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Google Pixel 6a buyer's guide: Everything you need to know about the phone
In 2019, Google launched its first A-series device: the Google Pixel 3a. Since then, the company has launched a new model in the line each year, even launching two in 2020 (the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G). Now, in 2022, we have the Google Pixel 6a.
As with previous iterations in the series, the Pixel 6a is a subtle riff on the mainline Pixel 6. Google cuts corners here and there to keep the phone’s price down. Ultimately, this becomes a good Pixel entry point for cash-conscious buyers.
See also: All Google Pixel phones released so far
Google Pixel 6a at a glance
Google launched the Pixel 6a on May 11, 2022. Interestingly, the company didn’t start pre-orders for the device until July 21. General sales for the phone began on July 28.
The Google Pixel 6a isn’t the budget buyer’s dream, as we saw with the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a. Instead, it is closer to the Pixel 5a in that it offers quite a lot of features for a price that is slightly lower than its parent device.
Google announced the phone on May 11, 2022. Pre-orders started on July 21 and it hit general sales on July 28.
In the case of the Pixel 6a, it has a lower-quality display, a lower-quality camera system, less RAM, a smaller battery, and no choices when it comes to internal storage (it’s locked to 128GB only). It looks a whole lot like the Pixel 6, though, including the iconic camera bar across the back.
By making all these sacrifices, you can save $150 off the base price of a Google Pixel 6. At $449, the Pixel 6a is the same price as the Google Pixel 5a when it first launched. However, compared to the Pixel 5a, the Pixel 6a is a much better phone with a more modern design, a better processor, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and more.
Is the Google Pixel 6a worth buying?
The Pixel 6a is a little too expensive to make it a no-brainer decision. The Pixel 4a landed at $349, making it an easy recommendation for anyone shopping for a smartphone on a budget. At $100 more, though, the Pixel 6a is less easy to recommend.
The price of the Pixel 6a is too high to make it a no-brainer recommendation, but it does seem like a decent-enough phone.
The main problem is the price of the Google Pixel 6, which is just $599. For $150 more, you get our favorite phone of 2021. You get better build materials, a better display, a much better camera, a bigger battery, and more. As far as we’re concerned, $150 for all that is well worth it.
However, if you are on a strict sub-$500 budget for a smartphone, the Google Pixel 6a is a decent choice. We just wish it was cheaper.
What experts say about the Google Pixel 6a
In our review for the Pixel 6a, we gave it 4/5 stars and our Recommended badge. We lamented the choices Google made when it comes to cutting corners to keep the price down. We wished Google either made more cuts to bring the price lower or kept the price the same but offered a better value.
Our review: Google Pixel 6a
Overall, though, we thought the phone was good. It would just be better if you grabbed it at a discount.
Here’s what other reviewers had to say:
- Allison Johnson at The Verge: Allison gave the Pixel 6a an 8/10, which is similar to our score. She praised the performance, camera, and battery life. She criticized the refresh rate of the display and the slow fingerprint sensor, which is a problem that dogged the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
- Philip Michaels at Tom’s Guide: Philip gave the Pixel 6a the same score as we did, which was 4/5 stars. Like us, Philip praised the performance and camera but wished the battery life and build materials were better.
- Lisa Eadicicco at Cnet: Lisa gave the Pixel 6a a score of 8.7 out of 10, representing one of the higher scores we’ve seen. Once again, she loved the performance and camera but criticized the display and value when compared to the Pixel 6.
What readers say about the Google Pixel 6a
Back in May, we asked our readers if they were going to buy the Pixel 6 or the Pixel 6a. It turns out that even with the Pixel 6a being cheaper, our readers weren’t swayed. The majority would rather spend the extra $150 to get the regular Pixel 6.
Of course, over 41% of responders did say the Pixel 6a was on their list, so it’s not like our readers hate the phone. It just once again shows that Google didn’t hit the price out of the park with the Pixel 6a as it has done with previous A-series phones.
