Trying to pick a new phone
August 16, 2019 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm really torn between the Moto G7, the Pixel 3a, and the Pixel 3. I am more than familiar with the different technical specs and advantages. I'm still torn. Help me decide - if you've bought one of these three specific phones, do you love it or regret it and why?

I guess feel free to suggest android alternatives too but I won't consider an iPhone or anything that's more expensive than the Pixel 3's current sale price (~600 CAD).

The main things that matter to me, in descending order of importance:

-battery life (Moto G7 power >> Moto G7 = Pixel 3a > Pixel 3)
-price (Moto G7 is about half the price of the Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3 is normally much more but is currently on sale for just slightly more than the 3a)
-camera quality (Pixel >> Moto G7 and I'm so tired of having a terrible camera)
-water resistance (Pixel 3 >> Moto G7 > Pixel 3a; note, I drop my phone into liquids several times a year on average and very often get it wet from rain, but both of my Moto G-line phones survived this)

Things I don't care too much about:

-better processor (I've always been satisfied with Moto G-line phones)
-fancy perks like wireless charging, though it's nice and all
-screen size and quality (smaller is better but I can adapt)
-the lack of a headphone jack, annoying but not a big deal
-not sure how much the guaranteed android updates affect day to day performance

I think if they were all the same price I'd go for the Pixel 3, so I guess I'm really just trying to figure out if the Pixel 3/3a is worth the big jump in price. But I am concerned about the ~8h battery life reported for the Pixel 3, as I'm used to great battery life with Moto phones and I want my phone to stand up to a full day of heavy use. So I'm especially interested in real-life experiences with the Pixel 3 battery life.
posted by randomnity to Technology (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a pixel 3. I suspect I would be more than happy with a 3a, since mainly I just love the photography. It's as good at taking photos as the reviewers suggest. The battery life is definitely a drawback; the wireless charging offsets that a bit for me as I have a pad at the office and in the kitchen, and can leave it sit for a while. I haven't seen a 3a in person, but I don't see much reason to pay even a small price difference if you won't be taxing the processor.
posted by dbx at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2019

I would consider adding a OnePlus phone to your list.
posted by pipeski at 9:30 AM on August 16, 2019

I have had the 3a for a little over a month, after comparing it to the Pixel 3.

So far: the battery life is significantly better than the 2015 Moto X it replaced. I can easily get two days even playing games or taking a lot of pictures. I did customize several things, including replacing the google bar and disabling a lot of the google stuff. It charges really fast as well.

The camera is great. There are better sensors out there, but the software processing is amazing and my pictures look fantastic, even in low light.

It's not waterproof, and with a physical headpone jack I probably wouldn't dunk it in the toilet. That said, it's still water-resistant - there aren't a lot of ports or openings I've had a couple spills and it's none the worse for wear.

Things that made me choose the 3a over the 3:
I like the plastic back. Don't like the glass back on the 3, and don't need wireless charging. Don't like cases.
Headphone jack - I have several pairs of nice headphones and hate buds/bluetooth.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:31 AM on August 16, 2019

If you're prone to dropping your phone into liquids such that they get fully submerged (rather than just the occasional splash or rainstorm), I'd skip the Pixel 3A, as it has no waterproofing to speak of, and replacing your phone more often will quickly eat into whatever money you've saved going in that direction.

I have a Pixel 3 and I like it well enough. It's nice to have stock Android, and I get regular system updates, and Google has promised at least 3 years of support for the device (from the time of launch). I find the battery life to be pretty good, with a full charge handling a day of moderate usage handily. The camera is supposed to be really good, and the photos I've taken with it seem to support that, but I'm not much of a shutterbug, so I don't feel qualified to speak to that so much.

