When Google launched its Pixel 7a last year, it proved to be a very interesting proposition and one of the most feature-rich Pixel A series devices, at least from a hardware perspective. The Pixel 7a added features like wireless charging and an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. This, coupled with its typical ‘pixel’ quality of still images, made it a very attractive proposition, keeping its Rs. Note a price tag of 43,999, which is still at the upper end of the mid-range segment.

We didn’t get anything major new this year apart from the new Tensor G3 processor and a 120Hz display, as almost most of the internal hardware remains identical to the Pixel 7a. Like Samsung, Google is banking on AI features (enabled by the Tensor G3) to convince users to upgrade to the latest model. So what exactly are you getting with the new Pixel 8a? Let me explain.

The Google Pixel 8a has a familiar design, but with rounded corners and retains its IP67 certification

Aside from the not-so-obvious changes I mentioned above, the Pixel 8a comes with one big upgrade over the Pixel 7a, and that’s storage. Yes, users in India will finally have the option to choose between the 128GB storage variant (available at Rs. 52,999) and the new 256GB variant which is available at Rs. 59,999. While it might seem like an attractive option, you have to keep in mind that the OnePlus 12 (which gets you a much better phone overall) is priced at Rs. 64,999 (for the 12GB RAM and 256GB storage variant) in India. RAM is still limited to 8GB, like the Pixel 7a and even the premium Pixel 8.

The design of the Pixel 8a is the biggest and most noticeable visual change. There are two new colors – Bay and Aloe – to choose from, both of which stand out. I got a Bay finish that reminds me of a clear blue sky on a sunny summer day.

The overall design of the phone has gone from a rectangle with sharp corners to rounded corners. The back panel is still made of polycarbonate, but has a nice frosted matte finish. It feels quite different compared to what was offered on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro launched last year. There’s a flatter, visor-like camera module that barely sticks out from the rest of the back panel. The edges of the back panel and camera blend seamlessly with the side bezel while still offering that IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

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The new 6.1-inch Actua display on the Google Pixel 8a is flat, but with a noticeably thick bezel

While the Pixel 7a switched to a 90Hz display (from the Pixel 6a’s 60Hz display), Google has already upgraded the Pixel 8a’s display to a 120Hz unit and given it its Actua branding. The 6.1-inch unit is properly flat with slightly curved edges on its protective glass on all four sides. What’s not to be missed are those massive bezels. Its thickest side is at the bottom, and the thick bezels kind of reminded me of the 2018 iPhone XR.

On the inside, Google chose the expected candidate, its Tensor G3 processor. It’s not a performance workhorse like we know from the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, but it does bring a few new AI-enabled features to the Pixel 8a or A-series. There’s the new Magic Editor, Audio Eraser, and many other features, including a more secure Face Unlock experience that first appeared on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro last year.

The cameras remain the same as last year. There’s a 64-megapixel primary camera that now promises SuperRes Zoom images up to 8X. It’s accompanied by the same 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera as the Pixel 7a. The 13-megapixel front-facing selfie camera is also the same.

The Pixel 8’s battery has grown from the Pixel 7a’s 4,385 mAh to a slightly larger 4,492 mAh capacity. What has remained the same is 18W wired charging and the same Qi-standard wireless charging.

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The Pixel 8a’s camera system hasn’t seen any upgrades over last year’s Pixel 7a

While the Pixel 8a looks refreshingly new (especially in its two new finishes), Google seems to be mostly playing with the same hardware underneath. It reminds us of what Samsung managed with its Galaxy S24 this year.

In the meantime, interested buyers will be able to play around with some new AI features, but it’s hard to justify its new price, which has now climbed and established itself in the premium segment, closing the gap between itself and the premium Pixel 8. Although performance was never hasn’t been the pinnacle of the Pixel A series, the Pixel 8a will now compete with some high-end premium heavy-duty machines from Chinese brands and Samsung that easily offer more flexible and powerful camera hardware.

Could Google’s expertise in artificial intelligence make the Pixel 8a relevant and useful in 2024? How is the Pixel 8a an upgrade over the Pixel 7a? And how much closer is it to the Pixel 8 in terms of value? Find the answers to the questions above and more in our full review, coming soon.

Google I/O 2023 saw the search giant repeatedly tell us it cares about AI, alongside the launch of its first Pixel-branded foldable phone and tablet. This year, the company will load its Android apps, services and operating system with AI technology. We discuss this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available at Spotify, Ghana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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