Google Pixel 3a XL 2 Year Review and What SmartPhone Will I Get Next?

I have a Google Pixel 3a XL and have been using it as my primary phone for just about 2 years. It’s a great device with a lot to offer(especially for the price), but there are some things that could be better. So here is my review of the good and bad about this phone after 2 years of use!

I got my Pixel 3a  XL (and one for my wife) during Amazon Prime Day for a great price of $379 back in July of 2019. There was also a $100 gift card with that deal, making it even sweeter with a net cost of $279! I also picked up a SunRemex Carbon Fiber Design Soft TPU Case for it and still using that case today as I type this post.

Specs

Display: 6.0 inches, 1080 x 2160 pixels,  402 ppi density

Memory: 64GB Storage and 4GB Ram

Processor: Qualcomm SDM670 Snapdragon 670

Rear Camera: 12.2 MP, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, dual pixel PDAF, OIS

Front Camera: 8 MP, f/2.0, 24mm (wide), 1/4″, 1.12µm

Battery: Li-Po 3700 mAh (non-removable)

Charging: Fast charging 18W – USB Power Delivery 2.0

Google - Pixel 3a X-Large with 64GB Memory Cell Phone (Unlocked) - Just Black (G020C)
  • Capture stunning photos with features like night sight, portrait mode, and HDR Plus.
  • Save every photo with free, unlimited storage at high quality through Google photos.
  • The Google assistant is the easiest way to get things done – including screening calls.
  • The fast Charging battery delivers up to 7 hours of use with just a 15-minute charge.
  • Comes with 3 years of OS and security updates] and the custom-built Titan M chip.
SunRemex Carbon Fiber Designed for Google Pixel 3a XL Case, Pixel 3a XL Case, Scratch Resistant & Anti Slip Grippy Soft TPU Case for Google Pixel 3a XL Phone (Black)
  • Specially designed for Google Pixel 3a XL.
  • Carbon fiber rubber material with stylish twill pattern on the back and sides, non-slip anti-fingerprint scratch-resistant wear-resistant.soft touching and nice appearance.
  • Features raised lip edges to protect the display screen from scratches and better protect the screen.
  • This Google Pixel 3a XL case can cover every corner of your Google Pixel 3a XL Full access to user interface, camera lens, headphone jack, speakerphone and microphone.
  • After sales service:If the item you have received is defective in any way,please contact us via Amazon message system.

Last update on 2021-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I was able to transfer my settings over from my previous phone, a One Plus 3T using the included cables and USB adapter that Google provided.

The camera was the biggest improvement moving from the One Plus 3T, and that camera has actually gotten better due to Google’s AI camera software improvements such as Astrophotography mode. Night shot is another amazing feature.

NEOWISE, or C/2020 F3 Comet

Google’s Stock version of Android may not be the most exciting, but it comes with ZERO bloatware and runs pretty smooth, even today, almost 2 years later. I am still getting updates from Google and just received one the other day that includes an astro-video feature I have not tried yet.

Battery life is still good and charging is quick. I have mostly used this phone with ATT Wireless, but more recently have tried Mint Mobile and currently on Google Fi.

Mesa Arch Canyonlands National Park Moab Utah – Taken with Pixel 3a XL

What’s missing from this phone that has me thinking about what to get next?

There are a few things I’d like on my next phone.

1. More Storage Memory: The Pixel 3a has 64GB of storage and I find myself constantly deleting photos(after they are backed up to Google Photos) to free up space. 128GB of storage would make these a less frequent event.

2. Water Resistance: Most of the new flagship phones are IP66 to IP68 dust and water-resistant. While I don’t plan on swimming with my phone, it would be nice to not have to worry about getting stuck in the rain while on our fat tire ebikes or mountain bikes.

3. Wireless charging: While not really a must-have, it seems like it would be a nice convenience to have (once I buy some wireless chargers). I think my Ford also has a wireless charger built-in to the console.

4. 5G: 5G is rolling out to more cities and the increase in speeds would be nice especially when I am tethering my laptop doing remote work.

