The midrange phone market can be difficult to navigate. While cheap phones are getting better all the time, it’s tough to decide how much you need to spend to get the right phone for you. Motorola, Nokia, and Google are not about to make things any easier. The impressive Motorola One Zoom is a big, stylish beauty with a quad lens camera for $450; the Nokia 7.2 comes close to matching it on the spec sheet, but costs $100 less; while Google’s budget option, the Pixel 3a, lands in the middle at $400. Which one should you pick? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
|Motorola One Zoom||Nokia 7.2||Google Pixel 3a|
|Size||158 × 75 × 8.8 mm (6.22 × 2.95 × 0.35 inches)||159.9 × 75.1 × 8.3 mm (6.29 × 2.96 × 0.32 inches)||151.3 × 70.1 × 8.2mm (6.0 × 2.8 × 0.3 inches)|
|Weight||190 grams (6.7 ounces)||180 grams (6.35 ounces)||147 grams (5.18 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.39-inch OLED display||6.3-inch PureDisplay IPS LCD||5.6-inch OLED display|
|Screen resolution||2,340 × 1,080 pixels (403 pixels-per-inch)||2,340 × 1,080 pixels (409 pixels-per-inch)||2,220 × 1,080 pixels (441 pixels-per-inch)|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 9.0 Pie||Android 10|
|MicroSD card slot||Yes||Yes||No|
|Tap-to-pay services (NFC)||Google Pay||Google Pay||Google Pay|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 675||Qualcomm Snapdragon 660||Qualcomm Snapdragon 670|
|Camera||Quad lens 48-megapixel, 8MP telephoto, 16MP wide-angle, and 5MP rear, 25MP front||Triple lens 48-megapixel, 8MP wide-angle, and 5MP rear, 20MP front||Single-lens 12.2-megapixel rear, 8-megapixel front|
|Video||2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 60 fps||2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 60 fps||2,160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 120 fps, 720p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack||USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack||USB-C, 3.5mm audio jack|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes (in-display)||Yes (back)||Yes (back)|
|Water resistance||Splash and dust resistant||Splash resistant||Splash and dust resistant|
Fast charging 15W
Fast charging 18W
Fast charging 18W
|App marketplace||Google Play Store||Google Play Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||AT&T and T-Mobile||AT&T and T-Mobile||T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint|
|Colors||Electric Gray, Cosmic Purple, Brushed Bronze||Charcoal, Cyan Green, Ice||Just Black, Clearly White, Purple-ish|
|Buy from||Motorola||Nokia||Google, Best Buy, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, Visible|
|Review score||3.5 out of 5 stars||Hands-on||4.5 out of 5 stars|
Performance, battery life, and charging
These phones divide neatly on performance just as you’d expect from the price tags. The most expensive of the bunch, the Motorola One Zoom has the fastest processor in the shape of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675, the Pixel 3a has the Snapdragon 670, and the Nokia 7.2 has the Snapdragon 660. The difference is relatively small, the 675 is perhaps 20% faster than the 660. They each have 4GB of RAM. The Motorola and Nokia phones are evenly matched on storage with 128GB and room for a MicroSD card, but the Pixel lags behind with 64GB and no MicroSD card slot.
With a 3,000mAh capacity, the Google Pixel 3a has the smallest battery of the bunch, but it still lasted 9 hours and 12 minutes in our battery test and will see you through the day. The Nokia 7.2 has a bigger screen which may cancel out the extra 500mAh, but with a 4,000mAh battery, we would expect the Motorola One Zoom to have the most stamina. They all offer some form of fast charging, though there isn’t much difference in speed. There’s no wireless charging support here.
Winner: Motorola One Zoom
Design and durability
The Motorola One Zoom is the stand out here, especially the Cosmic Purple model, which boasts a really eye-catching design with gentle curves and a subtle micro-texture in the glass back. Motorola has dealt with the camera suite cleverly, by hosting it in a central, rounded lozenge with the M logo which is also an LED light that comes to life when you have notifications. The Nokia 7.2 is clearly updated over last year’s Nokia 7.1, but it feels a step behind with a round camera module and a recessed fingerprint sensor below. The Pixel 3a is bottom of the pack again here with a plastic back, rather than glass, and a single lens at the top left with a central, recessed fingerprint sensor.
Around front the Motorola and the Nokia are very similar with a teardrop notch at the top to accommodate the front-facing camera and a fairly slim bezel at the bottom. The Pixel 3a has big bezels by comparison. The Pixel 3a is also much smaller than the other two, which may suit some people, though you can also opt for the Pixel 3a XL at $480 if you prefer a larger phone. All three have a headphone jack, but only the Motorola has an in-display fingerprint sensor, though this isn’t necessarily an advantage as it’s an optical sensor and they’re generally not as reliable.
