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Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a: Which should you buy?

Can Google's budget offering outweigh its incredible (and affordable) flagship?
By
May 11, 2022
Google IO 2022 pixel 6a green
Google

Google’s latest Pixel device is finally here. The Pixel 6a arrived as part of the Google I/O presentation on May 11, 2022, and it looks almost identical to its namesake Pixel 6. However, the looks only tell part of the story. As always, there are some changes under the hood to keep the cost down, but Google’s Pixel phones are closer in performance than they’ve ever been. If you’re having trouble choosing one over the other, we don’t blame you. We’ve compared the two in hopes of making life easier. Here’s our battle of the Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a.

Our verdict: Google Pixel 6 review | Google Pixel 6 Pro review

In this comparison, we’re sticking to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a for the most part. The Google Pixel 6 Pro is in a category all its own and priced significantly higher than the other two models.


Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a

Design and display

Google IO 2022 pixel 6a green front back
Google

Google brought some significant design changes to the table with its Pixel 6 family, and the trend continues with the Pixel 6a. It’s styled like the Pixel 6, complete with a rear camera bar and a two-toned rear finish. Of course, these similarities mean that there are a few key changes from the previous Pixel 5a. For starters, the headphone jack is no more — a first for the Pixel a series. Google also shifted the fingerprint reader from the back panel to the display.

As far as build materials go, the Pixel 6 is about as premium as they come. It’s a Gorilla Glass sandwich, with a panel of Victus glass on the front and Gorilla Glass 6 on the back. Google’s flagship carries an IP68 waterproof rating, and the aluminum frame offers further reinforcement.

The Pixel 6a is styled after its Pixel 6 sibling, but it swaps Gorilla Glass for a 3D composite back.

The Pixel 6a, on the other hand, drops the rear glass in favor of a 3D thermoformed composite back with an alloy frame. It also slightly steps down in water resistance, earning an IP67 rating. Both devices offer matte black frames, unlike the glossy metal of the premium Pixel 6 Pro.

It’s often a toss-up as to where the Pixel a series will land in terms of size. The Pixel 4a was Google’s smallest phone in years, while the Pixel 5a was larger than its namesake. Now, Google is back on the small side. Well, not necessarily small, but the Pixel 6a offers a 6.1-inch Full HD+ AMOLED panel. It’s slightly smaller than the 6.4-inch display on the Pixel 6, though the resolution remains the same. The flagship Google Pixel 6 also offers the smoother refresh rate of the pair — reaching 90Hz compared to the 60Hz option on the budget phone.

Protect your purchase: The best Pixel 6 cases

Hardware and cameras

Google Pixel 6 display and bezel
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

One of Google’s most significant changes to the Pixel 6 series was the introduction of the camera bar. It’s impossible to miss the large, black rectangle that stretches across the back of each phone. However, the lenses inside the camera bar make all the difference. Google finally moved on from the familiar 12.2MP and 16MP camera duo, introducing a 50MP wide lens as the primary sensor. You still get a 12MP ultrawide lens on the Pixel 6, complete with Google’s remarkable image processing.

Over on the Pixel 6a, the camera is closer to Google’s previous generation offerings. Instead of the upgraded 50MP primary lens, you get a 12.2MP primary camera with a 12MP ultrawide option. It’s a combination of the weaker lenses from the Pixel 6 and Pixel 5, so the Pixel 6 will likely be the better option for aspiring photographers. As for the selfie cameras, both models offer 8MP central-mounted punch holes.

Of course, Google’s image processing is one of the main reasons to choose a Pixel device, and the Pixel 6a doesn’t skimp on features. You can tap into flagship options like Magic Eraser, Real Tone, and Face Unblur. Motion Mode does not appear on the list of supported features, but there’s always a chance that Google will launch it in the future.

The Pixel 6a features a familiar camera bar with a slightly weaker pair of wide and ultrawide lenses.

Under the hood, Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a sit closer than ever. Both devices pack the Tensor chip, bringing impressive machine learning capabilities and remarkable image processing. Google’s previous Pixel a models often packed weaker processors, so the move to a Tensor chip is a significant leap for the budget market. You’ll also find the Titan M2 security processor on both devices, dedicated to preserving user privacy at the highest standard.

The Pixel series has embraced larger batteries and faster charging over the last few years, as is evidenced by the Pixel 6’s 4,614mAh cell. It’s a significant boost over the Pixel 5, though it doesn’t quite equal the Pixel 5a or Pixel 6 Pro. Google’s flagship supports the USB PD PPS standard for up to 21W wired and wireless speeds.

