I have to stop using the Pixel 7a – but I don’t want to

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I think the Google Pixel 7a is all the phone I need. I’m not saying it’s the only phone I’ll ever get use, seeing as how my work and interest in mobile technology doesn’t work that way. But the Pixel 7a is so great that if I were a free spirit I’d buy it, settle down and not bother with another phone for a few years.

My admiration for the Pixel 7a goes beyond just ticking a few basic requirement boxes and extends to the overall capability of the device and the ease with which it has fit into my life. I honestly think it’s a better buy than the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, and if I hadn’t had to swap my SIM card to another phone last weekend, I’d still be using the Pixel 7a today.

Software makes my life easy

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

A big part of what makes any Pixel a recommended buy is the software. It’s definitely Android 13 on all the latest models, but Google’s interpretation of the interface continues to be the benchmark against which others are judged. It’s not until you use a Pixel that you realize how clean, low-maintenance and smooth Android can be. I don’t mind One UI on a Samsung phone, but it’s a lot more complex and cluttered (which makes it less relaxing to use) and you have to spend your time customizing it to your liking. Android on a Pixel isn’t that demanding.

It is also fast and reliable. The Pixel 7 series has had some well-documented issues, but I haven’t experienced any, so I can only call the Pixel 7a completely painless to own. It runs all my apps, delivers my notifications, makes and receives calls, and generally does what I tell it to when I tell it to. I also like the short and simple setup process and the lack of prompts and alerts once you’re up and running. It is the opposite of Oppo’s ColorOS and Xiaomi’s MIUI.

It’s all on a 90Hz display that’s sharp, colorful and bright enough for everyday use – and the processor driving it all the time is the same Tensor G2 you get in the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. In fact, the software and hardware experience is identical to the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. So if the software (and performance) is on par with its more expensive peers, and Android is much better to live with on the 7a than on its rivals, why would I want to use any other phone?

The camera does everything I need

Wide angle
Wide angle
Wide angle

If the software is preferable on the Pixel 7a and the performance matches its more expensive siblings, is the camera distinctly mediocre and not worth your time? No at all. In a back-to-back test, it matched the Pixel 7 and was just as good as the Pixel 6a. Plus, the Pixel 7a has held its own against much more expensive phones. It takes good wide-angle photos at 2x zoom, so it has plenty of versatility for most people.

But hardware only tells part of the story. There is a wonderful peace of mind that comes with using a Pixel camera. It generally takes fantastic photos in most environments, so you can click away FAITH. It makes a massive difference and isn’t something many other phones share. Even the erstwhile trusty iPhone stutters in the photography department these days.

It doesn’t just end with taking the picture. Google Photos has become one of the best free photo editing tools available on a phone. Magic Eraser is extremely effective; it has good filters, plus a comprehensive general editing tool if you want to get more creative. It’s also very fast, and while it’s a small thing, the way it saves a copy and lets you easily retrieve edits is very useful. Even with more powerful camera phones in my pocket, I’ve been grabbing the Pixel 7a for quick snaps over the past few weeks, and I think that best illustrates just how good the camera is.

The design is all I want

The Pixel 7a’s silicone case attracts a lot of lint Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The phone’s capability is obviously very important, but I also want a phone that looks good. Design matters, and in the past, the Pixel has well and truly hidden its prowess away. The Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 are some of the bleakest looking phones ever made. That all changed with the Pixel 6 series, and the Pixel 7a continues this desirable theme.

The Pixel 7a doesn’t look boring. You can buy it in a variety of fun colors, it feels surprisingly high quality, and it has a decent IP67 water resistance rating. I wouldn’t worry too much about damaging it as it’s not terribly expensive, but the durability offered by the metal and plastic body (plus generous water resistance) means it’ll probably be fine if there’s a minor accident. It also means I can happily leave it out of the annoying silicone case too.

Under normal circumstances, I see about three hours of screen time in Google’s Digital Wellbeing app, and the Pixel 7a’s battery lasts two days on a single charge like this. That’s plenty for me, and while the battery doesn’t fully charge as fast as the OnePlus 11, it does have wireless charging for easy top-ups if, for some reason, it gets too low.

The value proposition is very good

Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Dealing with changing the Pixel 7a to another phone made me consider all these points, plus one very important one, but let me first talk about the circumstances surrounding my discovery. I had to switch to the Honor Magic Vs to update our review, and as I considered doing so, I realized that I didn’t want to leave the Pixel 7a behind – but not just because the Magic Vs wasn’t very good the first time around.

I considered using the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the other two Pixel 7 phones instead. But the Pixel 7a just felt right for everything I wanted. Better that good, actually. I struggled to decide whether I’d use the S23 Ultra’s 10x zoom or the Z Fold 4’s large, open screen often enough to warrant swapping them. At this point, I knew I could have left my SIM card in the Pixel 7a and been completely satisfied.

What is the other point I mentioned? It’s the price. The Pixel 7a costs $500, and there was a time when a mid-range phone like this came with compromises that always made me want to go back to a flagship phone when I could. The Pixel 7a never feels like a compromise. It feels like a direct competitor to much more expensive devices, and my reluctance to put it down confirms that.

What does all this mean for you? Don’t see the Pixel 7a as a phone to only consider if you only have $500 to spend. Consider it one to consider even if you have $800 or even $1,000 to spend. it’s that good.

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