Comparing Apple's iPhone XR versus Google's Pixel 3a XL

Posted:
in iPhone edited May 12
Google I/O 2019 saw Google introduce a pair of mid-range Android-based smartphones, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. We wanted to compare it to Apple's more affordable iPhone XR, and see how well Google's newest mid-range device can compete with Apple's iPhone XR.


What's inside?

Google recently released its mid-range Pixel 3a and it starts at just $399. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor, with the Adreno 615 graphics, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. The Pixel 3a XL packs a 6-inch OLED display and a resolution of 2160-by-1080 which translates to 402 pixels per inch.

Unlike its bigger flagship brother though, the Pixel 3 XL, the Pixel 3a XL doesn't have a notch and it only packs a single selfie camera instead of two. The Pixel 3a doesn't offer true stereo speakers like the Pixel 3, it doesn't have wireless charging, and also lacks IP-rated water resistance -- but it does have a 3.5mm headphone jack.

It comes in three different colors, Just Black, Clearly White, and Purple-ish.




Apple's budget-friendly smartphone, the iPhone XR starts at $749, and inside it packs Apple's latest A12 Bionic chip, 3GB of RAM, and offers multiple storage options from 64GB all the way up to 256GB. The iPhone XR also has a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina Display and a resolution of 1792-by-828 at 326 ppi.

The iPhone XR does have a notch which houses all the FaceID sensors. It also offers wireless charging, is IP67 certified, and offers much louder stereo speakers. It comes in a variety of colors such as Red, Yellow, White, Coral, Black, and Blue.



Performance is everything

In terms of overall raw performance, the iPhone XR blows the Pixel 3a out of the water with its A12 Bionic processor. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 on the Pixel 3a is more comparable -- but still slower overall -- to something like the iPhone 7 with its A10 processor which is a three-year-old phone.

In Geekbench we got a single core score of 1603, and a multi-core score of 5173 for the Pixel 3a XL, and the iPhone XR received a single core score of 4816, and a multi-core score of 11463. That's a pretty big difference between the two phones, and you can feel it in day-to-day operation.




We haven't had enough time with the Pixel 3a to say confidently how it'll perform over a long period of time, but other than optimizations in Android Q as it progresses, it isn't going to get faster. The Pixel 3 has been suffering from progressive slowdowns since release with Google's efforts to fix the problem not working that well, so we'll be watching to see if this manifests on the Pixel 3a in months to come.

The iPhone XR has been out for several months and we haven't had any performance issues.

Lights, camera, action!

Both of these devices have a single 12-megapixel camera in the back, and both do incredibly well in daylight scenarios. The iPhone XR produces a more subtle, and neutral looking photos, while the Pixel 3a offers a much more contrasty, sharper image.

For this high-level overview similar to what Google is pushing in its own advertising materials for the Pixel 3a, we prefer the image quality on the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 3a also features Night Sight which allows you to capture incredible low light photos.


Pixel 3a XL photos


We'll be doing more of an in-depth comparison between the Pixel 3a and the iPhone XR's camera in the next few days, comparing low light photography, color reproduction, and how it processes the images.


iPhone XR photos


Pixel 3a XL photos


For video, the iPhone XR can shoot up to 4K at 60p, while the Pixel 3a is capped at 30p. This is a big gap, and phones going back to the iPhone SE can capture 4K30 video.

Given the OLED, Blacks are inky black on the Pixel 3a, the colors are richer, and the viewing angles are a hair better. That's not to say that the iPhone XR's display is bad -- it's just that OLED has superior performance characteristics than the LCD display in the iPhone XR.

However, we prefer the iPhone's more immersive display with its notch over the Pixel 3a. Since there's no secondary front firing speaker on the Pixel 3a, we wish that Google had slimmed down the bezels a bit to give the Pixel a more modern look.

Overall build and design

The speakers on the iPhone XR are loud, and doesn't distort or lose its signature characteristics at higher volumes. The Pixel 3a gets loud, but it lacks bass in some areas and it's not as full as the iPhone XR -- it sounds tinny at higher volumes.

The overall footprint of the iPhone XR is smaller than the Pixel 3a XL. But, the XR is a little bit thicker than the Pixel 3a XL.




The XR is enclosed in an all-glass front and back with aluminum sides. This is far above and beyond the polycarbonate housing on the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 3a doesn't feel cheap, and feels similar to the iPhone 5c enclosure. We prefer the XR's more premium build over the polycarbonate on the Pixel 3a XL.


Price and compromise

The $479 Pixel 3a XL is not a bad phone for its price, it runs Android 9.0 Pie, and since it's a Pixel device it will receive the first updates first.