None of the above is anything I desperately need, but let’s face it, I’m a Geek and two years is a long time to keep a phone!

What will my next smartphone be?

I am currently looking at 3 smartphones to replace the Pixel 3a XL with.

Google Pixel 5 $699- Let’s face it, this would be the easiest transition coming from an existing Pixel smartphone. It has 5G, a great camera, water-resistance, and wireless charging along with Google’s plain Jane version of Android.

Samsung S21 $799 – Samsung makes some great hardware and the S21 is no exception. I am still using my Samsung Gear S3 watch from 2017! Samsung ticks all the boxes as far as features go but it is $100 more. I think the main thing holding me back is whether I can deal with Samsung’s version of Android OneUI. I’m concerned their bloatware will annoy me. I have a way to test this which I’ll talk about later.

iPhone 12 $879 – I haven’t had an iPhone since the iPhone 5. I do use a Macbook Pro 16 every day and I’m sure the message integration would be nice but less needed since I use Android Messages for Web for texts. Besides costing more, I’d likely have to buy a few paid apps. Would I love Apple’s walled garden on the smartphone? iOS has come a long way and now has things such as “widgets”. I’d probably be ok with an iPhone if I am willing to pay the extra Apple “taxes”.

Google Pixel 5 - 5G Android Phone - Water Resistant - Unlocked Smartphone with Night Sight and Ultrawide Lens - Just Black
  • New, unlocked Android phone gives you the flexibility to change carriers and choose your own data plan; unlocked smartphone works with T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and other major carriers[1]
  • 5G capable [2] smartphone gives you an extra boost of speed so you can download a movie in seconds, [3] enjoy smooth streaming in ultra clear HD, play games at home and on the go, [4] and even share your 5G speed with friends [5]
  • Charge your cell phone wirelessly [6] or use it to wirelessly charge other Qi-certified devices [7]
  • The all day battery can last up to 48 hours with Extreme Battery Saver [8]
  • Your phone will automatically receive the latest OS and security updates for at least 3 years; [9] the custom-made Titan M chip helps secure the operating system and sensitive data, like passwords
Apple iPhone 12, 128GB, White - Fully Unlocked (Renewed)
  • Fully unlocked and compatible with any carrier of choice (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, US-Cellular, Cricket, Metro, etc.).
  • The device does not come with headphones or a SIM card. It does include a charger and charging cable that may be generic.
  • Inspected and guaranteed to have minimal cosmetic damage, which is not noticeable when the device is held at arm's length.
  • Successfully passed a full diagnostic test which ensures like-new functionality and removal of any prior-user personal information.
  • Tested for battery health and guaranteed to have a minimum battery capacity of 80%.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G | Factory Unlocked Android Cell Phone | US Version 5G Smartphone | Pro-Grade Camera, 8K Video, 64MP High Res | 128GB, Phantom Violet (SM-G991UZVAXAA)
  • Pro Grade Camera: Zoom in close, take photos and videos like a pro, and capture incredible share-ready moments with our easy-to-use, multi-lens camera
  • Sharp 8K Video: Capture your life’s best moments in head-turning, super-smooth 8K video that gives your movies that cinema-style quality
  • Multiple Ways to Record: Create share-ready videos and GIFs on the spot with multi-cam recording and automatic professional-style effects
  • 30 Space Zoom: Get amazing power and clarity, zoom in from afar or magnify details of nearby objects; Zoom Lock keeps focus and stability
  • Higher Resolution: 64 MP camera system captures and shares detailed portraits, stunning landscapes and crisp close-ups

Last update on 2021-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How do I decide?

Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I also purchased a Pixel 3A XL for my wife and it turns out her birthday is this week. She requested a Samsung S21! I was able to get an open box special on Amazon for about $600. Once I get it, I will transfer her apps and settings over. Then I will be able to play with Samsung One UI and see if it something that I either like or can at least deal with daily.

Check back in a few weeks and I will do a full review on the Samsung S21!

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