See also: The best chargers to correctly fast charge the Pixel 6

As for the Pixel 6a, it takes a small step backward. It carries a 4,410mAh cell that offers 24 hours of adaptive battery life with 18W wired charging. Unfortunately, the thermoformed composite back means that you won’t get access to wireless charging. Still, Google’s Extreme Battery Saver boasts up to 72 hours of charge compared to 48 hours on the Pixel 6 series.

Price and colors

  • Google Pixel 6 (8GB 128GB): $599
  • Google Pixel 6 (8GB 256GB): $699
  • Google Pixel 6a (6GB 128GB): $449

Google’s flagship Pixel 6 is its most affordable in years, kicking off at just $599 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It’s a full $100 cheaper than the previous Pixel 5 and $200 more affordable than the base Pixel 4. You can upgrade to 256GB of storage for $699, but you still get 8GB of RAM.

No matter which configuration you prefer, Google offers the same three color options: Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam, and Stormy Black. Kinda Coral combines a pink body with an orange panel above the camera bar, while Sorta Seafoam combines green and yellow. The Stormy Black version is the stealthiest of the bunch, mixing a black body with a dark gray panel above the camera bar.

The budget-friendly Pixel 6a kicks off at $449 — right in line with the Pixel 5a’s launch price. It will become available for pre-order starting July 21, with open availability on July 28. The lone configuration offers 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is in line with what we’ve come to expect from the Pixel a series. As for color options, you can pick up the Pixel 6a in Charcoal, Chalk, and Sage.

Google IO 2022 pixel 6a colors
Google

The Charcoal finish is almost identical to the Stormy Black of the Pixel 6, while the Charcoal is closer to the Pixel 6 Pro’s Cloudy White. It features a white body with a light gray panel above the camera bar. Finally, the Sage finish brings the Pixel 6a back to the Pixel 5’s signature color, with two shades of green surrounding the camera bar.

The Pixel 6a will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the United States, and the United Kingdom when it launches.

Google Pixel 6
Premium, unique design • Great display • Long battery life
This is one of the easiest-to-recommend smartphones ever made.
The Google Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch FHD+ display and runs on the all-new Google Tensor SoC. It has an upgraded camera system, exclusive software features, and offers some of the best hardware Google has ever produced.
Google Pixel 6a
Affordable Pixel phone • Same SoC as Pixel 6 Pro

Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a: Specs

Google Pixel 6Google Pixel 6a
Display
Google Pixel 6
6.4-inch OLED
20:9 aspect ratio
FHD+ resolution
2,400 x 1,080
411ppi
90Hz refresh rate
HDR support
24-bit depth

Gorilla Glass Victus front
Gorilla Glass 6 back
Google Pixel 6a
6.1-inch OLED
20:9 aspect ratio
FHD+ resolution
2,400 x 1,080
429ppi
60Hz refresh rate
HDR support
24-bit depth

Gorilla Glass 3 front
3D thermoformed composite back
Processor
Google Pixel 6
Google Tensor
Titan M2 security
Google Pixel 6a
Google Tensor
Titan M2 security
RAM
Google Pixel 6
8GB LPDDR5
Google Pixel 6a
6GB LPDDR5
Internal storage
Google Pixel 6
128GB or 256GB
UFS 3.1
Google Pixel 6a
128GB
UFS 3.1
Battery and power
Google Pixel 6
4,614mAh (typical)
21W wired charging
USB-PD 3.0 (PPS)
21W wireless charging (w/ Pixel Stand)
12W Qi wireless charging
Battery share

No charger in box
Google Pixel 6a
4,410 (typical)
18W wired charging
USB-PD 3.0 (PPS)

No charger in box
Cameras
Google Pixel 6
Rear:
- 50MP main
1.2 μm, ƒ/1.85, 82-degree FoV
1/1.31-inch sensor
LDAF, OIS, and EIS
- 12MP ultra-wide
1.25 μm, ƒ/2.2, 114-degree FoV
Laser AF

Front:
- 8MP single
1.12 μm, ƒ/2.0, 84-degree FoV
Google Pixel 6a
Rear:
- 12.2MP main
1.4 μm, ƒ/1.7, 77-degree FoV
1/2.55-inch sensor
Autofocus, OIS, and EIS
- 12MP ultra-wide
1.25 μm, ƒ/2.2, 114-degree FoV

Front:
- 8MP single
1.12 μm, ƒ/2.0, 84-degree FoV
Video
Google Pixel 6
Rear:
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS

Front:
1080p at 30FPS
Google Pixel 6a
Rear:
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS

