If you’ve had your current phone for 2-3 years, then chances are, you’re looking for your next phone. One option to consider is the Google Pixel 6a. While Google’s Pixel 6 Pro is the flagship of the brand today, not everyone has the budget to get the latest and greatest.
As a mid-tier phone, the Pixel 6a aims to deliver many of the benefits of the best phones but does make some compromises to bring the price point down. The difference between the two is A$1,299 for the 6 Pro, while the Pixel 6a costs just A$749, a $550 difference.
The Pixel 6a also slots in at the cheapest price point of the Pixel 6 range, landing at A$150 less than the Pixel 6.
Many manufacturers offer a similar mid-tier alternative to their flagship, so the real question is, has Google adjusted the priority levers in the right way, to create a product that works for you?
When it comes to design this phone shares the familiar design characteristics of the Pixel 6a range. The familiar black stripe on the back houses the camera array. This black stripe breaks up the solid colour on the back, where there are 3 options available – Charcoal, Chalk and Sage.
The 6a offers a 6.1″ display, with a 60Hz refresh rate. This is one area where Google has clearly made a decision here to offer a decent screen but is clearly down from the 6.7″ display and 120Hz refresh rate.
The resolution is the other area of display difference, although both use OLED technology, the resolution on the 6a offers FHD+, which is 1080×2400 pixels which translates to 429 pixels per inch. This is down from the QHD+ resolution of the Pro, which is 1440×3120 pixels, with a density of 512 ppi.
At the end of the day, this is a smart area to save costs, with the 120Hz refresh rate nice to have, but certainly not essential for most users. Given that also consumes more battery life, that ties in nicely to an item in the features list.
All-day battery life was a bit of a marketing term a few years ago and when you dived through the fine print, you realised they actually meant around 12 hours. Thankfully now, devices like the Pixel 6a that offer all-day battery life, actually mean it. Sure you’ll still want to throw it on charge each night, but what you should expect is to use your phone and not be looking for a charger by 5PM.
There probably are ways to intentionally exhaust the battery if you were seriously trying to, like running a 5G hotspot and gaming all day, but the vast, majority of customers will never have to think about making it through the day.
Performance and Storage
One area Google hasn’t cheaper out is the speed. This phone, in fact, all phones in the Google Pixel 6 serious run their own Google Tensor Titan M2 chip.
Application launch times are snappy, and generally impressive for a mid-tier phone, on that front it doesn’t feel like much of a compromise from my Pixel 6 Pro.
The processor is helped by 6 GB LPDDR5 RAM and when it comes to data storage, there’s just a single offering, the 128GB available, so you may need to rely on cloud storage if you have larger requirements.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Pixel models are the cameras. You should go into the Pixel 6a expecting good upgrades from previous generations, but you will always give up some room to the flagship phones in this area, with photography seen as one of the premium features.
Despite this, the Pixel 6a still offers a camera array that includes a 12.2 MP wide camera, 12 MP ultrawide camera and an 8 MP front-facing camera.
These cameras allow you to capture the world in 4K at up to 60 fps, while the front camera can capture 1080p at 30fps.
A neat trick with the Pixels this year is their ability to remove objects in your photos and the Magic Eraser is also found on the 6a. This lets you remove people in the background of your shots for example to make good photo a great photo.
It used to be that low-light photography was something reserved for flagships, but thankfully Google leverages their software chops to deliver amazing night shots even in the 6a with a lot less camera hardware than the Pro.
Often people want to separate their work and personal lives, so dual-sim phones can be really appealing. Thankfully this is still on offer in the Pixel 6a, so if you have that on your must-have list, that box is certainly ticked with a single Nano SIM and eSIM combo.
To unlock your phone, you’ll use an in-screen fingerprint sensor, or your standard Pattern, PIN or password options. There is no face unlock on offer here.
5G Network Speeds
The Pixel 6a may be the lowest spec phone in the 6 series range, but still includes 5G capabilities in the network stack.
Maybe the biggest miss with the Pixel 6a is the lack of wireless charging. Personally I have wireless charging everywhere in my life, from the bedside table, to the office desk to the car, so this is a must-have item on the phone for me and I suspect many others are approaching a similar point.
I can’t imagine wireless charging is a big cost and to be honest, even if it was $50 more, It think many would accept a slightly higher price point to accommodate this.
Price and Availability
The Google Pixel 6a is available now from Google directly, or from a range of retailers. The phone costs A$749.00 and for that price, you get no choice in storage, the 128GB is the only option. The 6a comes in a range of fairly muted colours, Charcoal, Chalk, Sage.
If you buy the Pixel 6a before 15 December 2023 at 11.59 p.m, you’ll get 3 months of a Google One subscription, offering more online storage to backup your photos and videos, as well as a three-month trial of YouTube Premium to skip on the ads and play videos in the background while your display is off.
The Google Pixel 6a is a balance of compromises, taking their flagship and entertaining cost savings in parts of the product that still leave you with an appealing product. The goal of the Pixel 6 Pro is to show everything Google has to offer, while the Pixel 6 offers something close, but a few hundred dollars cheaper. The Pixel 6a is the next logical extension and I think lands a pretty good set of compromises to dramatically lower the price.
The exception to this is really the lack of wireless charging, i think in 2022 that really is a feature all but the most entry-level of entry-level phones can’t do without.
Not everyone is chasing the latest software update for their smartphone, but if you are that kind of person, it may be worth considering the Pixel 6a as a technique to get the upcoming Android 13 beta.
For more information, head to https://store.google.com/product/pixel_6a