But at the same time, I'm really glad Google waited as long as it did to release this phone. For the last two days, I have been surrounded by people carrying $1000+ flagships, and they all love this thing. Utterances of disbelief at how a phone this cheap can be so good have been coming from every angle. And if this phone had come out alongside the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, I don't think it would have been the same story.
Everyone knows and loves the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+, and in my opinion, that's kind of a shame. I say that because Samsung released a third phone with these two heavyweights that doesn't really get talked about. The Samsung Galaxy S10e wasn't reviewed by half of the usual suspects on the internet, because they were focused on the top tier. But if you look at everyone who did review it, they almost all universally love it.
This phone isn't just competing with other $400 phones in the U.S., it gives people working at companies making $500 and $600 phones a reason to stay up at night.
So why don't we hear more about this phone? Well, because it came out at the same time as the big shots and isn't nearly as flashy. Plus, because this is Samsung, the discounts started coming at carrier stores shortly after the phones were launched. Two months after the S10e was launched, its base price started competing with Samsung's other phones.
Google's approach with the Pixel 3a series is brilliant. There are no phones at this price point that can compete with its camera. In several ways, this camera competes with other $1000 phones, a point Google clearly plans to make clear in its marketing soon. This phone isn't just competing with other $400 phones in the U.S., it gives people working at companies making $500 and $600 phones a reason to stay up at night. You combine that with the hype associated with putting one in every tech blogger's hand when there are no major launches scheduled and also make it available at almost every carrier, and it's a recipe for success you can only get away with if you're Google.
Or maybe not. Maybe the Samsung Galaxy S10e would have been a bigger deal if it had been released separately from the other two. Perhaps if Samsung hadn't been so dead set on releasing three phones at different price points and specs to compete with Apple on every level, way more people would know about and love that phone.
The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of Google releasing multiple phones in a year at different times. In the same way Samsung separates the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note launches to appeal to different audiences, Google could make the Pixel like the big Fall thing and then make a stellar budget release late Spring and repeatedly capture different audiences.
There's clearly a desire for multiple price brackets, and as premium smartphone prices continue to climb there will be more and more folks looking at this mid-range with curiosity. If Google could own the mid-range, like it did with the Nexus years only with actual units sold, that could end up being a very good thing for everyone.
If you've been dying to get your hands on a Pixel 3 XL but can't justify its $800 starting price, the Pixel 3a XL was made just for you. It has the same camera found on the Pixel 3, Android Pie out of the box, and it's guaranteed to get software updates for three years.
Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.
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