Front:
1080p at 30FPS
Audio
Google Pixel 6
Stereo speakers
Triple mics
Bluetooth 5.2
No 3.5mm port
Google Pixel 6a
Stereo speakers
Dual mics

Security
Google Pixel 6
In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years security updates
Google Pixel 6a
In-display fingerprint
Titan M2 chip
5 years Pixel updates
Water resistance
Google Pixel 6
IP68
Google Pixel 6a
IP67
Buttons and ports
Google Pixel 6
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual-SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port
Google Pixel 6a
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
Power button
Volume rocker
Dual-SIM (single nano and eSIM)

No expandable storage
No 3.5mm port
Connectivity
Google Pixel 6
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC support
Google Pixel 6a
Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax)
Bluetooth 5.2
NFC support
Bands
Google Pixel 6
[5G Sub-6GHz] Model GB7N6
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
LTE: Bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14
17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/38
39/40/41/42/46/48/66/71
5G Sub-6: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/14/20/25/28
30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78
No 5G mmWave
eSIM

[5G mmWave + Sub-6GHz] Model G9S9B3
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
LTE: Bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14
17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/38
39/40/41/42/46/48/66/71
5G Sub-6: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/14/20/25/28
30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78
5G mmWave: Bands n257/n258/n260/n261
eSIM
Google Pixel 6a
[5G Sub-6GHz] Model GX7AS
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
LTE: Bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14
17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/38
39/40/41/42/46/48/66/71
5G Sub-6: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/14/20/25/28
30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78
eSIM

[5G mmWave + Sub-6GHz] Model GB62Z
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
LTE: Bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14
17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/38
39/40/41/42/46/48/66/71
5G Sub-6: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/14/20/25/28
30/38/40/41/48/66/71/77/78
5G mmWave: Bands n260/n261
eSIM
Software
Google Pixel 6
Android 12
Pixel UI
Google Pixel 6a
Android 12
Pixel UI
Dimensions and weight
Google Pixel 6
158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm
207g
Google Pixel 6a
152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm
178g
Colors
Google Pixel 6
Stormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam
Google Pixel 6a
Sage, Chalk, Charcoal
In-box contents
Google Pixel 6
1m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick Switch adapter
SIM tool
Paperwork

No charger in box

(*France has charger and headphones included per local laws)
Google Pixel 6a
1m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick Switch adapter
SIM tool
Paperwork

No charger in box

(*France has charger and headphones included per local laws)

Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a: Which should you buy?

The Google Pixel 6 in Sorta Seafoam color in hand
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Google’s standard Pixel 6 and budget-friendly Pixel 6a are closer than ever, making this decision much more challenging. The two share plenty of features, including impressive flat AMOLED panels, the powerful Tensor chip, and Google’s next-level image processing. Not to mention that the flagship Pixel 6 is more affordable than its been in years. Overall, choosing between the Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a comes down to the finest of points.

Though neither device is necessarily small, the Pixel 6a’s 6.1-inch display will be more welcoming for those put off by the large Pixel 6. However, the smaller footprint comes at the cost of a pared-down battery, and the 60Hz refresh rate isn’t up to the larger phone’s 90Hz rate. Google’s affordable flagship also holds the edge in RAM and storage, offering 8GB and up to 256GB, respectively. The Pixel 6a matches its series standard with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage instead.

The Pixel 6a matches the Pixel 5a's price, but it's tough to pass up the Pixel 6 at $599.

Google’s overall software experience works out to a draw. Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a arrived with Android 12 onboard and extensive Android and security commitments. The Pixel 6 can expect three Android upgrades, which should carry you to Android 15 and five years of security patches. As for the Pixel 6a, Google offers “five years of Pixel updates,” though it doesn’t clarify whether that means security or Android version updates.

One of the main determining factors between the flagship Pixel and the Pixel a series used to be the price. The Pixel 4 and 5 landed closer to the flagship end, but at $599, the Pixel 6 is easily approachable for most shoppers. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6a costs $449, the same price as the previous Pixel 5a. If you urgently need a new device, the Pixel 6 may be your better bet, as the Pixel 6a won’t be available for pre-order until July 21.

Learn even more: Google Pixel 6 buyer’s guide | Google Pixel 6a buyer’s guide

If we are being honest, in most cases we’d recommend the Pixel 6 over the 6a. You get more for not a whole lot less, after all. Still if money is tight and you don’t care about the extra bells and whistles, the Pixel 6a is a solid enough looking phone on paper. We’ll know even more once we have had hands-on time with the device.

Have you decided which phone you’re going to buy? Let us know who came out on top in our Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a battle below.

Will you buy the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6a?

797 votes