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Google Pixel 7a review: The budget-friendly model gets an upgrade

The Pixel 7a features better cameras, an improved display and wireless charging for £449

Steve Hogarty
Thursday 11 May 2023 10:04 BST
The Pixel 7a comes in four colourways: charcoal, coral, sea and snow
The Pixel 7a comes in four colourways: charcoal, coral, sea and snow (Google)

Available to pre-order from today, the Google Pixel 7a is a budget-friendly version of the flagship Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones launched in October last year, and a contender for one of the best budget phones of 2023.

The £449 phone iterates last year’s Pixel 6a, but this year has a design that more closely mirrors the more expensive Pixels. The similarities continue inside the device, where Google is using the same Tensor G2 chip that powers the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones.

With the A-series, Google’s goal is to cram all of the most interesting features of the flagship Pixels into an aggressively priced mid-range phone, without trimming away too much of the good stuff that makes the Pixel one of the best Android phones you can buy.

Read more: Google Pixel Watch review

That means you’re getting all of those headline-grabbing camera features, such as Magic Eraser, Night Sight and Photo Unblur, as well as clever software tricks such as adaptive battery management, which tracks how and when you use your device to tweak performance and extend the battery life.

These are all features found in last year’s Pixel 6a, but the step up to the Tensor G2 makes things faster, more battery-efficient and more secure. In our early testing, the Google Assistant is faster to respond to voice commands, and demanding tasks such as photo editing feel zippier and more responsive.

Google Pixel 7a: From £449,

(Steve Hogarty/The Independent)
  • Display: 6.1in OLED, 60/90Hz
  • Dimensions: 72.9mm x 152.4mm x 9mm
  • Weight: 193g
  • Cameras: 64MP main, 13MP ultrawide, 13MP front
  • Storage: 128GB
  • RAM: 8GB

The Pixel 7a has a 6.1in display running at a smooth 90Hz, an upgrade from the Pixel 6a’s increasingly dated-looking 60Hz screen. The display is brighter too, which is particularly noticeable outdoors, now that summer is on the horizon. The adaptive brightness feature – which learns your preferred brightness settings in different conditions – doesn’t lurch from dim to bright quite so aggressively as it did on last year’s phone.

The Pixel 7a is the same size as the Pixel 6a, at a palm-friendly 6.1in. That’s slightly smaller than the 6.3in and 6.7in flagships. Great to hold, the Pixel 7a is a compact phone for anyone with petite hands.

Face unlock is new here, and complements the under-display fingerprint scanner, which itself feels faster to react to a thumb. The Pixel 7a also gets wireless charging for the first time in an A-series device.

(Steve Hogarty/The Independent)

The upgrade to the latest Tensor G2 chip also means you get a camera feature previously unavailable in the A-series: Long Exposure, which lets you take dramatic shots of moving scenes.

The Pixel 7a features an entirely refreshed camera array. The headline improvement here is the 13MP ultrawide lens and the larger main sensor, which, in combination with the faster processor, makes taking night time shots way less sluggish than on the Pixel 6a.

Pixel 7a features

Most of the features found on the Pixel 7a have been carried over from the Pixel 6a, with improvements. Here’s a quick glossary of the biggest ones.

Magic Eraser: Can identify unwanted people and distracting objects in the background and lets you delete them or blend them in, just by touching them. There are third-party apps that already do this without Tensor but, on the Pixel 7a, it works seamlessly within the Photos app and will automatically recommend edits whenever it can.

Long Exposure: When shooting moving scenes, such as waterfalls and traffic, this feature smears all of the motion into a smooth, artistic blur effect, while keeping static parts of the image sharply in focus.

Super Res Zoom: Basically Google’s name for digital zoom, Super Res Zoom captures more actual detail in the scene through the motion of the phone and then uses that information alongside some software magic to produce decent telephoto photography (for a phone, at least).

(Steve Hogarty/The Independent)

Face Unblur and Photo Unblur: Fixes blurry faces when your subject refuses to stand still (NB: doesn’t work on dogs). Photo Unblur can take a blurry or old photograph and intelligently sharpen it without introducing weird distortions, usually with mixed results.

Live Translate: Translates text in the real world by pointing your camera at it, or any text on screen in more than 20 languages. Interpreter mode repeats anything you say out loud in one of six languages, then repeats the other person’s response back to you in your own language.

Google Lens: Uses augmented reality to scan your surroundings and identify objects. Anything from houseplants and trainers to landmarks and dog breeds. Links with Google Shopping to more easily steal someone’s look.

Night Sight: Uses what’s effectively a long exposure to absorb more light in dark scenes to produce bright and vibrant night-time photography. Most high-end phone cameras can manage this, though we find Google’s processing of night-time pictures to be among the best.

Now Playing: Whenever music is playing somewhere nearby, your phone will display the title of the song on your lock screen, so you can see it at a glance and pretend you know loads about music. It’s basically Shazam, except it’s always running in the background. Tap the name of the tune and you can instantly pop it into a Spotify playlist.

(Pixel 7a)

Early verdict: Pixel 7a

We’ve had limited hands-on time with the Pixel 7a, but early impressions suggest Google has improved on last year’s A-series phone in all of the ways that matter. It has better camera hardware, runs on the best processor Google makes, and has a brighter screen with a smoother 90Hz refresh rate. It’s a superb mid-range phone with top-end features.

What’s odd right now is the £449 price. That’s £150 cheaper than the Pixel 7 when it launched, but the more premium phone is regularly discounted to less than £500. Right now, for example, the Pixel 7 (£488.94, is on sale at Amazon for just £40 more than the Pixel 7a.

Expect to see fewer and less generous discounts on the flagship Pixels now that the cheaper alternative has arrived, but Google’s own phones might turn out to be the Pixel 7a’s stiffest competition.

Google Pixel 7a deals

Buy now at O2 – Until the end of the month, O2 is offering the Pixel 7a with 1GB of data for £22.64 per month with £30 upfront. You’ll also get a free pair of the Google Buds A-series, worth £99.

Buy now at Vodafone – Until 22 May, Vodafone is offering the Pixel 7a with 8GB of data and two Vodafone benefits for £29 per month with £19 upfront. This plan also comes with a free pair of Google Buds A-Series.

Buy now at Carphone Warehouse– If you buy the handset from Carphone Warehouse, you can currently get it from £22 per month with a £59 upfront fee. You’ll also get a free pair of the Buds A-Series, worth £99.99.

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