Google Pixel 6a Preview

The Google Pixel 6a arrives Thursday, and even more than its predecessors, it appears to raise the bar on what’s possible with a midrange smartphone. And I’m happy to report that I’ll be reviewing it soon, though my unit won’t arrive until next week.

It will be hard to wait. As I’m sure you know, I’ve always been a fan of Google’s A-series Pixels and, for that matter, its Pixel Buds A-series earbuds. These products take the best of Google’s flagship hardware products and compromise on materials and features to bring down the cost and amp up the value. The key, of course, is making the right compromises. Previous A-series Pixels, for example, either had low-end specifications that could undercut the long-term value, or tiny displays.

But the Pixel 6a is different. It features the same unique and compelling design that Google first offered on the flagship-class Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which I really like. It has the same flagship-class Tensor microprocessor. A reasonably sized and flat 6.1-inch OLED display. And Google’s highly respected dual camera system with most of the quality and features found on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. It’s a Pixel through and through.

So where did Google compromise? Your needs may vary, but from my perspective, nowhere important.

Its display only supports a 60 Hz refresh rate, and not 90 Hz (Pixel 6) or 120 Hz (Pixel 6 Pro), a feature I disable to save battery life anyway, and it’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3, not Gorilla Glass Victus. It doesn’t support wireless charging (or reverse wireless charging, which Google calls Battery Share). It has slightly less water and dust resistance (IP67) than its stablemates (IP68). The back is made of a “3D thermoformed composite back” rather than glass, which I have no issues with given my love of previous polycarbonate designs. And there’s less RAM (6 GB vs. 8 GB and 12 GB for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, respectively), and only one storage option (128 GB), which is what I’d choose anyway.

And then there’s that camera system. Where Google pushed the main lens on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro forward with a 50-megapixel (MP) Octa PD Quad Bayer wide camera, the Pixel 6a uses the same 12.2 MP part that we saw in the several previous Pixels. But its 12.2 MP ultrawide lens is the same as on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. (And, yes, it lacks a telephoto lens, of course.) And it supports virtually all the fancy camera features and tricks that Pixel fans love, like Night Sight, Top Shot, Magic Eraser, Real Tone, and Face Unblur. Only Motion Mode is unavailable.

What you save is considerable: the Pixel 6a costs just $449, compared to $599 and up for the Pixel 6 and $899 and up for the Pixel 6 Pro.

That’s also $30 less than the Pixel 3a XL, the first Pixel A-series handset that arrived three years ago with a 6-inch display and cost $479. 2020’s Pixel 4a 5G had a 6.2-inch display and cost $499. And last year’s Pixel 5a, with its 6.34-inch display, also cost $449. Of course, all those handsets had lousy Snapdragon 6xx- and 7xx-series processors and other limitations. Only 2020’s Pixel 4a, with its diminutive 5.8-inch display, cost less, at $349.

I’ll have more as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can learn more or (pre)order the Pixel 6a on the Google Store website. It’s available in three colors—Sage, Chalk, and Charcoal (I’m getting Sage)—and if you have a Pixel, Samsung, or iPhone, Google is offering terrific trade-in values for recent models.

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Conversation 6 comments

  • ben55124

    Premium Member
    27 July, 2022 - 11:05 pm

    <p>Always a deal breaker. For me it’s wireless charging. I’ve had several USB c ports go bad and brick phones prematurely.</p>

    • digiguy

      Premium Member
      28 July, 2022 - 7:10 am

      <p>yeah, I generally don’t use wireless charging because the heat wears the battery much quicker, but it’s a important safety when your USB C port breaks (and I discovered that shops won’t take it under warranty, because if the UBS C port breaks it’s always your fault they told me, as people pull on the cord sideways and that’s what breaks it)</p>

    • SvenJ

      Premium Member
      28 July, 2022 - 8:22 am

      <p>Was looking for a second phone a bit ago and really liked the 6a. The lack of wireless charging drove me to the 6. </p><p><br></p>

  • innitrichie

    27 July, 2022 - 11:51 pm

    <p>Gotta be wireless.</p>

  • brumfondl

    Premium Member
    28 July, 2022 - 1:03 am

    <p>"<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">I’m happy to report that I’ll be reviewing it soon"</span></p><p><br></p><p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Ever the Pixel masochist :D</span></p>

  • AliMaggs

    Premium Member
    28 July, 2022 - 10:12 am

    <p>Batter share might be my favourite typo I’ve seen in a while (<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">or reverse wireless charging, which Google calls Batter Share</span>), and a feature I’d love to see implemented in a future phone. 😁</p>


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