It’s been four years now since Google introduced their first A-Series handsets, the Pixel 3a/3a XL, offering a budget option for those wanting Google’s AI smarts in their phone. The latest to launch is the Pixel 7a, hitting stores from today for $749.
Google has upped the ante for the Pixel 7a, offering more in terms of design as well as performance increases over last year’s Pixel 6a.
The spec list for the Pixel 7a shows the Google designed Tensor G2 processor running the show, with 8GB RAM and 128GB of on-board storage with a 6.1” display that runs at 90Hz. For shutterbugs there’s a 64MP main camera sensor on the rear, the largest sensor Google has used in an A-Series phone to date and a 13MP ultrawide, with a 13MP selfie camera on the front.
The hardware ticks the right boxes, but the real story of Google’s Pixel line is their software. Running Android 13, the Pixel 7a gets all the features including Clear Calling for clearer phone calls, useful info from the At A Glance widget, Google Assistant with Hold for Me or Call screening and more. You also get all the Google Computational Photography goodness you could want including Real Tone, Photo Unblur, Magic Eraser and more.
I love a good Pixel review, and Google sent us a Pixel 7a a week ago, here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
The Pixel 7a retains the same design of the Pixel line from the last couple of years, with the striking camera bar spanning across the rear. There’s been improvement to the design though, with Google adding in metal volume and power buttons this year for a more premium feel.
The phone itself is more durable this year. The Pixel 7a retains the IP67 water/dust resistance rating and Gorilla Glass on the display from previous generations, but it now has a mid-frame architecture to further protect the display.
It is a Pixel A-Series phone, so the rear is made of plastic rather than glass, but it feels silky smooth and in white it’s hard to see any fingerprints.
While the review unit I have is ‘Snow’ (White), the Pixel 7a also comes in Charcoal (Black) and Sea (Light blue). I’m a sucker for a colour variant and I like the Sea, which looks great in the hand as well.
The phone is durable, but Google have of course released their own cases and I received a grey coloured one for review. It fits well and slips on and off easily while protecting against small bumps and scrapes. It’s a good case, but I do long for the lovely fabric cases of the Pixel line.
The phone feels compact in the hand but still features a large 6.1” FHD+ resolution display. After some pushback last year, the display on the Pixel 7a now supports ‘Smooth Display’ in settings letting you ramp up the normal 60Hz refresh to 90Hz, though Google does warn that this impacts your battery. The screen looks great at 90Hz with smooth scrolling and games running without frame jumping.
Google has gone with a flat display on the Pixel 7a – my personal preference. The flat display feels better in the hand, and there’s no colour shift at the edge and feels better when swiping. There is some bezel around the screen as well which offers some protection against accidental touches.
The new metal buttons are in the same setup as other Pixel phones with the power button above a volume rocker on the right and they’re very nice and clicky. There’s the SIM card slot on the left and a USB-C port and downward firing speakers on the base.
The Pixel runs a Tensor G2, the same custom Google designed processor that runs the Pixel 7/Pixel 7 Pro, paired with that there’s 8GB of RAM and 128GB of on-board storage. The Tensor G2 runs the majority of apps extremely well, with SnapChat the only odd man out seeming to be particularly susceptible to freezing for some reason.
The camera system is of course a major talking point with Pixel phones. Photos from a Pixel phone are known for their excellent quality and clarity in almost any conditions.
The hardware on the rear includes a 64MP main sensor with 13MP Ultra-wide, while the front gets a 13MP selfie camera. But of course a lot of the ‘goodness’ of the Pixel camera is in the computational photography algorithms that Google has included like Photo Unblur, Real Tone, and Magic Eraser. The low-light Night Sight feature is also back, and twice as fast as it was on the Pixel 6a and it’s just as magic as the first time I used it.
The main sensor offers great shots, as does the ultra-wide sensor however the main sensor offers slightly better shots with greater clarity and details captured thanks to the higher MP sensor. Both are good though, so don’t worry.
While the Pixel 7a doesn’t have an optical zoom, it does have ‘Super Res Zoom’, another feature Google implemented in the camera to improve shots using digital zoom. It’s a decent zoom and while not quite up to where Samsung is with their Space Zoom it is quite good.
Video hasn’t seen any improvements since the Pixel 7/7 Pro but on this latest A-Series phone, all the camera sensors can now record in 4K @ 30 fps, and you can of course record in 4K @ 60fps on the main sensor as well.
Battery Life and Charging
The Pixel 7a comes with a 4385mAh battery, it supports 30W charging through the Pixel Wired charger (Sold separately for $45 if you haven’t got one already) and you will need a charger as there’s not one included in the box. The Pixel 7a is also the first A-Series Pixel to support wireless charging though at 7.5W on a Pixel Stand or 5W on a Qi certified device it’s very much a trickle charge.
Battery life on the Pixel 7a is woeful.
I had to baby it through the day to get 12 hours out of it, and most days after 8 hours it was asking for Battery Saver or Extreme Battery Saver. I was using the phone as I have been using my Pixel 7 Pro and the difference is stark.
Charging on the 30W charger is fast though which is a pleasant experience though it’s still lagging behind the 80W charging of OPPO phones out there.
The Pixel 7a comes with Android 13 installed out of the box. Google will deliver 3 Years of OS updates and 5 Years of security updates – though this means that Android 14, due to launch in mere months, is considered one of those years, which is disappointing.
The Google Pixel software experience is also bolstered by ‘Feature Drops’, updates which appear alongside the monthly security patches that add new features to your Pixel. Feature Drops have been the way Google has delivered things like Spatial Audio, adding Speaker Labels in Recorder, the free VPN for Google One users and lots more. They’re fun and add features and improve security, what’s not to love?
With Google controlling the end-to-end experience with the Pixel, there’s no ‘bonus’ apps or cruft on a Pixel phone, unless you’re not a fan of Google apps because on that front there are plenty pre-installed and ready to rock.
Like most Pixel phones, Google Assistant access is everywhere on the Pixel 7a. There’s a button in the search bar, you can tap the Assistant app in the app drawer and of course you can just say ‘Hey/Ok Google’ anywhere near its mic and it picks it up, ready to help answer any questions or help with Smart Home devices and lots more.
Should you buy this phone?
The Pixel 7a offers a good super mid-range experience in terms of power, camera quality and design, however the battery life if you aren’t often near a charger is not the best it can be.
The rest of the Pixel experience is definitely here in the Pixel 7a, with all the Google smarts you could want built-in. The camera is excellent and the Tensor G2 offers more little features that help to make a Pixel great.
But the battery life, which I found to be just short of a full day on the road, is unimpressive. I work in an office and have access to a charger, but if I wanted to go on the road and use the hotspot or play intensive games the battery life is definitely not up to the task.
Google has pulled off some impressive software updates previously, and the monthly Pixel drop updates could help the battery life. With a better battery life the Pixel 7a will be a hard phone to go past, but until then you may want to look around at the competition.