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

The Google Pixel 7a face down on a table.
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 use, seeing how my job and interest in mobile tech don’t work that way. But the Pixel 7a is so excellent that if I was a free spirit, I’d buy it, settle down, and not worry about any other phones for a couple of years.

My admiration for the Pixel 7a goes beyond it just ticking a few basic requirement boxes and extends to the device’s overall ability and the ease with which it has fitted into my life. I genuinely think it’s a better purchase than the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro, and if I didn’t have to swap my SIM card to another phone this past weekend, I’d still be using the Pixel 7a today.

The software makes my life easy

Google Pixel 7a apps.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

A huge part of what makes any Pixel a recommended buy is the software. It’s obviously 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 far more complex and busy (which makes it less relaxing to use), and you need to take your time tailoring it to your liking. Android on a Pixel isn’t anywhere near as demanding.

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

All of this is displayed on a 90Hz screen that’s sharp, colorful, and bright enough for everyday use — and the processor pushing it all along 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 the same as it is on more expensive peers, and Android is far 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

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

But the hardware only tells part of the story. There’s wonderful peace of mind that comes with using a Pixel camera. It generally takes fantastic photos in most environments, so you can click away with confidence. It makes a massive difference, and it’s not something shared by many other phones. Even the previously reliable iPhone stutters in the photo department these days.

It doesn’t just end with taking the photo. Google Photos has transformed into one of the best free photo editing tools available on a phone. Magic Eraser is shockingly effective; there are decent filters, plus a comprehensive general editing tool if you want to get more creative. It’s very fast, too, and although it’s a small thing, the way it saves a copy and allows you to easily take back edits is very useful. Even with more powerful camera phones in my pocket, I’ve grabbed the Pixel 7a to quickly take photos over the past weeks, and I think that best illustrates how good the camera is.

The design is all I want

A person holding the Pixel 7a.
The Pixel 7a’s silicone case attracts a lot of lint Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The phone’s ability 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 ability away. The Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 are some of the dreariest-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 different fun colors, it feels surprisingly high quality, and it has a decent IP67 water resistance rating. I’m not going to worry too much about damaging it as it’s not massively expensive, but the durability provided by the metal and plastic body (plus the generous water resistance) means it’ll probably be fine if it does have a little accident. It also means I can happily leave it out of the annoying silicone case too.

Under normal circumstances, I see around three hours of screen time in Google’s Digital Wellbeing app, and the Pixel 7a’s battery lasts for two days on a single charge like this. That’s plenty for me, and although the battery doesn’t rocket to a full charge as quickly 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 too good

Pixel 7a lying on leaves.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Faced with changing the Pixel 7a to another phone made me consider all these points, plus another very important one, but let me talk about the circumstances around my revelation first. I needed to move on to the Honor Magic Vs to update our review, and as I contemplated doing this, I realized I didn’t want to leave the Pixel 7a behind — but it wasn’t just because the Magic Vs wasn’t very good the first time around.

I thought about using the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and the two other Pixel 7 phones instead. But the Pixel 7a just felt fine for everything I wanted. Better than fine, actually. I struggled to think if I’d use the S23 Ultra’s 10x zoom or the Z Fold 4’s large, open screen often enough to warrant swapping to them. At this point, I knew I could have left my SIM in the Pixel 7a and been perfectly satisfied.

What’s 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 keen to return 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 leave it confirms this.

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

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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