It has a great camera that offers amazing low light photos, but given that the performance is charitably the same as a three-year-old iPhone, and worst case a five year old one, and it comes in a polycarbonate shell, there are some compromises.

The $749 iPhone XR is not Apple's highest-end device, nor is it mid-range phone. It doesn't have an OLED display, Force Touch, or a two-lens camera system, but it uses the same fast processor as the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Its speakers are really loud and clear, it has wireless charging, it's IP67 certified, so if we were to choose between the two phones, we'd spend the extra money on the iPhone XR.

But, considering that the Pixel 3e XL is nearly identical in price to the iPhone 7 Plus, which Apple stills sells, we'll be comparing those two models very soon.

Where to buy

Google's Pixel 3a is available for purchase at B&H Photo with a free $100 e-Gift Card and free Mint Mobile 3-month 8GB Prepaid SIM Card Kit. Priced at $399, each Pixel 3a also includes free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S. Shoppers looking to sign up for B&H's new Payboo Credit Card can also receive a sales tax refund instantly on orders shipped to qualifying states.

Meanwhile, wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T are offering buy one, get one free offers on Apple's iPhone XR.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    jbcreatejbcreate Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    ampomuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 28
    AF_HittAF_Hitt Posts: 77member
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    tmaychasmtycho_macuserpscooter63redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 28
    Here is a sobering and bashful comment...
    Why don't you do a price/category pariry comparison, this is useful to nobody. 
    The Pixel is a horribly over priced device that is the result of meetoo envy. It gets released every year with mild improvements and no real standout design characteristics. If you don't like the design of the iPhone, then the pixel is even worse. The pixel design is garbage, do something, anything, but not that. Notches for everyone! Why not put grips like oxygen, maybe some flair like Sony used to do, another brick design like razor... 
     There should be 3 year refresh cycles that really take advantages of maturing technology changes or be completely on the bleeding edge of technology, ultra refresh rates, overclocked specs way above reference design, anything, kinda like folding screen. It should be a crown Jewel.
    Instead they release a low spec, over priced, and gimped phone that comes with the pixel name attached. That's like samsung attaching Galaxy to everything they sell, the same goes for lg with thinq, Sony with Xperia, and all this branding that is worthless to the industry as a whole. 

    Anyways my point, Apple still sells phones for that aren't $749. I haven't used a pixel, but there is no compelling reason for me to do it. Competition is good for everyone, this is not competition. This is a meetoo move.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28
    Krish79Krish79 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    This comparison is ridiculous. iPhone XR offers the best phone with a little compromise to display. While pixel 3 is a poor phone, that has none but reviewers rave about it. Poor battery life, big bezel and even bigger notch. If I need a great camera, I'll just buy a camera. I rather prefer a good phone that has a descent camera over a great camera that's compromise on all other factors! Not to forget malwares, ads and snoops. Google had their best chance to make the best phone from Nexus days. But they keep messing it. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 28
    AF_Hitt said:
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone cancel 6 be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    At the price point of the pixel 3a, if you get an iPhone like the 6 or 6s. The the iPhone is going to be worthless when a new IOS 13 comes out. 
    I think in both cases, the pixel is a worthless phone, and the iPhone is a worthless phone. If you however spend those $700-800 you are guaranteed to have and overpriced phone that is going to last you a good 4 years. Now to be fair, the XR is a very good phone that should have been the iPhone 10 
  • Reply 6 of 28
    Mapleleaf160Mapleleaf160 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I just picked my son up his first phone the 3axl and as an iPhone xs max user I was able to get the price to 379 with the best buy offer and trade in a super old Phone to knock off another 100 . Some things I did notice that wasn't mentioned was it offers a the squeeze feature like the larger model and a lot of premium software features I noticed while setting it up I thought for sure would be stripped of for that price . Plus it switches between TMobile and sprint service Over Google fi  which are both good for my coverage area  that's of good value to me because the pixel was able too keep full service indoors in certain places like my son's high school where my iPhone has none except over WiFi . Each phone has it's pros and cons and really I use my phone just to make calls or send a quick email but I have to probably feel like this comparison would have been more apples to  as far as price and performance if it was compared to an s10e perhaps just my opinion 
    edited May 12 gatorguyampomuthuk_vanalingamchemengin
  • Reply 7 of 28
    WLeeWLee Posts: 14unconfirmed, member
    This pixel 3a is an exceptional phone. It brings top grade features that actually matter to the midrange - camera, screen, battery life. It is a game changer, this alongside Samsung’s a series give little reason to pay anything near $1000 for a phone! Why? It’s specced so high it no longer matters, laptop grade processor to open Facebook? Aye sure. The snapdragon 6xx series that the pixel 3a runs can still even run fortnite on full settings. 

