Google bucks soaring smartphone prices with $399 Pixel 3a

The new Pixel was available on Tuesday, May 7 at Google's online shop for the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.

The standard 3a has a 5.6-inch full HD+ OLED display while the 3a XL has a 6-inch one. The phones carry a Snapdragon 670 processor, down from the Pixel 3's former range-topping Snapdragon 845, and 64GB of max storage, down from 128GB. 

The build has been changed from glass to plastic, hence the removal of its wireless charging feature found in the original 3. Water resistance is also gone, but the original Pixel 3 camera, which has been praised, makes the transition to the midrange version. The headphone jack also makes a return in the 3a phones.  

The phones have 4GB of RAM and fast wired charging for its 3,700 mAh (3a XL) and 3,000 mAh (3a) batteries. 

#Pixel3a has arrived and its camera is worth all the hype and all the captures. And the best feature? Get all this for only $399. ✓Night Sight ✓Portrait Mode ✓Color Pop ✓Google Lens pic.twitter.com/nuzzym3Q5k — Made by Google (@madebygoogle) May 7, 2019

Osterloh contended that the price is about half that of latest generation premium smartphones but is built with camera, digital assistant, and other features found in top-end handsets.

"They just redefined what a mid-priced phone can do," Forrester Research  principal analyst Frank Gillett said at the event.

Google's expertise is software, so getting features like artificial intelligence to work on less costly smartphones plays to the internet giant's strength, according to Gillett.

Enabling artificial intelligence to handle sophisticated features on smartphone means less user data needs to be shared with online data centers to handle tasks, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said while discussing steps being taken to strengthen privacy and security of users.

"We always want to do more for users, but do it with less data over time," Pichai said.

"We strongly believe that privacy and security are for everyone."

The Pixel 3a makes its debut in a tightening smartphone market, particularly when it comes to premium models, with Google having failed to garner significant market share.

Over the past quarter, South Korea's Samsung led all manufacturers with a 23% share in a global market that fell 6.6%, according to research firm IDC.

China's Huawei, US-based Apple and three other Chinese firms rounded out the top five, according to IDC.

Google stepped up its hardware ambitions last year with the acquisition of the smartphone division of Taiwan-based HTC.

The new Pixel 3a device is being introduced as Apple and Samsung have boosted prices of their newest handsets to over $1,000, and with Google's flagship Pixel 3 selling from around $800.

Google also shared some details on the new, upcoming version of its Android OS, Android Q. It will be better at supporting upcoming foldable phones, make privacy controls easier, and will have a new Dark Mode feature. Users will now also be reminded when location data is being used by an app, and are given access to more parental controls and a Focus Mode that lets users select apps they want to avoid using for a set period of time. – with reports from Gelo Gonzales/Rappler.com