Google has just released the ‘a’ phone of the current Pixel smartphone series. The Pixel 7a is the most affordable of the lot, but it still has what is at the heart of a Pixel phone - AI threaded through and through, clean all-Google software, security, and that special smart camera. There are a couple of features that should have been present, but even so, Pixel 7a stands out in a class of its own.
The new 8GB 128GB Pixel 7a costs ₹43,999. Officially only the 128GB variants of each phone of the series is available in India. The Pixel 7 costs ₹49,999 and the Pixel 7 Pro is ₹69,999. Prices do tend to vary online. The official reseller is Flipkart. The interesting thing is that there are often discounts and this reduces the difference between the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7a and between the budget end of the 7 series and the previous 6 series.
All the phones in the Pixel series follow the same design style. The 7a, made with recycled aluminium and plastic, is in Sea, Charcoal and Snow. An additional Coral may or may not become available in India. The Charcoal colour variant we tested arrived in a super slim box - which means no charger included. The back of the phone is glossy and tends to get smudged so needs a case — of which there are bound to be many. It has the famous camera visor across the top of the device, a feature that some find smart looking while others feel impatient with it. It’s certainly distinctive and signature Pixel. The phone is IP67 water and dust resistant this time around.
The 7a is actually quite broad and slippery, so that’s another reason to use a case, specially a textured one. The front has a 6.1-inch OLED display which doesn’t have the slimmest bezels, but leaves enough screen all the same. The refresh rate has been stepped up to allow for 90Hz although it’s set at 60Hz out of the box, so you may opt to increase it. The display is not the best in the business for a mid-ranger, but it’s easy on the eye, clear enough, and has good colours and viewing angles. Brightness is adequate. One can watch movies and videos on almost any phone these days and the Pixel 7a is fairly up to the job. It may however get a little warm after a few hours of intense consumption or gaming. Allowing it a few moments to cool off may be a good idea. The sound on this phone isn’t as deep and full as on the higher end Pixels.
No matter what the hardware is, a Pixel phone is ultimately a software phone -- understandable since Google is first a software company. The processor is Google’s own Tensor G2, the same as on the rest of the series, and it’s made particularly to be integrated with the software and specific features, especially camera related. It isn’t the fastest and nor is the Pixel 7a the snappiest in its price bracket, but there’s a smoothness and flow that isn’t easy to find elsewhere. The 7a works with 8GB of RAM and has just 128GB of storage - no memory card slot. The Chinese phones one sees in India always offer more in this segment, and if one is accustomed to high usage with more RAM and ROM, the Pixel’s specs may not seem enough. But if the user is looking for basic, simple no-frills usage, the Pixel 7a’s specs are not going to be the least bit of a problem. Now will the phone’s 4,385mAH battery be an issue. Wireless charging is supported, though it’s slow. For moderate to high usage, the battery and battery life is not this phone’s strength.
A heart of AI
When Google first came out with the first Pixel phone, the general opinion was that the search giant wasn’t in the business to sell hardware, but to get more users for its software services such as the assistant, integrating them irrevocably with everything a user does through the day. To add to the compelling nature of these services, Google includes innovative software tricks that are meant to make life easier to the point where one can’t do without them.
Google is, of course, the maker of Android, but a Pixel phone has features that are exclusive to it. There’s Google’s voice typing which is makes responding to a message super fast compared with other phones. There’s call handling, designed to reduce the nuisance aspects and focus just on what the user wants. There’s Now Playing which takes mere seconds to identify a music track. Even the camera is all about software as it practically eliminates any effort needed to capture a photo. The software features are shared by the Pixel 7a and not restricted just to the higher end models. This is made possible because all of the phones in the series use the Tensor G2 chipset.
The Pixel’s software really shines when using the camera. With the extent of computational photography involved, both in capturing and in post-processing, there’s actually little for the user to do. This may annoy a few photography buffs but the majority are happy to let the camera do the job.
The phone’s 64 megapixel rear camera has a 13 megapixel ultra wide companion and a 13 megapixel selfie camera. Given good light, the Pixel 7a’s camera produces bright clear images. The software compensates for handshake and allows you to edit the images in a variety of ways including erasing unwanted bits and adding background blur. It also ‘unblurs’ faces with a feature that borrows information from the ultra wide camera and that sometimes works well.
In low light, all Pixel cameras including this one infuse light into the scene even going as far as to let you see objects you wouldn’t detect easily without the camera. There are other tricks to explore in the camera app and Google’s Photos app.
The Pixel 7a is a good deal and will be a better one when it gets discounted. But the differences between the 7a and the Pixel 7 are not dramatic. A few specs are changed and the camera uses a different sensor, but ‘power’ wise both phones are as good as each other.
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