    This phone will make waves as people will see they are being conned, Apple will be the worst hit by that awakening especially when that hideous humped monstrosity is released later this year. 
    ampomuthuk_vanalingamchemengin
  • Reply 8 of 28
    thttht Posts: 3,209member
    For the mass market, very few people will be cross shopping between an iPhone XR and a Pixel 3a. Not much point in making the comparison. 

    Even more importantly, a lot of mediarati believe they know what people want when buying a phone. There is zero evidence of that even being remotely true. Heck, even the mediarati don’t know what they want and you should be very careful with listening to them. Buy what you want, not what someone else suggests you do. 

    In a consumer’s mine, it could be down to the iPhone being a glass and aluminum object and not liking plastic. Everything else is not something they may care to understand. There are many many things like this. Like, a consumer may like how their fingers slides on the iPhone glass over whatever else phone they try, or the heft of an object, or look of the icons and fonts, so on and so forth. 

    I would always recommend the fastest phone with the best service and the most storage they can afford. It’s a device they’ll use for 3 to 5 years. Getting the affordable product is often the worst product for people who don’t know what they getting. 
    tmay
  • Reply 9 of 28
    ampoampo Posts: 1member
    AF_Hitt said:
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    Your iPhone will slow as well unless you change the battery, Apple makes sure of that. That and he's right, this bargain Pixel phone will be fine years from now. My back up phone, a 3 year old Pixel, is as fast as day one so if that's any indication these new phones will remain plenty fast for most all common and basic smartphone tasks and at this price point that's all it's meant for. They won't do stuff more expensive phones like the XR do obviously, 60 fps video for example, but they will run great for a device in this price range and punch well above it's weight for things like cameras, AI and support etc. 
    gatorguymuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 10 of 28
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,519member
    For the masses, the Pixel 3a is "good enough" is some areas and offers a nice camera (more important than a lot of you older duffers would expect for the Self-Documenting Generation). The iPhone XR is equivalent-to-vastly-superior in nearly every way, but here's the thing: I don't think Pixel sales will hurt iPhone sales a whit, both because of ecosystem lock-in and because iPhone users know what they're getting for their money: a great all-around phone (and camera) with much stronger support, performance, and VALUE. And yes, privacy.

    Where the Pixel 3a will kick butt is against the S10. The S10 looks to have only marginally better features and not as good a camera for whole lot more $$, and Android people prize cheap above all else -- so this is going to murder the already-hurting S10 line in its sleep IMO.
    edited May 12 muthuk_vanalingamtmayredgeminipa
  • Reply 11 of 28
    thttht Posts: 3,209member
    chasm said:
    Where the Pixel 3a will kick butt is against the S10. The S10 looks to have only marginally better features and not as good a camera for whole lot more $$, and Android people prize cheap above all else -- so this is going to murder the already-hurting S10 line in its sleep IMO.
    There are cheaper Android phones than this Pixel 3a, cheaper phones with as good or better hardware. The good still camera performance is but one advantageous feature in a multifaceted game, and its still not clear to me that the type of camera performance it offers is what people want. 

    When I say multifaceted, I mean even though the Pixel is in more carrier retail stores, they still have to get salespeople to push the phone, they still have to get the brand in people’s minds so that people know of it, so on and so forth. 

    It isn’t easy. Samsung could just as easily outspend Google, and get carriers to push their phones over Google’s. 
    tmay
  • Reply 12 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator
    ampo said:
    AF_Hitt said:
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    Your iPhone will slow as well unless you change the battery, Apple makes sure of that. That and he's right, this bargain Pixel phone will be fine years from now. My back up phone, a 3 year old Pixel, is as fast as day one so if that's any indication these new phones will remain plenty fast for most all common and basic smartphone tasks and at this price point that's all it's meant for. They won't do stuff more expensive phones like the XR do obviously, 60 fps video for example, but they will run great for a device in this price range and punch well above it's weight for things like cameras, AI and support etc. 
    A battery in an iPhone will need to be changed after a year and a half or two years, like in most smartphones. The Pixel phone is no different -- and the Pixel 3 slowdowns aren't from the battery.
    edited May 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator

    tht said:
    For the mass market, very few people will be cross shopping between an iPhone XR and a Pixel 3a. Not much point in making the comparison. 

    Even more importantly, a lot of mediarati believe they know what people want when buying a phone. There is zero evidence of that even being remotely true. Heck, even the mediarati don’t know what they want and you should be very careful with listening to them. Buy what you want, not what someone else suggests you do. 

