The Pixel 6a is undoubtedly the most intriguing Pixel A series launch ever. After years of Google covering over relatively weak hardware with its stellar software, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro finally broke that mold.
The few leaks we have seen already show the Pixel 6a following the new design of the Pixel 6 models and we can only hope that some of that carries over to the Pixel 6a specs. Google will have to make some cuts to hit a budget price point with the Pixel 6a, but given the massive time and financial investment in the Tensor chip, it’s hard to imagine Google not using it again here.
The Pixel A series has dominated the best budget phones in recent years and based on early rumors, it may be poised to do it again.
Pixel 6a rumors
There have been no official statements or credible leaks regarding the Pixel 6a release date, but we can make a reasonable estimate based on past releases. After the Pixel 3a launch at Google I/O in May 2019, the Pixel A series has settled into a consistent August release schedule.
The Pixel 4a launched on August 20, 2020, with the Pixel 5a following a year later on August 26, 2021. Until we see any compelling leaks to the contrary, we will keep the Pixel 6a release date penciled in for mid to late August of 2022.
Pixel 6a price
We haven’t seen any convincing rumors regarding the price of the Pixel 6a yet and it’s difficult to project precisely where Google will go with it this year given the haphazard pricing of its predecessors. The Pixel 5a made the jump to $449 last year, which was a somewhat shocking increase from the $349 starting price for the Pixel 4a. The original Pixel 3a split the difference between the two, at $399. Factor in 2019’s Pixel 4a with 5G for $499 and you can see why betting on the Pixel A series pricing is a losing prospect.
Throwing another wrench in the works is the Pixel 6; Google’s new $599 budget flagship phone is one of the best values in the smartphone world. Particularly given how often the Pixel 6 has already dropped to $549, it’s hard to imagine Google sticking to $449 for the Pixel 6a. A return to a $399 starting price feels plausible and it would be good timing, with Apple’s budget model offering the iPhone SE 2 in an expected 2022 launch.
Pixel 6a design
One of the only concrete leaks that we have for the Pixel 6a so far is regarding the design and, unsurprisingly, it seems that it will take on the look of the Pixel 6. The leak originated from @OnLeaks, who has proven reliable and was done in association with 91Mobiles to produce a series of renders.
Based on the renders, the Pixel 6a may be virtually indistinguishable from the Pixel 6, with one notable exception. The leak specifies a 6.2-inch display for the Pixel 6a, reducing the 6.4-inch display on the Pixel 6. While big displays remain the most popular, some Pixel fans weren’t thrilled with the big and bigger display sizes available on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
The leak doesn’t offer precise measurements for the visor-like camera array on the Pixel 6a, but it appears to be smaller. Since there is no chance it will match the size of the camera sensors in the Pixel 6, it would make sense for them to scale it down a bit.
Longtime Pixel A series fans may lament the loss of a couple of features; the 3.5mm headphone jack and the rear fingerprint sensor are both gone in these renders. While most people have accepted the need to move to wireless headphones, the Pixel A series was one of the nicer last bastions for wired headphone aficionados. If Google is moving to an in-display fingerprint sensor, that may draw more scrutiny since the response time on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro has been one of the few complaints regarding those phones.
Pixel 6a cameras
The cameras on the Pixel A series were predictable in the past as Google wasn’t using expensive camera hardware in its standard models, so it would trickle them down to the budget models, but that is no longer the case. While we would love to see Google bring that new 50MP Isocell GN1 sensor to the Pixel 6a, that just doesn’t seem feasible at its price point.
That may mean that we see Google turn to its old reliable 12MP wide-angle and 16MP ultra-wide from the Pixel 5a and numerous other Pixels over the last few years. Google has proven time and again that it is basically capable of dark magic with the results it can conjure out of those sensors. However, Google may surprise us with an entirely new set of sensors that it can run with in its budget phones for a few years.
This is all pure speculation until we have some credible leaks or rumors on the subject.
Pixel 6a performance
Another wildcard feature for the Pixel 6a is its processor. Google’s new Tensor chip in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro represents years of research and development, so it’s hard to imagine the company returning to Qualcomm for this model. While Tensor isn’t the generational leap over Apple’s Bionic and M1 chips, it is clear that Google set specific priorities for the chip and it outperforms its Snapdragon counterparts in several areas.
Given the Qualcomm Snapdragon options available in this price range, it seems more likely that Google offers a lesser version of its Tensor chip or the current chip. By the time the Pixel 6a launches, Google should be just a couple of months away from the Pixel 7 and a new flagship Tensor chip.
In years past, the Pixel A series often looked like the more logical Pixel purchase for most people, delivering 90% of the Pixel flagship experience at less than half the price. It may be a little less cut and dry this year. That’s in part due to the Pixel 6’s already compelling $599 starting price; in our review, we called it “the best Android value ever,” so that’s a tough act to follow from an affordability standpoint.
Given the considerable marketing that Google put behind the Pixel 6, copying the design of that phone for the budget Pixel 6a was almost a given, but bringing the Tensor chip may be a more significant challenge. The cost of Google’s custom chip and its ability to scale it down for the budget market are questions we don’t know the answer to yet.
To remain a budget champ, the Pixel 6a needs to deliver the strong photo experience Google is known for, the same extended software support of the Pixel 6, solid performance (hopefully through the Tensor chip), and a sub-$400 starting price. That all feels within reach, but we’ll keep you updated here on all the latest developments with the Pixel 6a, and given Google’s track record on leaks, we’ll have a much more complete picture over the coming months.