Over recent years Google has managed to create hardware that matches the brilliance of its software.
The pinnacle of this came recently with the launch of the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro: two smartphones that not only offer the best version of Android but have hardware smarts that make you think twice about picking up a rival handset... any rival handset.
Now, Google is back in its Pixel 7 playground, with the launch of the Google Pixel 7a - a cut-price version of its flagship range.
It may have only just been revealed at Google I/O but ShortList has had the handset as its daily driver for some time now and reckon that, when it comes to the mid-range, it doesn't get much better than this.
Here are 5 things to know about the Google Pixel 7a...
1. It's practically Pixel 7 in its looks
You would be forgiven in thinking that the Pixel 7a is the Pixel 7 as looks and build wise, it's almost identical. It's got pretty much the same chassis (it's slightly smaller in height) measuring 72.9 x 152.4 x 9.0g and the screen is also the same size, at 6.1 inches.
The actual material is it made from is more durable than that of its predecessors. In Google parlance, there's Ano frame architecture surrounding the screen. essentially the back isn't made of glass, but plastic, like it is on the others in the 7 series.
There is a thinner camera array that's nestled within the familiar 3D aluminium strip, while the same speaker grills are situated on the bottom of the device. There seems to be an extra antenna strip at the top of the device, while the on/off and volume slider is also in the same position.
2. The Pixel 7a screen is big, bright and adaptive
The Pixel 7a has a 90Hz screen, which is the same as the Pixel 7 (the Pro can go up to 120Hz). This is a decent screen refresh rate bump from the Google Pixel 6a and while it might not reach the 120Hz that the Samsung Galaxy A54 offers, we found no judder when flicking between apps and game, watching Netflix and the like.
On Netflix: the 6.1-inch screen is a lovely size to watch movies and shows on the go on. The brightness is adaptive, too. This worked best when heading outside, where the screen got brighter to counteract the sun, then going back into a darker room - it was quick and accurate.
We only had to manual toggle the brightness a few times, mostly to make the screen a little darker when doom scrolling with the lights out.
3. Google's UI is still fantastic and works great on the 7a
One of the best things about using a Google Pixel phone is the UI. Google's Material means that you can choose a different wallpaper style and that style will follow throughout the whole of the phone. We prefer the solid color and the way this theme runs throughout the whole UI is really neat.
You can also theme the icons, but this is currently in Beta and when we tried this, only a few of the icons actually changed color.
The pureness of Android 13 on the Pixel 7a makes using this phone a joy. From seamlessly jumping through apps and services to customising the look of the UI to my liking, I was really impressed.
4. Performance is still punchy, thanks to Google's chip
At A Glance was decent, too, taking information from our calendar to make sure we know when we should be leaving for a meeting and the like. It's not perfect, but it certainly stopped us jumping through many apps to figure out just what we were doing on any given day.
When it comes to battery, the great news here is that Google has added wireless charging back into its A range, with the Pixel 7a.
Battery life itself was solid but not outstanding. We found ourselves having to charge by the end of the day. It's worth noting that battery life actually got better the more we used the phone, though. This is because it learns what apps you are using regularly and the ones you don't, adapting the power accordingly.
There are some decent options to extend the battery life, too, though Extreme Battery Saver. Google reckons you can get up 72 hours battery life, if you turn this on but what you can do with th phone is limited.
5. Cameras get a big upgrade from the Pixel 6a
The cameras on the Google Pixel 6a were as follows: 12.2MP wide, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP selfie. They were good! But 7a has completely overhauled its camera, upgrading to a whopping: 64MP, 13MP ultra-wide and a 13MP selfie.
These cameras are fantastic and are coupled with some great AI features.
Like the Pixel 7a, you can use the Magic Eraser to get rid of people and objects in the background of shots. There's also a one-touch long exposure feature which adds some nice blur to images.
I also really liked the Night Sight functionality - it's faster than ever before and works really well enhancing what light there is in the shot.
Google has also sorted out the skin tone in its camera shots, so no matter the color of your skin it should be replicated authentically, thanks to something called Color Tone.
Google Pixel 7a: Final Verdict
I was really impressed using the Google Pixel 7a. Yes, Google has slimmed down the specs and used slightly cheaper material to make its new handset but the cuts that have been made are minimal.
And if you compare the phone to its actual predecessor, the 6a, then the upgrades are substantial.
There is a price for this, though. Google has priced this handset at $499 / £449. This is a $50 / £50 markup. I think it's worth it, but it may make those who are on a budget look elsewhere.
The Google Pixel 7a is available to buy now.
- Fancy a Google flagship? Here's out Google Pixel 7 Pro review