Top critical review
Bought it on the day Google announced it
Reviewed in the United States on May 17, 2019
I've never spent more than $200 on average for a phone. I paid the price with suspect quality, since I mainly bought new Android phones for that price range. Every phone didn't last more than two years, most even started to have issues after a few months (i.e. GPS losing accuracy, charging slot losing contact, etc.) Of course the OS never gets updated so you set yourself up to be hacked on an old, unpatched release. The worst is the camera varying degrees of terrible. So I bought a prepaid iPhone 6 about 1.5 years ago but you know how well iOS runs on old hardware and it will probably not make the jump to the next update.
No matter how much I tried to convince myself, I just couldn't buy a new XR, even after I sold my DSLR (b/c I just never bring it with me no matter how good the pictures/lens is/was). However, when Google launched this phone, my last international family trip convinced me that I need to jump at the chance - pictures you have forever, you want the best camera/phone to capture your experiences. Plus, they are offering an insane $250 trade-in for my iPhone and $100 from the Google store credit, plus my company is giving me $100 for BYOD, so the phone is essentially free to me.
Ordering was flawless, plus they (I ordered from the Google Store) provided a trade-in kit at the same time. I got it in 2 days after Google announced it. Box was your typical white box, looks almost exactly like a Apple box with color, design, packaging, etc. Phone powered right up. Slight hiccup to get it activated on Sprint in that you can't just move the nano SIM card over, you have to go to a Sprint store and activate a completely new SIM. Also make sure it's a corporate store b/c affiliates don't seem to have these SIMs. I went to Best Buy and they had me running in 20 minutes.
Phone is awesome. I got the XL and it's large but for a person who wears glasses it just makes it easier to do things. I know people say it's not fast but I don't game or edit videos so it's plenty fast/responsive. Most importantly, the camera is awesome. Photos are not blurry so far and super clear. I haven't even used any of the special portrait and night options. I'm telling you if a camera can take low light photos that is golden and why I jumped at it. Even with a DSLR it's a challenge trying to take low light photos (do you have the right lens with a large aperture but then you can't have zoom, etc.)
It seems pretty fragile so I'm going to get some sort of case, especially since it's plastic and the case is not removable. However, make sure you get a full case and not a case that just clips on the edges. I made the mistake of buying one for my iPhone and sand/dirt got wedged in and ended up scratching the phone itself. The Android OS is quite a bit different than iOS but I'm coping. Can't say it's worst, just different. The best part is the it being a Google phone will get updated for at least 3 years. I have no big input on the exterior design of the outside, really all phones look the same - we have Apple to blame for that. The fingerprint unlock is a huge plus and love it for all my iPads, computers.
Very pleased so far (will update if that changes). Since this phone is free to me, I plan to use my $100 Google store credit to buy another Pixel 3a for my wife. She has a 2 year old Huawei Honor 8 that has held up pretty well, aside from every government in the world banning them.
Update after 1 month
Best phone I've ever had. Best camera I've ever had bar none, better than any Canon/Nikon DSLR I've had, etc. I've take pictures from moving buses, etc. and each pictures looks like a million bucks...the first time. I've used the camera for some professional portrait quality pictures. Battery life is great. I have had some data disconnection problems but not sure if it's a Sprint problem or otherwise but only happened a few times. I'll monitor to see if it is a real issue. I did end up buying a second 3a XL for spouse and she loves it too, still waiting for my google credit though...
6 months update
Here is my update on both my wife and my experience after almost 1/2 a year. So we both have Pixel 3a XL's. Overall, they have been awesome. Camera is awesome, no change. For anyone who just wants to point and click, there is no equal for the price (same as all the media articles). Battery life is great, no complaints. Size is great, especially for reading for those of us who need bigger fonts. So some issues. I had an issue that took a long time to resolve where I was not getting notifications of new voicemails left (using Sprint). Long story short after going to Sprint, working online with Google support, etc. the only way to fix it was to add an app called visual voicemail and sprint hub. This is counter intuitive but it took a huge amount of effort and troubleshooting to resolve. My wife, who had Best Buy setup the phone did not have any issue. She does however have data connection lost issues that is resolved by restarting and I have had it also but not as often. Essentially, the phone stops talking to the Internet. I'm going to try to reset the phone to resolve and then will escalate to Google if it doesn't resolve. Overall, still very pleased with the phones.
Almost 1 year update
Oh well, I had hoped the Pixel 3a would be rock solid. Over the course of a year it’s developed 2 major issues that require mention. One is it keeps losing data access. The fix is to turn network/airplane mode on/off so there is a quick fix but it’s annoying nonetheless. It happens about 30% of time, usually indoors or in a place that should have access but is maybe a bit difficult. I usually don’t notice it until I bring up a browser or e-mail and it says network unavailable. The other issue is worst. The call volume has become so low that people are unintelligible on calls with bad connections or on speaker phones with low volume. If you search Pixel 3a and can’t hear people you’ll find plenty of threads on their support site. I went through the whole support hurdles to get a replacement but what they do is send you to get it fixed at a contracted store. So the local shop spent over two hours replacing the speaker and I can say that it seems better but time will tell. I’ve never had a problem like this where the volume is so low that you can’t hear people. Some theories are it’s bad hardware others believe it was a bad software update. The repair shop said they’ve had many replace and for some the replacement works and for others it doesn’t. I’m knocking off a ton of stars because a phone shouldn’t die in the first year for any reason, certainly not a near flagship from a top tier manufacturer. I’ll watch it for the next month and if I still have issues I’ll insist on a replacement. My wife whom I also bought a 3a XL also has issues and she uses a headset to make it usable. The speaker phone doesn’t have this issue. Maybe Apple does know how to make phones that are good quality...but at 2x or 3x the cost?