Google revealed the Pixel 7a at Google I/O 2023, and it is available for purchase right now for $499. It’s the cheapest of the Pixel 7 lineup, and it packs in the Google Tensor G2 chip, a crisp display with a 90Hz refresh rate, and a 64MP main shooter, plus it’s the first Pixel A-series with wireless charging. The Pixel 7a even comes in four fun colors: Charcoal, Snow, Sea, and the Google Store-exclusive Coral.
But with all of those upgrades from its predecessor, the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 7a is $50 more than the original price of the Pixel 6a, which was $449 at launch. However, Google also decided to keep the Pixel 6a around (this is the first time the previous model has remained for sale) and even gave it a $100 price cut, so it is now just $349.
The Pixel 7a is the most advanced Pixel A-series yet, but it’s also falling more in line with the main devices — specifically the Pixel 7, which is only $100 more than the Pixel 7a.
With all of these factors in mind, while the Pixel 7a is a good Pixel, it’s a device that just doesn’t really make sense amid the current Pixel smartphone lineup.
The Pixel 6a is still an incredible value
Since Google is still keeping the Pixel 6a around, even with the new Pixel 7a, there needs to be a reason to convince people to buy it over the new model. And Google did that by slashing the price by $100, dropping it down to a mere $349. The Pixel 6a is an incredible value for that amount of money, especially for the Pixel lineup.
If you want a Pixel, but want the most affordable option, then you simply can’t go wrong with the Pixel 6a. For just $349, you get a lightweight and comfortable phone with a 6.1-inch OLED display, 6GB RAM with 128GB storage, reliable cameras, and Google’s first-generation Tensor G1 chip powering it all. Though the display only has a 60Hz refresh rate, the main and ultrawide cameras are only 12MP, and the selfie camera is just 8MP, the Pixel 6a is still a very good phone, all things considered.
Since the Pixel lineup is powered by Google’s Tensor chipset, there’s a lot of AI involved, even with the Pixel 6a. So despite the lower megapixel counts, the photos and video you capture with it still come out nicely because of the computational photography processing behind the scenes. In fact, in my testing so far, as long as you have good lighting, the photo quality of the Pixel 6a is very close to what you get with the Pixel 7a — unless you’re zooming in and inspecting every little detail, it’s hard to tell the difference.
And even though the Pixel 7a has a 90Hz display, it’s not like the Pixel 6a’s 60Hz display is bad. The average person who wants the most affordable Pixel phone probably doesn’t care about the refresh rate, and honestly, the 60Hz is just fine for everyday use.
Plus, when you have the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a side by side, comparing the refresh rate when scrolling, the difference is very negligible. It is smoother, but most people probably won’t even notice the difference.
And though you won’t find wireless charging on the Pixel 6a, it’s not a big deal. Wireless charging is usually much slower than plugging the phone in directly with a cable, and it’s only really about the convenience of topping it off throughout the day. And though the Pixel 7a finally has wireless charging, it’s relatively slow (7.5-watt speeds) compared to other phones on the market — to the point where I don’t think it (along with the megapixels and display refresh rate) is worth the extra $150.
The Pixel 7a is a good phone, sure. But it’s not worth the $150 extra over the Pixel 6a if you’re looking to save some money.
Making a case for the Pixel 7
With the Pixel 6a still around, it’s obviously the best choice if you want the most affordable Pixel. But what if you want something a little more than that, you could definitely go for the Pixel 7a, considering that the display is slightly better, the camera has more megapixels, and you get wireless charging!
But look a little further, and you can get the regular Pixel 7 for just $100 more than the Pixel 7a. With the 7a, you’re already paying $150 more than the Pixel 6a; why not just go a little further than that and get the Pixel 7 instead?
The Pixel 7a is very similar to the Pixel 7 in most aspects, but it falls short in others. Both phones are powered by the Tensor G2 and have a 90Hz refresh rate on the display, though the Pixel 7 is 6.3 inches, so it’s not as compact. The main camera is only 50MP compared to the 64MP on the Pixel 7a, but the Pixel 7 still has larger sensors to help capture more light, which is the more important factor when it comes to photography.
Wireless charging is present on both, but the Pixel 7 has faster wireless speeds and even has Battery Share for reverse wireless charging. That means you can use the Pixel 7 battery to charge up other devices, like wireless earbuds or even other phones. It’s not the fastest, but it works in a pinch. Speaking of batteries, the Pixel 7a’s 4,385mAh battery is on par with the Pixel 7’s 4,355mAh battery, so battery life is pretty much the same.
However, the Pixel 7 is still a better device overall than the Pixel 7a. Even though both have a 90Hz refresh rate, the Pixel 7 has an AMOLED screen with HDR10+ certification (the 7a is just OLED), so colors look more vibrant and bright, and blacks are deeper and inkier. AMOLED displays are higher quality in general, so if you’re considering the Pixel 7a because of it’s 90Hz refresh rate, you might as well go the extra mile for the Pixel 7’s superior AMOLED display.
And again, the Pixel 7 may “only” have a 50MP camera, but the larger sensors are what actually matter. The Pixel 7 is able to capture more light in photos and video, resulting in better-quality images in lowlight situations and more detail if Night Sight is used.
The Pixel 7a is the misfit of the Pixel family
It would be easier to recommend the Pixel 7a if the Pixel 6a were no longer around, but that is not the case. If you want the most affordable Pixel, the Pixel 6a is still a very good phone, especially with that deep price cut. But if you want something a little more powerful, then the Pixel 7 is still better than the Pixel 7a because of the AMOLED display, bigger camera sensors, faster wireless charging, and Battery Share. I mean, if you were already considering the Pixel 7a over the 6a, then the Pixel 7 isn’t that far of a reach. Plus, if you keep a close eye on Pixel 7 pricing, it’s not that difficult to regularly find it on sale with some sort of discount.
Honestly, it’s surprising that Google kept the Pixel 6a around because it just makes the Pixel 7a less appealing. It’s kind of like what Apple did with the 10th-generation iPad, which is also in an odd position since the 9th-generation iPad is still available for much less ($329 versus $449). And if you want something better, the iPad Air isn’t that much more at $599.
It’s not that the Pixel 7a is a bad phone — it’s actually pretty good! It’s just a little hard to recommend when looking at the entire Pixel lineup. It’s unfortunate, but with rumors that the Pixel 7a may be the last of its kind, it’s also not terribly surprising.