Exploding Cell Phones, a Pixel 7A, and a Google Pixel 8

By Randy Wakeman

The best camera you have with you often means your cell phone.

One of the many problems with lithium-ion batteries is that they can swell and catch fire, and lithium battery problems are on the rise the more they are in common use. Samsung issued a global recall of their Galaxy Note 7 in 2016, the first of many problems.

So it went with my Google Pixel 6, the battery swelling so grotesquely that it lifted the screen off of the phone frame over a half of an inch, shown above.

Unfortunately, not having a smart phone isn't an option these days, particularly if you do any travel at all. Not in the mood to spend $1700 on a phone, I looked for the best value at the time. On January 26, it was the Google Pixel 7A at $537. Prices jump around on cell phones constantly: you can get a new Pixel 7A today for $374. As my poor timing would have it, soon after my Pixel 7A purchase the Pixel 8 price dropped significantly from $700 to $549, just a lousy twelve bucks more than I paid for the 7A. So, I ordered a Pixel 8 and returned the 7A after transferring my data.

Actually, the 7A proved to be a decent phone, but testing the 7A and the Pixel 8 side by side showed quickly what the main differences are. The Pixel 8 has a slightly larger, brighter screen with very good visibility outdoors (2,000 nits peak brightness), takes better pictures, and charges up both wired and wirelessly much more quickly than the 7A.

Google Pixel 7a supports 7.5W wireless charging, 18W wired. With a standard Qi wireless charger, the Pixel 8 offers 18W wireless and then 27W wired. You'll notice this immediately. The Pixel 8 has an IP68 rating vs the IP67 rating of the 7A, This ingress protection just means a tiny bit more waterproof depth of 1.5 meters vs. 1 meter for 30 minutes. The Pixel 8 also has the latest Google processor, the Tensor G3, and a higher 120Hx refresh rate screen. I was running Android 14 on both phones, so zero difference there.

The battery degradation is something that plagues lithium-ion batteries. While a touted benefit of new phones is free updates, the Pixel 8 offering 7 years of support. While that may sound good, it won't get you a new battery, a better screen, a faster processor, or a better camera, and the last several Android updates are not exactly “Wake the President” material. The batteries themselves are not expensive, $45 or so, but the labor runs in the $110 range, so after the $155 or so you throw into an old phone (Pixel 6 in my case), you still have an old phone. The new phone just got $155 cheaper, new battery included.

If you are looking for a recommendation, yes-- I think the Pixel 8 (above) is a big winner, for my uses. https://amzn.to/48gpyip

However, if you are feeling a bit unflush likely the best bargain out there today is the Samsung Galaxy A54 5G . . . a stunning phone at $349 as of this writing. Samsung A54 You save $200 with the Samsung. No wireless charging, but the wired charging is 25W, it features a larger 6.4 inch 120 Hz OLED screen, and a bigger battery. I think it pulls ahead of the now similarly-priced Pixel 7A on several levels.

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