    In a consumer’s mine, it could be down to the iPhone being a glass and aluminum object and not liking plastic. Everything else is not something they may care to understand. There are many many things like this. Like, a consumer may like how their fingers slides on the iPhone glass over whatever else phone they try, or the heft of an object, or look of the icons and fonts, so on and so forth. 

    I would always recommend the fastest phone with the best service and the most storage they can afford. It’s a device they’ll use for 3 to 5 years. Getting the affordable product is often the worst product for people who don’t know what they getting. 
    Regarding point in making the comparison, the vast majority of our requests for comparison were the 3a to the XR. Second to that is the iPhone 7.
    muthuk_vanalingamCarnagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 28
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,570administrator

    AF_Hitt said:
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone cancel 6 be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    At the price point of the pixel 3a, if you get an iPhone like the 6 or 6s. The the iPhone is going to be worthless when a new IOS 13 comes out. 
    I think in both cases, the pixel is a worthless phone, and the iPhone is a worthless phone. If you however spend those $700-800 you are guaranteed to have and overpriced phone that is going to last you a good 4 years. Now to be fair, the XR is a very good phone that should have been the iPhone 10 
    At the retail price of a 3a, you get an iPhone 7. Considering the $100 off deals that can already be had on the 3e, versus the deals on an iPhone 7, you can very often get a 7 Plus, new from a carrier for $150 or less.
    missingxtensiontmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 28
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,958member
    If the phone is android and does not have memory slot than it is no android phone. Except price, there is no comparison.
    missingxtension
  • Reply 16 of 28
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 3,281member

    At least AI only compared the Pixel 3a to the iPhone XR.

    Google insists on comparing the 3a to the XS:

    https://9to5google.com/2019/05/10/pixel-3a-vs-iphone-ad/

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 28
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,127member
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    I've got the XS Max and my wife has the XR. For normal day to day usage there isn't that much of a difference between the two displays. Yes, the OLED display on my XS Max is "Better", but in actualy day to day usage such as checking email, scrolling through websites, looking at photo's, etc, it doesn't matter.

    In all honesty, if I could reverse my choice now, go back a few months in time, I'd tell myself to get the XR.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 28
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,127member
    ampo said:
    AF_Hitt said:
    jbcreate said:
    spend the extra money on a device with a sub 1080p display lol... ok... a phone $350 less with the best camera out, 1080 amoled...ya..better get the ipxr I get it, finally an iphone can be touted heavily against a google pixel/nexus device but this phone isnt about the specs, its about the software and UX. We can talk about processors and RAM all day but will the average consumer using instagram notice? not at all.
    Thanks for registering just to post this single troll comment, but you can leave now. Will the average user notice the speed difference? No, not right away. But in a couple years, it will be painfully obvious. The Pixel 3a will have the equivalent of 5-6 year old technology in it by then. The iPhone XR has the exact same performance as the fastest flagship phone on the market, and therefore will be just as fast as them for the entirety of its lifespan. My XR could easily last me 4 years if I so choose. Can you say the same of the 3a?
    Your iPhone will slow as well unless you change the battery, Apple makes sure of that. That and he's right, this bargain Pixel phone will be fine years from now. My back up phone, a 3 year old Pixel, is as fast as day one so if that's any indication these new phones will remain plenty fast for most all common and basic smartphone tasks and at this price point that's all it's meant for. They won't do stuff more expensive phones like the XR do obviously, 60 fps video for example, but they will run great for a device in this price range and punch well above it's weight for things like cameras, AI and support etc. 
    Out of interest, are you running the latest version of Android on that 3 year old Pixel? The CPU was far inferior to Apple's A9 which came out a year prior and I wonder how it holds up now.

    My fathers iPhone 6S Plus has never had it's battery changed and is running like a brand new phone on iOS 12.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    That’s a pretty amazing phone Google has delivered, considering the cost. I’m really impressed. Of course you need to be bought into the Android ecosystem (which I’m not), but a device with such a low price point still delivering good performance, especially the screen and camera, is commendable.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 28
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,127member
    Not a very good comparison when you can buy a full Pixel 3 with better specs for $799 (or $50 more than this cheap iPhone). You should be comparing that phone which blows away another overrated iPhone... 
    Actually I find that the XR holds up quite well to the new kid on the block. The Pixel 3 is a great phone, but it hardly blows away the XR.

    The XR is far faster, has much better real world battery life, Face Unlock, higher storage options, cheaper, dual sim capability, no horrible chin and a much smaller notch, etc.

    Hardly the slam dunk that you suggest.....
    watto_cobra
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