds or benchmark metrics. Instead, it’s fixated on software and applications.

Many of the features seen on the Pixel 8 phones come to the 8a, like Call Assist, which lets you screen calls or improve audio quality. Photo editing tools like Magic Eraser and Best Take make an appearance, with the latter compositing multiple pictures into the best version. It’s what you use when you can’t get everyone looking at the camera at the same time.

Google Pixel 8a launch
The Bay-coloured Google Pixel 8a. Image: supplied.

Google’s built-in Gemini AI assistant also provides several generative AI tools on the new device. It can summarise emails, draft responses, and generate images on request. Gemini relies on cloud servers to complete many of its tasks, although the voice recorder, in addition to its transcription features, remains on device. Gemini Nano, the local AI processing model currently on the Pixel 8 Pro, will come in a future update.

Circle to Search, first seen on the Samsung Galaxy S24 devices, features prominently, letting you visually look up anything on your phone’s screen. Plus, on the security front, a built-in VPN provides additional privacy alongside the Titan M2 hardware encryption of your sensitive data.

Cameras

On the back of the Google Pixel 8a is a two-camera array, including a 64MP main sensor and a 13MP wide-angle lens. 64MP seems like a big upgrade when compared to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro’s 50MP main cameras. However, the Pixel 8a has a narrower ƒ/1.89 maximum aperture and a smaller pixel size. In theory, this means it can’t let in as much light, which is needed in low-light conditions.

Google Pixel 8a camera
Image: supplied.

There’s also no telephoto lens or optical zoom either. The Pixel 8a’s main camera does support Super Res Zoom, though, using software to give the impression of telephoto zoom.

On the front is a 13MP selfie lens with a reasonably wide 96.5-degree field of view. Along with the rest of the cameras, software drives much of the user experience. For example, Photo Unblur does exactly what it says on the tin. If you’re not happy with a snap, even those taken on another device, the feature cleans up the image to salvage blurry pictures.

Google Pixel 8a price and release date

Available to pre-order now, Google’s new handset arrives locally on 14 May, priced at $849. You can grab one from the Google Store or retailers including JB Hi-Fi, Telstra, Optus, Officeworks, and Harvey Norman.

With Google’s A-series phones long considered one of the best value devices going around, the $849 price tag indeed stands out. To put in into perspective, it’s roughly a 13% increase from the 7a, while the Pixel 8 (20%) and Pixel 8 Pro (30%) incurred comparatively larger increases.

Despite the less stark jump, the Google Pixel 8a still carries the brand’s seven-year promise of operating system and security updates.

Obsidian, Porcelain, and Bay are the colours coming to Australia. Unfortunately, we miss out on the rather nice Aloe finish. Like the fresh Mint colour that came to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro post-launch, perhaps we’ll get it later.

While the hardware upgrades are substantial year-on-year changes, the ongoing software support remains the biggest talking point. Google has made a big promise to consumers, so it now needs to deliver.

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