This week, Google revealed the next generation of its budget smartphone, the Pixel 6a.
Aimed squarely at Apple’s iPhone SE, the Pixel 6a is $20 more expensive than Tim’s rapidly ageing effort at $449 and will be with us this summer.
I cannot wait to (hopefully) get my hands on this phone if and when it reaches the UK. Having used the 2022 iPhone SE exclusively for the last few weeks, I’ve developed a bug for budget smartphones, and the latest cheapest Pixel is possibly the piece of tech I’m looking forward to the most this year.
This is why.
What you need to know about the Pixel 6a
The Pixel 6A looks remarkably similar to the regular Pixel 6, albeit with a slightly smaller display (6.1” versus 6.4”), and a ‘3D thermoformed composite back’ as opposed to the flagship’s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 casing.
That screen is OLED but only stretches as far as 60Hz, so there’s no high, variable refresh rate on offer. There’s also only one storage option of 128GB, although that does make it $30 cheaper than the 2022 iPhone SE if you spec the latter with the same storage.
The Pixel 6’s 50MP camera is swapped on the 6a for a 12.2MP sensor, but the baby Pixel retains the 12MP ultra-wide; a lens choice that is absent from the iPhone SE. What’s more, the 6a will come complete with the brilliant magic erase feature and colour swap capabilities that were introduced with the flagship versions last year.
We’re also promised more than 24 hours of battery life, and the Pixel 6a shares the same ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, Titan M2 security, and water resistance (less one IP rating) as its big brother.
More importantly, the Pixel 6a will be powered by the same Google Tensor chip as the Pixel 6 Pro, bringing Google’s smartphone strategy firmly in line with Apple – buy the phone you can afford but never suffer from poor performance, regardless of where you live on the planet.
Are you listening, Samsung?
The Pixel 4a remains my favourite Android phone
I’ve played with a few Android phones recently. From the surprisingly performant Moto G31 to the knock-your-socks-off-pretty Oppo Find X5 Pro, and the hugely disappointing UK edition of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, it has been an utterly fascinating experience.
But none of those phones comes close to the Pixel 4a I bought back in 2020. Sure, it doesn’t have water resistance, the screen is relatively low res, and the build quality leaves a lot to be desired, but there’s something about that pure Android experience and the ultra affordability that makes it incredibly endearing.
But the star of the show on the Pixel 4a is the camera, which is quite simply brilliant. In fact, I’d argue it’s my favourite smartphone camera of the last few years.
Admittedly, Google’s treatment of photos on its Pixel devices is a matter of taste. The images produced by the Pixel 4a are heavily processed, saturated, and look like someone has smashed the clarity slider as far as they dare to the right.
I love the photos captured by that camera, and I miss it whenever it’s not with me. Which, these, days, is far too often.
If the Pixel 6a is half as good as the 4a, we’re in for a treat.
Notch/no notch/pill/who cares?
The rumours about the iPhone 14 are desperately boring. The notch may finally be on the way out (for certain models). The iPhone mini is probably dead (boo). There might be a purple version with a ‘unique finish’ (yawn).
There is literally nothing to get excited about unless you’ve been waiting on a significant upgrade from your older iPhone. For me, the untimely death of the iPhone mini line, unfortunately, removes much of the excitement surrounding Apple’s fall launches.
This is why I’m so excited about the Pixel 6a. Unlike Apple, Google has avoided the temptation to leave the design and functionality of its budget smartphone languishing in the past. Small bezels, an OLED screen, the latest fingerprint sensor tech, and a super-capable camera system with genuinely useful features puts the Pixel 6a miles ahead of the iPhone SE on paper.
There’s something else, too.
It isn’t just about the phone
The Pixel 6a will be the gateway to the Pixel Watch for me.
Google’s wearable isn’t arriving until later this year alongside the Pixel 7, and it will likely be compatible with a whole raft of Android devices, but I want a full-on Pixel experience.
My Galaxy S22 Ultra experience has been seriously disappointing. In fact, it has completely put me off from purchasing one of Samsung’s smartwatches, which was my original Android ecosystem plan. Until Samsung treats every region seriously, I’m not interested, I’m afraid.
Ironically, we didn’t receive the Pixel 5a in the UK, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see its successor on these shores at some stage this year. According to TechRadar, the Pixel 6a is “is definitely coming” to the UK, but that promising news is countered by the fact that it “might be even further out”.
Whatever happens, I will do all I can to get my hands on a Pixel 6a as soon as I can and return with my full thoughts on Google’s most affordable entry point into the Pixel ecosystem.