Google Pixel 6a specs
In the specs table below, we break down what you can expect from a Pixel 6a. Overall, there are a lot of alterations that make the phone much weaker than the Pixel 6.
|Google Pixel 6a|
20:9 aspect ratio
1,080 x 2,400
60Hz refresh rate
Gorilla Glass 3
Battery and power
18W fast charging
USB-C 3.1 Gen 1
- 12.2 MP dual pixel wide camera, 1.4μm, ƒ/1.7, 77-degree FoV, 1/2.55-inch, OIS/EIS
- 12MP ultrawide, 1.25μm, ƒ/2.2 aperture, 114-degree FoV
- 8MP single, 1.12μm, ƒ/2.0, fixed focus, 84-degree FoV
Super Res Zoom up to 7x
4K at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30/60FPS
1080p at 30FPS
No 3.5mm port
Titan M2 chip
5 years' security updates
Ambient light sensor
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
Wi-Fi 6E (6GHz)
Dual SIM (single nano-SIM and eSIM)
GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
[5G Sub 6 GHz]14 Model G1AZG
GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
LTE: Bands B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/38/39/40/41/42/48/66/71
5G Sub-614: Bands n1/2/3/5/7/8/12/20/25/28/30/40/48/66/71/77/78
Dimensions and weight
152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm
Sage, Chalk, Charcoal
1m USB-C to USB-C cable (USB 2.0)
Quick start guide
Quick Switch adaptor
Is the Pixel 6a camera good?
The camera inside the Google Pixel 6a is ostensibly the same one you’ll find in the Google Pixel 5a. This is the “old” Pixel system that Google used for years before it launched the Pixel 6 series. With the vanilla Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google used newer 50MP sensors combined with newer ultrawide sensors and, in the case of the Pixel 6 Pro, a powerful telephoto system.
No. The Google Pixel 6a has a similar camera system to the Pixel 5a. The Pixel 6 has a much better camera system than both phones.
In other words, the camera quality of the Pixel 6a will be lesser than the quality of the main Pixel 6 series. Once again, this is proof that spending an extra $150 on the regular Pixel 6 might be worth it if you can afford it.
See also: The best camera phones you can get
However, don’t let that make you think the camera system on the Pixel 6a is bad. Google’s software processing is second-to-none in the industry, so the Pixel 6a will still likely produce some great shots. The problem will be that the hardware is already way out of date and won’t age well at all. If you plan on using the Pixel 6a for a lot of photos and videos and also plan on holding onto it for several years, we’d strongly advise spending more on the Pixel 6.
In our review, we found the camera to be great — just not as great as the Pixel 6. Check out some samples below.
Google Pixel 6a camera examples
How is the Google Pixel 6a’s battery life?
The battery inside the Google Pixel 6a is slightly smaller than the one in the Pixel 6. Officially, the Pixel 6a has a 4,410mAh battery, which is a bit smaller than the Pixel 6’s 4,614mAh battery.
Unfortunately, a smaller cell almost always means weaker battery life, and that’s exactly what we saw from the Pixel 6a. While battery life wasn’t terrible, it didn’t do as well as the Pixel 6. It also did much worse as compared to the Pixel 5a, which is likely to do with the energy-guzzling processor in the phone (more on that in a bit).
In general, if you want a battery beast for a phone, the Pixel 6a probably won’t deliver.
Regardless, the Pixel 6a charges at 18W wired. There is no wireless charging supported on the Pixel 6a.
The Pixel 6a has a 4,410mAh battery.
How is the Pixel 6a’s performance?
The processor inside the Pixel 6a is the most notable aspect of it. Google Tensor is the included CPU, the same processor in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. This makes the Pixel 6a very powerful — flagship-level powerful, even.
Although Tensor doesn’t meet the same speeds as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 — much less this year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — it’s still a powerful chipset. It will cut through pretty much anything you throw at it.
See also: Google Tensor vs Snapdragon 888 series
Unfortunately, Tensor runs hot. This was also a problem with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. If you plan on gaming with this for extended periods of time, you’ll quickly notice the heat on your fingers.
Additionally, there is less RAM in the Pixel 6a when compared to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. 6GB isn’t a terrible amount of RAM, but it will end up having lower performance metrics than the Pixel 6, especially if you have a lot of apps open all at once.
For more info on the performance of the Pixel 6a, be sure to check out our full review.
Phone software and updates
The Google Pixel 6a ships with Android 12. Skinned over top of Android, you’ll find Pixel UI, which is very similar to stock Android. For all intents and purposes, this is the same software you’ll find on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, although missing some features of those higher-end phones.
Related: What is stock Android?