I'd also consider checking out the OnePlus line of phones in your shoes.
posted by Aleyn at 9:42 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Super happy with the Pixel 3a, FWIW. The camera software is just an amazing leap forward over previous versions. Night Sight is really great, and the portrait mode, which I expected to look gimmicky and cheap works really well. (It's mind-blowing that a tiny phone cam can replicate what used to take 5k in camera equipment)

I'm fairly loyal to the Pixel/Google line because I value having a "stock" experience without vendor cruft, and the guaranteed updates are nice too.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:02 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing to keep in mind about android updates (that you say you don't care much about), is that even if the OS doesn't update, Play Services will keep updating unless one roots the phone and force-disables this. I've had phones slowly become unusable as Play Services updates minorly break things that potentially would only be fixed with an OS update. Note, I always configure the google play store to not auto-update any apps, and I only update if there are application bugs I want a fix for.

E.G. My original gen Moto G stopped being able to connect to my Garmin after a Play Services update (verified by (already having rooted my phone, but if you need to do it, the phone gets wiped in the oem unlock process), uninstalling play updates, disabling update, and finally getting things working again - a great use of several hours of my life to test everything else getting to this point).

Similarly, one of my kids' older tablets on Android 5, eventually starting getting repeating pop-up's from play services not getting along with the android 5 OS, making the tablet unusable.

Having had and liked the Moto G and the Moto E5 Plus, the only thing I dislike about this line of phones are the no OS updates mean the phone slowly gets broken/slowed by Play Services constant updating. And if you force Play Services to never update, some apps downloaded in the future might not work.

If you don't want to keep the phone beyond 2 years, don't let this factor into your consideration. If you'd like to keep and use this phone without tearing out your hair for 3-5 years, I'd suggest skipping the G7. Note, the Pixel3/3a will also eventually of course stop receiving updates but 1) they're more popular, so custom roms are more likely to be supported further in the future, and 2) you'll have likely received 1-2 years more of updates than the G7 by the time the 3/3a isn't supported.
posted by nobeagle at 10:03 AM on August 16, 2019

I have a G7 and like it. That said, everyone seems to agree that the Pixel has a better camera.

I shoot with my DSLR so I don't really care about the phone camera. I decided to go with the G7 because it was cheaper and because I've always really liked the little Moto touches like shaking your phone for the camera and the active display for notifications.

Also, I've never had a major Android update to any of my phones that hasn't made the phone slower, buggier and shittier so I'll pass on endless updates or whatever.

Also none of these phones has a replaceable battery so don't concern yourself with time frames over two years as you'll likely be sick of the half dead battery by then.
posted by selfnoise at 10:11 AM on August 16, 2019

I've had experience with all of these phones. If you're not really cash-strapped, I would just go Pixel 3. You're not going to be sorry that you have a faster phone with nicer hardware and a fantastic camera. The 3a's are really great as well.

While I really enjoyed my Moto G7 and found it perfectly sufficient as a device (and I really like a lot of the Moto gesture features, actually), I had to replace w/ a Pixel after only a few months, because the screen kept breaking. It's crappier Gorilla Glass, and small drops would cause it to break. (I am not a perpetual phone screen breaker...have never had another screen break on me, and it was in a pretty decent case.) So it ended up being...not cheaper.
posted by nosila at 10:26 AM on August 16, 2019

I have a Moto G6 and it SEEMS fine now (only 6 mo old), but my Moto G5S+ completely bricked itself after only a year and a half. I'd be very leery about buying another Moto phone (I only did because I was desperate and there weren't any other $200 phones on my carrier)
posted by UltraMorgnus at 10:42 AM on August 16, 2019

I recently upgraded from a G5 Plus to a Pixel3a (and I wish I got the 3aXL).

The battery life is great on the 3a - If I have the screen on and something active on it (PokemonGO), it will not last the whole day. But for general use (no P-GO) without charging through the day, I have had 60% battery when going to bed.

The camera quality is great.

I have never dropped a phone into liquid, but have had it out in light rain - no problems

Pixel has a headphone jack (on the top), my G5 was on the bottom.

The display on the Pixel is OLED, and very vibrant (great for batter life)

I really enjoyed my G5, but did miss that it did not have an NFC radio for the US market.
posted by bonofasitch at 10:48 AM on August 16, 2019

Thanks for the input! I think I'm leaning towards the Pixel 3 now. If any Pokemon-playing Pixel 3 owners can comment on how the battery manages through a 3 hour Pokemon event that would be very helpful info. Ideally I would like to have it last for another hour or two of moderate use after the 3 hours of very heavy use. I think the camera upgrade is a fair trade for the increased price and I like the other perks so if the battery life is manageable I think I'll go for it.

