Google Pixel 3a vs. Pixel 3a XL: Which should you buy?

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Best answer: Most people will be best off with the Pixel 3a XL, purely based on its larger screen and longer battery life. The standard Pixel 3a is compelling as a compact phone, but it may feel cramped for many people and its battery life is questionable — you can get so much more for about $100 extra in the Pixel 3a XL.

  • Our pick: Google Pixel 3a XL ($480 at Amazon)
  • Compact pick: Google Pixel 3a ($370 at Amazon)

What’s the difference between the Pixel 3a and 3a XL?

Just like the original Pixel 3 and 3 XL, there isn’t much that differentiates the two mid-range Pixel 3a models other than size — but that is of course a difference that requires some thought when choosing which one you should buy. Both the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are built with the same materials and design touches, and operate on the same platform internally with the same specs and capabilities. There are just a few different line items that are different to align with the differences in size.

Operating System Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie
Display 5.6-inch OLED 2220 x 1080 (18.5:9) 6.0-inch OLED 2160 x 1080 (18:9)
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 2.0GHz + 1.7GHz Octa-core, 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 2.0GHz + 1.7GHz Octa-core, 64-bit
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 64GB 64GB
Rear Camera 12.2MP Sony IMX3631.4μm pixels, f/1.8 OIS + EIS 76° field of view 12.2MP Sony IMX3631.4μm pixels, f/1.8 OIS + EIS 76° field of view
Front Camera 8MP 1.12μm pixels, f/2.0 84° field of view 8MP 1.12μm pixels, f/2.0 84° field of view
Connectivity Wi-Fi 2.4 + 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO Bluetooth 5.0, NFC Wi-Fi 2.4 + 5GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Ports USB-C 3.5mm headphone USB-C 3.5mm headphone
Audio Stereo speakers AptX HD Stereo speakers AptX HD
Security Rear fingerprint sensor Rear fingerprint sensor
Battery 3000 mAh 18W fast charging 3700 mAh 18W fast charging
Dimensions 151.3 x 70.1 x 8.2 mm147 g 160.1 x 76.1 x 8.2 mm167 g
Security Updates Minimum 3 years of security updates Minimum 3 years of security updates
OS Updates Minimum 3 years of OS updates Minimum 3 years of OS updates

At the base level, both phones will operate basically the same in your daily use. They have the same processor, memory, storage, screen resolution, cameras, ports and so on. They also don’t have any differences in configuration options, and are available in all of the same color choices. Retailers will be carrying both phones side by side, too.

It’s all about size … and then price

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The biggest thing that you’re going to make your decision on is size. The Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch display, whereas the Pixel 3a XL steps up to 6 inches. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but when measured up diagonally it leads to a notable difference in the amount of usable screen real estate you have and in-hand feel.

If you have no size preference, get the Pixel 3a XL for the extra screen space and battery.

The other side of the equation with that larger screen is the reduction of one-handed usability. The Pixel 3a XL is about 6% taller and 9% wider, as well as 13% heavier than the smaller model. If you have trouble managing modern smartphones in one hand and are craving something small, the Pixel 3a is the better choice — the 3a XL is right in line with being as big and heavy as modern flagships.

If you’re somehow indifferent on the size of the phone you buy in terms of how much room the screen gives you to get things done, the other big reason to go with the Pixel 3a XL is battery life. The Pixel 3a XL’s battery is 23% larger than the smaller Pixel 3a, and because the rest of the phones is identical that translates directly into prolonging battery life by that amount. If you’re at heavy phone user at all, the Pixel 3a XL’s larger battery will basically be a requirement unless you’re willing to spend time charging midday.

That all is, of course, if you’re willing to pay extra for the Pixel 3a XL. It’s $100 more than the base Pixel 3a, which isn’t much more in the grand scheme of things but in this price segment is a bit of a larger ask. Sure if you’re on a financing plan from Google or a carrier that extra $100 works out to just a few extra dollars per month, but buying outright that could be a deal-breaker for some. That being said, you should really think about saving up a little more for the Pixel 3a XL if you at all have the desire for a larger screen or larger battery — the money will be well worth it in the months and years to come when you enjoy more of your phone for longer between charges.

If you’re willing to step outside the Pixel market, there are plenty of other phones that offer a different combination of features, size and price that could be competitive with the Pixel 3a XL in terms of capabilities or the standard 3a in terms of price. That’s particularly the case during Black Friday sales, where you can get incredible deals on unlocked phones for under $500.

Our pick

Google Pixel 3a XL

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$480 at Amazon

Unless you have a strong desire for a small phone, the 3a XL is worth the money.

Even though it’s hitting a mid-range price point, the Pixel 3a XL is a solid phone that doesn’t skimp on size or capabilities. It’s flagship-sized, and most importantly has a battery that’s over 20% larger than the base Pixel 3a — you’ll want that extra screen space and battery longevity.

Compact pick

Google Pixel 3a

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$370 at Amazon $368 at Walmart

A more compact phone with all of the capabilities — and one big caveat.

There’s absolutely something to be said for wanting a smaller phone that you can more easily use one-handed and fit in your pocket. The Pixel 3a offers that, and a lower starting price. But the downside is a 3000 mAh battery that immediately gives us worries about battery life. It is absolutely a trade-off that should be kept in mind when buying.