Google promises three Android upgrades and five years of security patches. That means the Google Pixel 6a will get Android 13 in 2022, Android 14 in 2023, and Android 15 in 2024. It will then get regular security patches until 2026.
This is the second-best software update policy in the world of Android. The only company that tops it is Samsung, which offers four Android upgrades and five years of patches. Still, Pixel phones get the newest version of Android on the first day it launches, which is a notable advantage over Samsung phones.
Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: What’s different?
The Pixel 6a is actually a very different phone from the Pixel 6. The two devices may look similar, but there’s a lot changed under the hood. Here are the biggest differences between the two phones. These aren’t all the differences, but just the major ones.
- Display: The Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch display with a 60Hz refresh rate. This is smaller and less smooth than the Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6a’s display is also covered with Gorilla Glass 3, an older and weaker glass than the Pixel 6’s Gorilla Glass Victus.
- Power: The battery inside the Pixel 6a is smaller than the one in the Pixel 6. The Pixel 6a also lacks wireless charging, which the Pixel 6 supports.
- RAM and storage: The Pixel 6a has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The Pixel 6 has 8GB of RAM and an option for a 256GB model.
- Camera: The Pixel 6a has a 12.2MP wide-angle lens paired with a 12MP ultrawide. On the front, it has an 8MP selfie camera. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 has a 50MP wide-angle, a 12MP ultrawide, and an 8 MP selfie camera. In brief, the Pixel 6 camera hardware is much better than what you’ll find in the Pixel 6a.
- Features: There are some features the Pixel 6 supports that the Pixel 6a won’t, such as motion mode.
- Colors: The Pixel 6 comes in three colorways: Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, and Stormy Black. The Pixel 6a comes in three colorways as well, but they are slightly different: Chalk, Charcoal, and Sage.
What are some good Google Pixel 6a alternatives?
When it comes to a phone’s cost-value ratio, few devices can compare to the Pixel A-series. Google crams a ton of value into its budget phones, which makes competitor devices seem a bit weaker in comparison. However, if you’d rather not get a Pixel 6a but stay in the same price bracket, here are some alternatives:
- Samsung Galaxy A53 ($449): Samsung’s Galaxy A series has some serious pedigree nowadays. The Galaxy A53 is the newest phone that would compare to the Google Pixel 6a. You’ll get a bigger phone with more cameras on the back as well as a higher-quality display. You’ll also get a microSD card slot so you can add more storage. However, Google’s camera software is generally better than Samsung’s, and buyers might appreciate the slightly smaller footprint of the Pixel 6a.
- Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) ($299): Honestly, the Pixel 6a is a better phone than the Moto G Stylus in almost every way. The two advantages the Moto G Stylus has, though, are that it’s much bigger than the Pixel 6a while simultaneously being much cheaper.
- OnePlus Nord 2 (£399(~$492)): You’ll need to not live in the United States for this one, but if you have access to it, it’s worth a look. It’s certainly not the best OnePlus device you can get, but it offers the core package at a decent price.
- Apple iPhone SE (2022) ($429): Obviously, you’ll need to exit the world of Android for this one. However, if all you want is a phone that does the very basics and isn’t nearly as big as the Pixel 6a, this could be a good option. Just don’t expect any high-end features at all.
Where to buy the Google Pixel 6a
- Google Pixel 6a: $449 / £399 / €459
Google launched the Pixel 6a on May 11, 2022, and it went up for pre-order on July 21, 2022. It’s now fully available in stores, as of July 28, 2022. The phone is available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, India, and the United States.
In the US, Verizon sells the phone, though with an increased price of $599. This is due to Verizon’s 5G network requiring mmWave support, something the Pixel 6a doesn’t offer in the unlocked standard model. For the record, this is the same situation that happened with the Google Pixel 6.
The phone has an IP67 rating. This means it is water-resistant in up to 1m of water for less than 30 minutes.
No, it does not charge wirelessly.
No, there is no charger in the box with the phone. You will need a charger with a speed of 18W or more to see the fastest charging speeds.
The Pixel 6a has the same update promise as the Pixel 6 series. That’s three Android upgrades and five years of security patches.
No, the phone doesn’t support either of these features. You will need to connect wired headphones through the phone’s USB-C port, and there is no option to add more storage than the included 128GB.