Google Pixel 3a specs, price, and features have near-perfect timing given 4G to 5G transition

Google Pixel 3a doesn't have everything, but it does have some real value packed into a $399 starting price. Look for value smartphones to gain traction, especially as tech buyers play wait-and-see with 5G.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google's move to launch the Pixel 3a for $399 is a package that offers solid specifications, timely Android updates, Google Assistant, and other staples -- all at an affordable price. But the biggest Pixel 3a attribute is near-perfect timing.

Also: The Pixel 3A is official: Here's what you need to knowAndroid Q: Everything you need to know

Timing? The Pixel 3a has some good timing. If you haven't noticed, the smartphone market is getting pricey for premium devices. 5G is supposed to change the world, but enterprises and consumers may be a bit wary. Count me in the wary camp, even though I'd argue 5G will be a corporate event first along with Wi-Fi 6. While I don't need 5G now or even in 2019, buying a 4G phone and holding it for two years just doesn't make sense. 

Here's my tech-buying equation, as the Pixel 3a goes official:

  1. I don't the value of 5G yet since I'm not a heavy video consumer on my smartphone.
  2. Early 5G devices are premium priced.
  3. Standards based 5G isn't here yet. 
  4. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 that's pushing two years old in a few months.
  5. I could stretch that Note 8 a bit longer or replace it with a Note 10 that supports 5G and won't come cheap.
  6. Or I buy a value Android device from Nokia, OnePlus, or Motorola and kick the 5G can down the road a bit.

Now, I can add Pixel 3a to that list. Google claims that it is now a full contract manufacturer, builds its own devices, and now has optimized its hardware engineering and software, which is enabled by artificial intelligence features.

The main feature is that it's $399 and provides a bridge to 5G without a lot of upfront costs. The Pixel 3A is the smaller version and the Pixel 3A XL is the larger one that starts at $479.

CNET's review notes that the price is good, the camera is strong, and there's value in the Pixel 3a. The downside is that the phone isn't water resistant and has storage of 64GB. There's also no SD card. 

In other words, you can't have everything. But this year may not be the one for getting everything. The reality is that a lot of people will be looking for a bridge device until 5G is more real. The Pixel 3a specs look like a damn nice bridge.

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