Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: what's the difference?

google pixel 8 and pixel 8a phone
Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8Google

Every year, Google releases at least three smartphones, and more often than not they end up being some of the best phones of the moment.

In 2024, the best Pixel phone (and the most expensive) is the Google Pixel 8 Pro, which launched alongside the more affordable Google Pixel 8. Until now, that was the cheapest in the series, but Google has recently released a new budget handset, the Google Pixel 8a.

The Google Pixel 8a starts at £499 for the model with 128GB of storage, although it's likely there will be some good Pixel 8a deals in the coming months — if the Pixel 7a is anything to go by, the price could eventually drop to less than £400.

At the time of writing, the new handset is £200 cheaper than the Google Pixel 8, which starts at £699. Having said that, the best Pixel 8 deals have seen Google's flagship sell for around £570 in the past couple of months.

With that in mind, is it worth spending the extra cash on the Google Pixel 8 or should you save money by choosing the Google Pixel 8a? You've come to the right place to find out.

Digital Spy has tested both smartphones to put the Pixel 8a and the Pixel 8 head-to-head. Here, I'll take you through everything you need to know about the design, display, camera, performance, battery and software.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8

google pixel 8 and pixel 8a phone
Digital Spy

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Design and display

While it's clear that these two phones are closely related, the Pixel 8a looks a little different to the Pixel 8.

The 8a has more rounded corners and a new matte back instead of the Pixel 8's glossy glass. The Google Pixel 8a also comes in a few different colourways, including aloe green, bay blue, obsidian black and porcelain white. The Google Pixel 8, on the other hand, comes in mint green, hazel green, obsidian black and rose pink.

Both have a polished aluminium frame, both have Google's iconic camera bar stretched across the back and both are IP67 water and dust-resistant.

Just like the Pixel 7a that came before it, Google has opted to use a 6.1-inch screen on the Pixel 8a, in comparison to the Pixel 8's 6.2-inch display, although both use OLED screen tech and both have the same resolution of 1080 x 2400 pixels.

a hand holding a white cell phone
Digital Spy/Yasmine Crossland

The 8a is ever so slightly more pixel-dense at 430PPI instead of 428PPI, but that won't make any difference to how the human eye sees the screen.

An adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz is available across the two devices, which allows for an always-on display, and you'll also get up to 2,000 nits peak brightness on both.

Protecting the display, the Pixel 8a has Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is a little older than the Pixel 8's Gorilla Glass Victus and supposedly a little less scratch-resistant.

There's not much difference between the two screens, bar the 0.1 inches in size and the cover glass, I found the two screens to be just as satisfying to use for everything from snapping and editing photos to watching shows on the best streaming services.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Camera

Powering the camera system, the Google Pixel 8a uses a 64 MP Quad PD wide lens and a 13 MP ultrawide camera. In comparison, the Pixel 8 has a 50 MP Octa PD wide camera and a 12 MP ultrawide camera.

Just because the Pixel 8a has more pixels, doesn't mean it has better camera quality – the Pixel 8's main camera has a wider sensor (1/1.31" instead of 1/1.73") and a wider aperture (ƒ/1.68 instead of ƒ/1.89) which means it should be able to let in more light than its less-expensive sibling.

Truth be told, it did make quite a noticeable difference. While the Pixel 8a delivered crisp, balanced shots, the results could sometimes look a little dark whereas the Pixel 8 was much better at delivering bright, vibrant photography.

Pixels are known for their artificially-led camera software, which enhances shots pre and post-capture. The best thing? They work similarly across all Pixel devices, whether that's the budget Pixel 8a, the flagship Pixel 8 or even the Google Pixel Fold.

a couple of white rectangular objects with black buttons on a green surface
Digital Spy/Yasmine Crossland

Neither the Pixel 8 nor the Pixel 8a have a telephoto lens, so both rely on a digital zoom that crops the photos instead of physically moving closer to the subject. To help improve how that looks, both come with 8x Super Res Zoom.

Other features include a dedicated Night Sight to snap shots in low-lighting conditions, photo unblur and real tone to make sure everyone's skin looks accurate in all your photos and videos.

To edit your pictures after Google has worked its magic, there are lots of cool features to try out.

The Pixel 8a gets all the same tools as the Pixel 8. That includes Best Take to combine group shots so everyone looks their best, the Magic Editor to reposition, resize and delete objects in your photos, and the Audio Magic Eraser to get rid of annoying background noise in your videos.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Performance and battery

The Google Pixel 8a and Google Pixel 8 carry the same Google Tensor G3 chipset along with 8GB of RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of internal storage.

Created to power all of Google's AI features like Live Transcribe and the Magic Eraser, the Tensor processor is quick and efficient, even if it's not as powerful as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 equivalent used in some of the best Samsung phones. I didn't notice any difference in the running of the device.

The battery used in the Pixel 8 is slightly bigger (4,575mAh) than the one in the Pixel 8a (4,492mAh) but the difference is so small it shouldn't have much impact. The Pixel 8 lasts throughout the day and even into the next, the Pixel 8a needed to be charged slightly more regularly but it still got me through an entire day of scrolling and swiping.

two smartphones side by side
Digital Spy/Yasmine Crossland

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Software

The Google Pixel 8a and the Google Pixel 8 run on Android 14 and will both receive seven years of system updates. You can expect the same features whichever handset you buy.

I'll run through a few of them to give you an idea of how extensive the Google Pixel features are.

Firstly, Circle to Search allows you to highlight words, images or videos to search for them online. You'll also get Pixel Call Assist with Call Screen, Hold For Me and Direct My Call.

As well as that, the At A Glance Widget will show you all your reminders, the weather forecast and travel updates on your lock screen. And the Pixel 8a introduces the new Audio Emoji feature to trigger sound with visual effects.

Security is important to Google, which is why it includes a built-in VPN in all its smartphones.

Google Pixel 8a vs Google Pixel 8: Verdict

The Google Pixel 8a and the Google Pixel 8 aren't worlds apart in design, hardware or features – in fact, they are very similar devices and they have identical software.

The Pixel 8 has a slightly better camera system than the Pixel 8a, a slightly bigger battery and a more resilient, slightly bigger screen. If any of those factors are important to you, then it could be worth spending the extra money especially if you can find a good deal.

In saying that, if you want to save as many pennies as possible, you should buy the Google Pixel 8a. We're hoping it will be one of the best Android phones you can buy for less than £500 because you won't be missing out on any major specs or features in comparison to the flagship.

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