Google has been making phones for six years now, but initial launches in the Pixel series didn't quite live up to their potential. While they offered stellar cameras and raised the bar for mobile imaging, they were lackluster in other areas, and that ultimately meant that Google wasn't able to make tangible gains in terms of market share.
That changed last year with the arrival of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, with both devices featuring polished designs, robust hardware, standout cameras, and all-day battery life. The result is that the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro became Google's best-selling Pixel devices ever, with SVP of Devices and Services Rick Osterloh noting that in the first six months of availability, the Pixel 6 series outsold the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5 combined.
This is in spite of Google missing out on additional sales because of the global semiconductor shortage, which led to the Pixel 6 series being out of stock at major retailers for a few months after their debut.
Google is now aiming to continue that momentum with the introduction of the Pixel 6a. The phone retains a similar design aesthetic as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro and is debuting for $449 — $150 less than what the Pixel 6 launched for seven months ago.
It has a similar two-tone finish and a wide camera bar that houses the 12MP primary and 12MP wide-angle lenses, and the camera housing is encased in a recycled aluminum frame.
The marquee feature of the Pixel 6a is that it is using the same Tensor chipset as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, with the same core configuration that includes two Cortex X1 cores at 2.80GHz, two Cortex A76 cores at 2.25GHz, and four Cortex A55 cores at 1.80GHz.
It also has the same 5G connectivity as the rest of the Pixel 6 series — including mmWave bands in the U.S. — the Titan M2 security architecture, and 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There's a 4410mAh battery with 30W fast charging, and while there's no wireless charging here, you get IP67 dust and water resistance.
The addition of the Tensor makes the Pixel 6a one of the best Android phones in the sub-$500 segment, and Google is retaining all of the exclusive software features that are standard on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, including Real Tone and Night Sight for the cameras, Magic Eraser and Face Unblur in Google Photos, and on-device Recorder and Live Translate.
Google is positioning the Pixel 6a for one-handed use, and as such the phone has a 6.1-inch screen — around the same size as the Pixel 5. There's no high refresh rate here, but the AMOLED screen should hold its own against its immediate rivals. There's also an under-display fingerprint sensor this time around, and while that's great to see, Google is getting rid of the 3.5mm jack once and for all.
The Pixel 6a runs Android 12 out of the box, and it will get the same three platform updates and five years of security patches as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. While that isn't as long as what Samsung guarantees, it ensures that the Pixel 6a will stay relevant for several years.
It's clear that Google is aiming to take on the likes of the iPhone SE 2022 and the Galaxy A53 with the Pixel 6a, and the hardware on offer combined with the cameras and long-term security updates makes it a highly enticing option — particularly at $449.
The Pixel 6a will be available in Charcoal, Chalk, and Sage colors, and it will be up for pre-order starting July 21. General availability kicks off July 28 in 12 global markets, with India to follow later in the year.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.