You can tell how close we are to the Google Pixel 7a launch by the sheer volume of rumors that have emerged about the upcoming budget phone. With Pixel 7a spec leaks extensively detailing what to expect, it’s gotten to the point where we can easily decide whether or not to buy the Pixel 7a before we’ve even gotten an official look at the phone.
And that might not be a bad thing, With the Pixel 7a likely to debut as soon as tomorrow (Wednesday, May 10) at Google I/O 2023, you’re going to have to decide whether this phone is right for you sooner rather than later. With pre-orders doubtlessly beginning shortly, there’s no time like the present to review the rumored features for the Pixel 7a.
Based on those rumors, here’s why we think the Pixel 7a could be a phone worth grabbing. Just the same, other rumors point to omissions that might put some people off Google’s new midrange phone. With the caveat that we reserve the right to revise our reasons once Google confirms all our assumptions about this new phone, here’s why you should buy the Pixel 7a — and why you might want to skip this particular model.
Reasons to buy the Google Pixel 7a
A Tensor G2 chip
Just like Apple and the iPhone SE, Google has a habit of equipping its midrange Pixel models with the same chipset found in its flagships. That’s what happened with last year’s Pixel 6a, which runs on the same Tensor G1 silicon introduced with the Pixel 6. We expect Google will pull off the smae feat with the Pixel 7a.
In this particular case, that would put the Pixel 7a in line to receive the Tensor G2 chipset found in last fall’s Pixel 7 release. That’s a big step forward for Google’s midrange phone. For starters, the G2 is a better performing chip than its predecessor, though raw performance has never been the full story with Google’s Tensor chips.
Instead, Tensor stands apart for its Tensor Processing Unit, which uses machine learning to power the kinds of smart features you don’t find on other phones. In the Pixel 7’s case, that’s meant a Photo Unblur tool that cleans up the faces of people in photos, even ones shot by other phones. You also get real-time translation and transcription features and call management tools that help you navigate wait times and phone directories.
It’s safe to presume that all those Tensor G2-powered capabilities are making their way to Pixel 7a, meaning that Google plans to bring the best elements of its flagship device to a much cheaper phone.
A better camera
There’s been nothing wrong with the cameras on previous Pixel A models, as the Pixel 6a ranks among the best camera phones we’ve tested. But Google’s won these kudos with a 12.2MP main camera on the more recent midrange Pixels, and that can be somewhat limiting.
So we think it’s good news that at least one rumor tips the new Pixel to get a camera upgrade in the form of a 64MP sensor. More megapixels don’t often lead to better photos, but they do allow for features like pixel-binning to call out colors and details in shots. Combine that with the Pixel’s well-established reputation for superior photo processing and you could have quite the camera phone on your hands in the form of the Pixel 7a.
A faster-refreshing display
Fast display refresh rates aren’t reserved for the most expensive flagships anymore. (Well, they are still at Apple, but that company does things its own way.) These days, you’re likely to come across a cheap Android phone that, despite its low-price tag, and still scale up their refresh rate when you’re going to benefit from capabilities like fast-scrolling.
The Galaxy A54, a competitor to the Pixel 7a pictured above, already offers a 120Hz refresh rate, as do many Android phones you can find for even less. So it’s encouraging to hear rumors that the Pixel 7a will have a faster refresh rate, too, even if it’s apparently going to be a bump to 90Hz. That’s still a better experience than what the Pixel 6a offered, and it’s another valuable feature being added to a more attractively priced phone.
Google is being tipped to remove one other thing that its Pixel A phones can’t do, and that’s charge wirelessly. Since the introduction of the Pixel 3a, the lack of wireless charging has been one of the noteworthy differences between Google’s budget phone and its flagships. That distinction is reportedly coming to an end.
Is wireless charging a make-or-break feature? Probably not. But it’s pretty convenient being able to top off your phone’s battery without having to search for a USB-C cable to do it, and we’ll be glad to see such a capability added to a sub-$500 phone.
Reasons to skip the Google Pixel 7a
Questionable battery life
We’ve heard a lot about the various changes Goolge is planning to make under the hood of the Pixel 7a. (See that Tensor G2 rumor above.) But one thing that’s apparently staying the same is the battery that powers the phone — so far, the only thing we’ve heard about the Pixel 7a’s battery is that it’s going to be around the same size as the one inside the Pixel 6a.
That worries us a little. The Pixel 6a’s battery life was one of the most disappointing things about an otherwise sterling phone. On our battery test, in which phones surf the web continuously over cellular, the Pixel 6a ran out of power after 6 hours and 29 minutes. The average smartphone beats that time by nearly 3.5 hours.
We’d feel more confident about the Pixel 7a’s prospects for better battery life if the Tensor G2-powered phones offered better battery life. But the Pixel 7 (7:31) and Pixel 7 Pro (6:31) were pretty disappointing on our test as well. Here’s hoping the Pixel 7a can buck that trend once we get a chance to test the phone.
Limited Android updates
One of Apple’s big edges in smartphones comes from the fact that it controls both the hardware and software. As a result, iPhones get iOS updates at the same time — not staggered like Android phones can be — and that software support runs for years and years.
Buy a Pixel and at least you can expect Android updates as they become available. The problem is, that you just don’t get that many Android updates — Google’s current policy calls for three major Android upgrades for its Pixel phones, and that’s unlikely to change with the Pixel 7a. Contrast that with Samsung, which guarantees four updates. It also extends that policy to its midrange models so a phone like the Galaxy A54 is still going to be able to run the latest version of Android a year longer than the Pixel 7a.
Rumored price hike
Other than cameras, the biggest selling point for the Pixel A has been the phone’s low cost. Unfortunately, it sounds as if that cost is going up for the Pixel 7a, with rumors tipping the phone to sell for $499. The Pixel 6a had a $449 starting price.
Fifty bucks may not sound like much in the greater scheme of things, but at a time when prices are going up all around us, that may be too much for some people to swallow. It doesn’t help that the Galaxy A54 kept the $449 price tag of its predecessor, giving budget-minded Android shoppers a lower-cost alternative to the Pixel 7a.
Pixel 7a outlook
None of these Pixel 7a rumors are official until Google says they are, so the pros and cons for this phone could shift dramatically once we get the final word on what features it supports and how much it costs. But the Pixel 7a certainly promises to be an intriguing device that should challenge Samsung’s Galaxy A54 for the title of best cheap phone overall.