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I've used Google's $499 Pixel 8a for a week. Here's my buying advice for 2024

The latest Pixel has proven to be just as good of an investment as any other Google phone. But buying it at the right time is the most important thing.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Google Pixel 8a
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I've been daily-driving the Google Pixel 8a for a little over a week now, and it's probably the most confusingly good Pixel phone I've ever tested.

In a vacuum, the Google Pixel 8a is the best phone you can buy for less than $500. It nails the essentials with a smooth-looking, brighter-than-ever display, a camera system that'll best any Samsung Galaxy A-series device or iPhone SE, and an Android operating system that will give and give for another seven years. If you're in desperate need of a new phone -- emphasis on "desperate need" -- this may well be the last stop of your shopping journey.

Also: Google Pixel 8a hands-on: 3 features make this my favorite $499 phone today

That's because if time is not of the essence, you'll face the dilemma that many other potential Pixel 8a buyers confront: Google's frequent discounts on older but more capable models. This applies to all manufacturers and other product categories, of course, but it's especially notable with Google's Pixel line of phones.

Take last year's Google Pixel 8, for example, which retailed for $699 and dropped to $549 just one month after launch. In April, major retailers, including the Google Store, sold it for $499, the same price as the new Pixel 8a. Spec-for-spec, the Pixel 8 is the superior device in every way, from the display and build quality to the camera system (remember: more megapixels do not always mean better picture quality).

Google Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8a


6.2-inch OLED Super Actua display (up to 2,000 nits)

6.1-inch OLED Actua display (up to 2,000 nits)

Build quality

Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, higher screen-to-body ratio, IP68

Corning Gorilla Glass 3, lower screen-to-body ratio, IP67


50MP main (OIS, Laser, and PDAF) with a larger sensor

64MP main (OIS, PDAF) with a smaller sensor


4,575mAh with 27W wired charging, 18W wireless charging

4,492mAh with 18W wired charging, 7.5W wireless charging

Naturally, since launching the Pixel 8a, Google has pulled back promotions of its flagship models, rendering such a comparison less relevant. With major commerce events on the horizon, including Amazon Prime Day, here's my buying advice after having tested both phones and covered several sales events in the past.

Also: Google Pixel 7a vs. Google Pixel 8a: Which model should you buy?

When Google does run promotions on its Pixel phones, expect the company to maintain at least a $100 price gap between the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8a. That means if the Pixel 8 drops to $549, the Pixel 8a will likely be priced at $449. If the Pixel 8 drops to $499, the Pixel 8a will be sold for $399. Google had a similar pricing strategy with last year's Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the company repeat its approach in 2024.

Google Pixel 8a

The Pixel 8a supports most of the latest Google AI and Android 14 features.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Is the older Pixel 8 worth the $100+ price difference? From my experience, I'd take the cheaper Pixel 8a, and here's why:

  1. With the same camera lenses available, I've found the output from both the wide and ultrawide cameras nearly indistinguishable between the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a. (It reminds me of Marques Brownlee's latest Blind Smartphone Camera Test, which saw the Pixel 7a beating out the Pixel 8 Pro.) The only time I've noticed a difference between the two camera systems is in low-light environments, with the Pixel 8 capturing details in darker spots better -- but by a small margin.
  2. While the Pixel 8a has a less shatterproof Corning Gorilla Glass 3 layering, it's naturally more scratch-resistant. I don't often drop or damage my phones, but I do get an awful lot of micro-scratches from taking them in and out of my pockets and bags, and daily use.
  3. The roughly eight-month gap between releases means the Pixel 8a should receive operating system, Pixel Feature drops, and security patches for longer than the Pixel 8.

ZDNET's buying advice

No matter which of the two phones you buy, you'll be armed with a Pixel device that should last you for years to come. Buy the Pixel 8a if you're on a budget and don't want to bet on Google (or another manufacturer) to discount its older models significantly. So long as the Pixel 8a and Pixel 8 are separated by at least $100, I'd always recommend the former.

If the Pixel 8 is ever priced the same as the Pixel 8a, there's more to gain with the older but still capable Google phone.

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