Common Google Pixel 3a Problems and How to Fix Them

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The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are almost two years old now. Released back in 2019, reviewers considered them as the best mid-range smartphones money could buy. Even though the Pixel 3a lineup didn’t have the beefy specs as its flagship counterpart, it received Google’s wisdom in the software and camera department. At the time of writing, the devices are running Android 11 and are slated to receive the next major update.

If you own a Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL, you won’t likely switch to a new phone anytime soon. However, you might also have run into a few issues with your device at some point, such as Wi-Fi problems and random reboots. In that case, you are not alone. Other users have reported the same issues with their units as well.

Luckily, you are at the right place. This guide highlights some of the common issues Google’s Pixel 3a / 3a XL suffers from and provides solutions to fix them.

Ringtones don’t work

Surprisingly, one of the most common problems Pixel 3a and 3a XL owners come across is related to ringtones. While the devices have no problem outputting music and other audio through the speakers, ringtones don’t seem to play at all, even when the settings are correct. Instead, the phone only vibrates on incoming calls.

If you seem to have the same issue on your unit, here are a few solutions you should check out:

  • First, reboot your device in Safe Mode (tap and hold the Power off icon in the power menu, then tap OK). Next, go to Settings > Sound, expand the Advanced options, tap Phone ringtone, and then try playing a ringtone.
    If you can hear it in Safe Mode, chances are an app you’ve recently installed or updated is causing the issue. In that case, proceed to uninstall it and reboot your device to see if the ringtones play again as they should.
  • Alternatively, go to Settings > System > Advanced > Reset and tap the Reset app preferences option. It might resolve the ringtone issue on your device.
  • Some users have discovered an unconventional fix for the ringtone issue: Set the default device language to English (US). However, if you prefer to use your Pixel 3a or 3a XL in your regional language, this isn’t a proper solution.
  • If everything plays back through the device’s speaker but not ringtones, it’s most likely a weird software glitch. Though in case you can’t hear any sound (e.g., notification alerts, alarms) coming out of the bottom speaker grill, it’s probably a hardware problem.

Random reboots and shutdowns

Many Pixel 3a and 3a XL units have reportedly been suffering from random reboots and shutdowns. If you are also facing this particular issue, try booting your device in Safe Mode and check whether a recently installed or updated app is the root of the problem.

Unfortunately, there have been neither software updates nor any user-applied workarounds that mitigate the random reboots. Chances are you have faulty hardware, so we recommend asking for a replacement if possible.

Inaccurate fingerprint reading

Nowadays, almost every Android phone supports biometric authentication via fingerprints. Pixel 3a has a good-old capacitive fingerprint scanner at the back, though some users seem to have run into issues with it when trying to unlock the device or make secure payments. If you are one of them, here are a couple of fixes:

  • The best solution is to use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the fingerprint scanner. Plus, if your hands are always dirty, it’s difficult for the scanner to read your fingerprint.
  • Go to Settings > Security > Fingerprint, delete your existing fingerprints, and go through the fingerprint setup process again. To increase accuracy, you can also add the same fingerprint twice.
  • If none of the above tips work for you, try factory resetting your phone (Settings > Advanced > Reset options). Before that, you should also back up your important files and media as they will be wiped during factory reset.

It’s worth noting that this issue hasn’t been seen much on the Pixel 3a XL, but the following tips should apply to it in case you own one that suffers from the same problem.

Wi-Fi connectivity issues

Wi-Fi-related issues are prominent on both the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, especially after the Android 11 update. A few users have reported massive battery drains when connected to the Wi-Fi all the time, while others have complained about getting lower Wi-Fi speeds despite a strong wireless reception. Here are the potential workarounds:

  • If you are facing battery drainage issues, check whether you are connected to a 5 GHz Wi-Fi network. If that’s the case, consider switching to a 2.4 GHz access point instead.
    While you will get lower download/upload speeds, it will fix the battery draining. A software update in the near future is expected to resolve the issue.
  • For those who are getting lower internet speeds over Wi-Fi despite a high-speed connection, resetting connectivity settings should fix the problem. Simply head over to the Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options menu and tap the “Reset Wi-Fi, mobile & Bluetooth” option.
    Once you do that, reconnect to your home Wi-Fi network and run a speed test (speedtest.net or fast.com). Many users claim this to be a temporary workaround, so you might have to wait for Google to roll out a patch that fixes the connectivity issue permanently.

