Google’s New $499 Pixel 8a Has a Fingerprint-Resistant Design

Don’t worry, it’ll do AI, too. Specifically, run Google’s Gemini Nano AI model.

The Pixel 8a in Aloe, Bay, Porcelain, and Obsidian.
Photograph by Raymond Wong

In exactly one week, on May 14, Google will host its annual I/O developer conference to talk — you guessed it — all about AI. So instead of squeezing in hardware announcements during what will surely be a jam-packed keynote touting the wonders of generative AI and how it’ll transform our lives through Google services, we’re getting the new Pixel 8a debut early.

The Pixel 8a has no surprises, except maybe the green “Aloe” colorway. As an A-series Pixel phone, it comes with a more affordable price, starting at $499, compared to the Pixel 8 (starting at $699) and Pixel 8 Pro (starting at $999).

Just like previous Pixel A-series phones, the Pixel 8a is made of less premium materials than the mainline Google phones and some of the hardware specs aren’t as high-end, but the mid-range-priced phone is not so much of a downgrade that you’ll notice a vastly different Android experience.

In fact, after getting 30 minutes to play with the Pixel 8a myself, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a whole lot of phone. But that’s also what I said about the Pixel 7a, 6a, 5a, 4a, and 3a. So clearly, Google knows what it’s doing with its Pixel A-series phones.

Pixel 8a Hardware Features

The rear of the Pixel 8a is made of a matte satin plastic finish.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Compared to the Pixel 7a, the Pixel 8a is a considerable upgrade. Google’s rounded the corners and smoothed out the seams. The front is a 6.1-inch Actua Display with FHD+ resolution that’s 40 percent brighter than the 7a display and has a 120Hz higher refresh rate versus 90Hz. Android runs smooth as butter; taps and swipes are super responsive. The mid-frame is made of recycled aluminum and the rear is plastic once again. The rear, this time, is a matte satin finish that’s more fingerprint-resistant instead of the glossy smudgy plastic on the 7a. I really like it! of course, that won’t matter if you slap a case on it.

The Google Pixel 8a's 6.1-inch Actua Display is 40 percent brighter than the screen on the Pixel 7a.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

But look at that thick “chin.”

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 2

Inside, we’ve got the same Google-designed Tensor G3 chip found in the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro paired with 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage (the latter is exclusive to the black “Obsidian” color). The battery is slightly larger than the one in the 7a: 4,400mAh versus 4,385mAh; the 8a supports the same 18W wired charging and 7.5W Qi wireless charging as before.

The Pixel 8a has the same rear cameras as the Pixel 7a, but with improved image processing.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

For cameras, there’s a 64-megapixel f/1.89 lens and a 13-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide on the rear. On the front, there’s a 13-megapixel f/2.2 selfie camera. Google tells me these are the same cameras in the Pixel 7a, but tuned with improved image processing thanks to the Tensor G3 chip and AI camera and editor features such as Best Take, Magic Editor, and Real Tone for video recording. If the Pixel 8a’s camera system is anything like the 7a’s, it should be more than solid enough — after all, most of the Pixel camera’s magic comes from computational photography.

Pixel 8a Software Features

While Google IO will surely have some announcements on what’s coming up next for Android (version 15), the software that’s shipping on the Pixel 8a is Android 14. For the Pixel 8a, that means a clean and bloatware-free Android experience with the usual Google-heavy toppings not available to other phone makers, including a built-in VPN at no extra cost with a Google One subscription (6 months is included with the purchase of a Pixel 8a), Car Crash Detection, Crisis Alerts, and Safety Check.

The Pixel 8a will get generative AI features enabled by Gemini Nano (toggled on through a developer setting) in a future update, according to Google. Other AI features include Live Translate and Circle to Search, which was introduced in partnership with Samsung on its Galaxy S24 smartphones, but later brought to the Pixel 6 and newer phones.

A Safe Bet — Colors and Release Date

The Pixel 8a in Aloe, Bay, Porcelain, and Obsidian.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

We’ll have to test a Pixel 8a before we can definitively say whether Google’s new affordable Android phone is a good value or not, but barring any fatal flaws, all signs suggest it is. The A-series phone is not cutting-edge, but the price does hit a sweet spot for a lot of budget-conscious consumers and the hardware and software seem more than sufficient. Google offering 7 years of Android and security updates, as well as new “Pixel Drops” that add new features every few months also makes the Pixel 8a more appealing compared to other similarly priced phones.

The Pixel 8a will launch in four colors: Aloe (green), Bay (blue), Porcelain (white), and Obsidian (black). Pre-orders start today, May 7.

One More Thing — Pixel Tablet Gets Cheaper

Related to the Pixel, but not phones, Google is also making the Pixel Tablet more affordable. For $399, you can pick up a Pixel Tablet without a Charging Speaker Dock. Personally, I think that defeats the whole point of getting a Pixel Tablet since the Charging Speaker Dock is what differentiates the device from an iPad or competing Android tablet, but that’s just this reviewer’s take. It’s a better deal as a bundle, especially if you can find it at a discount (something I regularly see), but if you just want Google’s tablet and not the dock, now you can get it.

Related Tags