Monday, 30th October 2017

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Long overdue, the new Google Pixel phones are packed with innovations at amazing price points

Google’s latest Pixel devices are game changers that come at a time when sales of smartphones are slowing down worldwide, primarily because of rising costs

  • Published 8.05.19, 7:19 PM
  • Updated 8.05.19, 7:19 PM
  • 3 mins read
Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL will be available for purchase on May 15 Picture: Google

The price of decent smartphones has steadily crept up in the last couple of years, with people having to spend around $1,000 for a device with a killer camera. Google’s latest Pixel devices — the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL — are game changers that come at a time when sales of smartphones are slowing down worldwide, primarily because of rising costs.

What makes it special?

This is the first time that Google has introduced its Pixel phones for the mid-range and low-end market without making any major compromises. In fact, we can very well say that the “a” in the device names stands for “affordable”.

Like the standard Pixel 3, the OLED displays on the two new models don’t stretch to the top and there is a chin, which is not exactly fashionable in 2019, or so we have been told. Since we are talking about the negatives, let’s do away with one more — there is no wireless charging. Who cares?! The displays are as sharp as any of the top devices in the market. These no-frills phones are so good that one may even hesitate to recommend the more costly counterpart, the Pixel 3.

The loudest talking point of any Pixel device is its camera system, which has software features powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The same camera features are found on the new devices that come with 5.6-inch and 6-inch displays.

And making the camera stand out is a software mode called Night Sight, which makes photos taken in low light appear as if they had been shot in normal conditions, without a flash. This is accomplished with AI and taking a burst of snaps with short exposures and reassembling them into an image. Also present is the option to shoot in portrait mode to achieve bokeh effect, that is, put the picture’s main subject in focus while blurring the background.

Coming to the body, it has a glass feel but it’s actually polycarbonate, a high-end plastic, which is durable and it doesn’t slide off tables like some of the other devices.

Now to the heart of the matter. Both phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 670 processor, 64 gigs of storage, and 4 gigs of RAM. Yes, the Snapdragon 670 is not as quick as the 855 chip found in super-expensive phones, but it’s speedy enough to get all the work done and you will not feel slowdowns even while playing games.

Google has thrown in the Titan M chip to protect personal data on the device and Bluetooth 5.0, which improves the performance and range of some wireless earbuds. “Our mission compels us to take the same approach to privacy. For us, that means privacy cannot be a luxury good offered only to people who can afford to buy premium products and services. Privacy must be equally available to everyone in the world,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an editorial in The New York Times on Tuesday.

Top-of-the-line innovations

Usually, mid-range phones pack in watered-down features. Not the new Pixels. It will always get the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, with monthly security updates and a few extra features.

The Now Playing feature runs in the background (you can turn it off from Settings), listening and keeping track (happens internally on the device) of song titles and singers, helping you to discover new music on Spotify or YouTube Music.

The phones have a preview of AR in Google Maps (only available in areas covered on Street View), so the next time you’re getting around town you can see walking directions overlaid on the world itself, rather than looking at a blue dot on a map. If you hold up your phone, it scans the buildings it sees, realising where you are and the direction you should take.

The bottom line

The new Pixel phones should have arrived long ago. Nonetheless, they come at a time when the new OnePlus 7 is on the horizon. Google started as an Internet company with a reputation to offer free or cheap products. The new additions to the Pixel line simply iterate Google’s core philosophy — a good communication tool should be for everybody.

Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL will be available on Flipkart. You can register on the site now and the phones will be available for purchase on May 15 — Rs 39,999 for the 5.6-inch display and Rs 44,999 for the 6-inch model.

Inside out

Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie

Display: Full-screen 5.6-inch (FHD+ — 2,220 x 1,080 — OLED at 441 ppi) and 6 inch (FHD+ — 2,160 x 1,080 —OLED at 402 ppi)

Cameras: 12.2MP rear camera with f/1.8 lens, optical and electronic image stabilisation; 8MP front camera with f/2.0 aperture, 84-degree field of view

Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670

Memory and storage: 4GB RAM, 64GB storage

Battery: 3,000mAh and 3,700mAh

Price: Rs 39,999 and Rs 44,999