Additional troubleshooting

If your Pixel 3a or 3a XL can’t even connect to the Wi-Fi network or access the internet, check out the troubleshooting steps below.

  • Turn off the Battery Saver feature from the Settings > Battery menu or the notification shade.
  • Reboot your Pixel device. In the meantime, unplug your Wi-Fi router for 15-20 seconds, and then plug it back to the wall outlet.
  • Go to the Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi menu, choose your home Wi-Fi access point, and tap Forget on the following screen. After that, reconnect to the network and check if the connectivity issues persist.
  • If you have the MAC filter enabled on your home router, make sure to add your Pixel device’s Wi-Fi MAC address to the list. To find it, visit Settings > About Phone and scroll down to the “Device Wi-Fi MAC address” option.

Charging cable issues

From slow charging speeds to data transfer errors, Pixel 3a and 3a XL owners complain a lot about the charging cable that’s supplied with their devices. Here’s what you should do:

  • Most of the time, problems like slow charging and data transfer errors are caused by the charging lead. If it happens with your charging cable, test it with another phone or device. Once you confirm the cable is the culprit, ask for a replacement or buy a new one.
  • The original cable that comes with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL has a Type-C connector on both ends. The supplied charger also has a USB-C port. Some users have found Type-C to Type-A cables as a solution to the slow charging issue. Thus, consider buying an aftermarket mobile charger with the latter type of USB cable.
    However, make sure the charger you are purchasing meets the specifications of the original one. A cheap quality charger can decrease the battery lifespan and possibly damage your Pixel device.
  • In case a new cable doesn’t fix the charging speed or data transfer errors, it’s most likely the USB-C port on your phone itself. Carefully cleaning out the port with either compressed air or a tool with a sharp edge should do the job.
  • When cleaning the USB-C port doesn’t fix it, it might be a case of damaged pins or a faulty port. At that point, you have no choice but to send your device for repair.

Boot looping after update

Boot looping has been prevalent on several Nexus and Pixel devices, and some Pixel 3a and 3a XL units have also reportedly suffered from the same issue. If your phone doesn’t go past the boot screen even after several force restarts, chances are it’s stuck on a boot loop.

To make your Pixel device boot into Android, you only have one option: Perform a factory reset. You will find step-by-step instructions below.

  1. First, press and hold the Power and Volume Down button until your device shuts down and boots into Fastboot mode.
  2. When you see the “No command” message on the screen, press and hold the Power button, followed by pressing the Volume Up button once and releasing both.
  3. Use the volume rockers to navigate to the Recovery mode option, then press the Power button once.
  4. Once you boot into Recovery, move down to the Wipe data/factory reset option using the volume rockers again, and press the Power button to select it.
  5. On the next screen, select Factory reset and wait for your device to complete the process.
  6. Finally, highlight the Reboot system now option and press the Power button to restart your Pixel device.

A factory reset should hopefully allow your phone to boot back into Android again. However, note that it will wipe all of your files and media from your Pixel 3a, so you may need to restore them from a backup on Google Drive and Google Photos.

Unfortunately, if you didn’t have your important data backed up to the cloud, there’s nothing you can do to retrieve them.

To conclude

These are some of the common problems users have come across with the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. We have discussed them in detail and provided a handful of fixes and workarounds for you to try.

It’s worth mentioning that we didn’t highlight major issues like disappearing photos, camera app slowdowns, carrier locks, and poor memory management on the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. Google has already fixed them with the recent monthly patches, so make sure to check for the latest updates from Settings > System > System update and install them immediately.

If you have encountered any other issues on your Pixel device, please let us know in the comments so that we can help you out.

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