They’re all splash resistant, so fine with rain, but not to be dunked. The Nokia has a special plastic body that’s supposed to be stronger than polycarbonate, but it’s still a glass sandwich. The Pixel 3a may prove a little more durable because of the plastic back, but cases are advisable for each.
Winner: Motorola One Zoom
The Motorola One Zoom has the biggest display here at 6.39 inches, and it’s an OLED with deep blacks and accurate colors. The Nokia 7.2 has a 6.3-inch LCD display and, while it can’t match the deep blacks of OLED, it is bright, sharp, and HDR10 certified — it even upscales standard content to boost the contrast and enrich the colors. The Google Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch OLED that’s sharp and bright, though the colors may be a little more saturated than they should be. If a big screen is a must, you could jump up to the Pixel 3a XL, though it still tops out at 6 inches. These are all good screens for the money, but the Motorola edges a narrow win.
Winner: Motorola One Zoom
On paper, this contest appears clear cut, but there’s a lot more to a camera than the megapixel count. The Motorola One Zoom has an embarrassment of hardware riches with a 48-megapixel main lens, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens for zooming in, a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 5-megapixel lens for depth measurements. It also packs in a 25-megapixel lens around the front. The Nokia 7.2 isn’t too far behind with a 48-megapixel mains lens, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 5-megapixel lens in the main camera. It has a 20-megapixel lens around front. The Google Pixel 3a makes do with a solitary 12.2-megapixel lens and an 8-megapixel lens around front.
You may assume the Motorola wins here, but both the Motorola and the Nokia are using pixel binning technology, which combines pixels to make a better photo, essentially making a 48-megapixel shot into a better quality 12-megapixel shot. The thing is that Google is able to achieve more impressive results by applying some very clever image processing techniques. Its software smarts trump hardware, as proven by the fact that the Pixel 3 still tops our best camera phones roundup. The Pixel 3a has the same camera, it just takes a little longer to process shots. Now, that doesn’t mean the Motorola One Zoom and Nokia 7.2 cameras aren’t impressive, because they are, and the if the contest was about versatility, the Motorola would take it, but in a point and shoot contest without any fiddling, the Pixel 3a is going to produce the best shots most of the time.
Winner: Google Pixel 3a
Software and updates
All three offer an uncluttered, bloatware-free software experience that’s extremely accessible.
The Pixel 3a has a clear advantage here, being Google’s phone it gets Android version updates first and it gets a steady stream of security updates. The Pixel 3a already has Android 10 and it also boasts cool features like Now Playing, which subtly tells you what songs are playing around you on the always-on display. The Nokia 7.2 comes next because it’s part of the Android One program which guarantees two years of Android version updates and three years of security updates. The One Zoom comes last because Motorola has dropped Android One and only committed to one Android version update and “industry-related” security updates, which is a real disappointment.
Winner: Google Pixel 3a
While the Motorola One Zoom and the Nokia 7.2 are solid all-around phones, they don’t have much in the way of special features, whereas the Pixel 3a offers some compelling software treats. On top of the aforementioned Now Playing, there’s the Active Edge which enables you to squeeze your phone to launch Google Assistant, there’s Call Screen to deal with spam callers, and the Pixel is likely to get Google’s latest app feature first, as it did with AR mode in Google Maps.
Winners: Google Pixel 3a
Price and availability
The Motorola One Zoom costs $450 and you can buy it directly from Motorola; it will work on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. The Nokia 7.2 costs $350 and you can buy it from Amazon or Best Buy come the end of September; it also only works on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile. The Google Pixel 3a is $400, the Pixel 3a XL (which is the same but with a bigger screen) is $480 and you can buy them from Google or direct from a bunch of carriers including T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon; they’ll also work fine on AT&T.
Overall winner: Google Pixel 3a
While the Motorola One Zoom wins the hardware battle here and it’s a good-looking, modern phone, the Google Pixel 3a boasts a superior software experience that carries over into the camera. Obviously, it depends on what you’re looking for, but if we were given the choice to live with one of these phones, we’d pick the Pixel. If you crave a big screen and as much power as you can get, and you find the One Zoom attractive, then it’s probably the best choice for you. The Nokia 7.2 trails behind here, but let’s not forget that it’s significantly cheaper and if your budget won’t stretch it represents great value and comes very close to matching these two on most fronts.
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