I checked out the OnePlus 6T and 7 and they seem good specs-wise but they're quite a bit pricier and the absolutely massive screen is a big downside, plus they seem to have a slightly worse camera than the Pixel 3 as well.
posted by randomnity at 11:47 AM on August 16, 2019

I'm on Google Fi. I traded in a Pixel 1 XL to get a Pixel 3a XL and I just bought my pops a Moto G7 in order to finally get him out of Verizon Hell. I set up his Moto G7 so I've spent a night or so with it.

I don't have a ton to add beyond what's been said above. The 3a XL is great for me and the things I care about (headphone jack, updates, battery life, great camera). I wish it had more storage or that it took a microSD card, but I can live with it. It's a pretty darn cool phone.

The Moto G7 is fine for my pops. He likes it, but he is definitely not a demanding or sophisticated user. It's by far the best phone he's ever had, all his previous phones being the sort of bargain-bin $50 Samsung that the "Verizon" store salepeople sell to rubes for $100 because they are shitheels.

Based on what you wrote, I think the Moto G7 would probably be fine for you.

For your further consideration, Anandtech just put out their article for Best Android Phones: Q3 2019 and the interesting part for me was that they recommend the Xiaomi Mi9 over the Pixel 3a family, even though the Mi9 is not "officially supported" in North American. It's actually better hardware and cheaper than the Pixel 3a family if you're willing to risk the potential headaches involved regarding carriers, support, and warranties.
posted by glonous keming at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2019

One further datapoint on the 3a: I've managed to drop it / launch it across the room onto the hardwood floor three times now without even scuffing it.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:52 AM on August 16, 2019

I upgraded from a Moto g5+ to a Moto g7, it's a pretty nice upgrade. Better camera(than g5+, not nearly as good as pixel), cpu, screen, speaker, etc. That said, the pixel 3a wasn't announced yet, so I regret the upgrade.

Go for the pixel 3a, you'll get the amazing camera, on time updates, more years of os upgrades. And it's not as pricy as the 3.

Although checkout sales on the pixel 3, they've been running deals on it recently, presumably to clear out stock before the pixel 4. But it's probably still more than the 3a, and not worth the extra cost.
posted by TheAdamist at 4:30 PM on August 16, 2019

To be clear, I didn't mean to imply that the Moto G7 was a good phone for unsophisticated users and that you should get for that reason. I just meant that it was more than ample for my sample of (1) non-tech-savvy father. I think the G7 would be fine for you because it's less expensive than the Pixel 3a's and it matches up with what you want better than the Pixel 3a's.
posted by glonous keming at 4:48 PM on August 16, 2019

So something that hasn't been brought up here yet - Motorola has a pretty bad track record with updates on their phones. Which means that most of their phones are not patched against malware and security holes, making them significantly less safe to use over long time than Pixels. Unfortunately, Pixels and a few other brands (Nokia?) are the only ones that guarantee regular and quick updates in case a bad security hole shows up in the wild. They're pretty much the only Android phones that have separate hardened security chip and isolated network modem like iPhones.
If you don't want to worry about your phone, getting a Pixel is a better choice because it'll actually be supported significantly longer than any of the Motorolas. Pixel 3 is a bit faster due to faster internal memory, but the difference isn't worth the price premium over Pixel 3a - they have the same great camera, pretty much the same form factor and they don't feel that much different when in use.
posted by mavrik at 2:25 AM on August 18, 2019

To clarify the cost difference, the Pixel 3 at its current sale price is only 50$ (CAD) more than the Pixel 3a - I wouldn't be considering it at its normal price. I don't see the 3 as a huge upgrade from the 3a but the waterproofing alone is probably worth an extra 50$ to me.

The only thing making me hesitate now is the battery life, which people say is pretty bad. I think I can manage it, though.
posted by randomnity at 6:19 AM on August 19, 2019

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