- The Google Pixel 6a is the first Pixel phone to be launched in India since the Pixel 4a in 2020.
- Unlike the previous Pixel “a” editions, which stressed their camera prowess as well as assured Android updates, the Pixel 6a focuses more on its processor, which is the same as seen on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It continues to come with assured and speedy Android updates.
- At Rs 43,999/USD 449, the Pixel 6a is considerably more expensive than earlier Pixel “a” edition phones. This puts it in the range of a number of formidable budget flagships. Can the new blend of processor and pure Android win the day for it in a super competitive market?
The Pixel 6a marks new territory for Google’s Pixel “a” series. This series initially was more about delivering a clean Android and great camera experience at a much more affordable price than the ‘main’ Pixel range. The most noticeable spec compromise made for arriving at a lower price was in terms of the processor – the Pixel 3a, 4a, and 5a all had mid-segment chips, unlike the flagship ones adorning the main and Pro variants (with the exception of the Pixel 5).
Google turned this concept on its head with the Pixel 6a. The latest addition to the Pixel “a” series comes with the same processor as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, Google’s own Tensor chip. The pure Android experience remains in place, but the cameras differ from those on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. What’s significant is also the fact that the Pixel 6a is not as “affordable” as the Pixel 3a and 4a were in India and goes beyond the Rs 40,000 mark. That’s a new zone for the Pixel 6a and one which puts it right among budget flagships rather than upper mid-segment players. Does it hold its own?
Google Pixel 6a: Sorta solid and compact
The Pixel 6a is compact by modern standards. At 152.2 mm, it is still taller than the 146.6 mm Samsung Galaxy S22 or the 146.7 mm iPhone 13, which have displays of a similar 6.1-inch size, but it is significantly more compact than the OnePlus Nords and Redmi Notes of the world. It is reasonably thin at 8.9 mm, without getting into the super slim battle, and at 178 grams, it feels reassuringly well-built without being too heavy. Those with large-ish hands might be able to handle it most of the time one-handed.
The front is relatively routine, with a tall display, a punch hole notch in the top center, and slim-bezelled sides. Rather interestingly, it is the sides of the Pixel 6a that give it a premium touch – the frame is aluminum, and the sides are relatively straight but just a little curving outwards. The result is a frame that hits the middle ground between the utterly straight sides of the iPhone 13 series and the more curved ones of the OnePlus flagships. Again, Google has rather oddly placed the power/display button above the volume buttons, but this time has not given it a different shade.
Google Pixel 6a: The cameras make the phone exceptional…and in appearance this time
One thing that has not changed about the Pixel “a” series is that the cameras still make it stand out from the crowd. Only they had done so in terms of performance in the past. In Pixel 6a, they do so in terms of design. The horizontal bar on the back, which juts out from the back of the phone and bears the dual cameras and flash, makes the Pixel 6a stand out from all other phones on the market. The phone is available in Chalk (white) and Charcoal (greyish) shades, but the camera bar on the back of both is jet black. That distinctive back does have its drawbacks, though – it is made of tough plastic but picks up smudges, and we also saw dust accumulating under and over that camera bar that gives the phone its distinct look.
In design terms, the Pixel 6a is a phone that looks different and has a compact and solid feel to it. We would have liked a newer version of Gorilla Glass at this price point and the back to be less prone to smudges, but it does come with IP67 dust and water resistance, so it is on the tougher side. There is no way this can be mistaken for some other phone in the market, and that puts it right alongside the Nothing phone (1) in terms of being distinct, although the Pixel 6a achieves this with considerably lesser fuss.
Google Pixel 6a: Not the same cameras as the Pixel 6
Pixel phones have always come with very good cameras. Indeed, at a time when the world was going ga-ga over multiple cameras, devices like the Pixel 4a showed that Google could conjure up amazing detail and realistic colors with a single camera, allied with its computational photography magic. So it is hardly surprising that almost all the queries we have received about the Pixel 6a have been about its rear camera. Make that rear cameras because it is, after all, the first Pixel with dual cameras to be officially released in India.
Google deserves a round of applause for going with a combination of a 12.2-megapixel camera with OIS and an ultrawide 12-megapixel camera on the back and not subjecting us to the tokenism of “depth,” “mono,” and “macro” cameras, which seem to be more decorative than functional. However, unlike the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a, which had the same main sensor as the Pixel 3 and 4, the Pixel 6a does not have the same main sensor as the Pixel 6, which has a 50-megapixel main camera.
Google Pixel 6a: Still very good cameras
They are very good performers, though, allied with Google’s computational photography magic. The main sensor is the star here, delivering the sort of detail that makes Pixel cameras special. You just seem to see more in snaps taken by the camera. Colors can sometimes seem a little too vivid, giving us those “Extra HDR” feels, but we have no complaints about that. In good light conditions, you end up getting vivid snaps with lots of detail. Yes, at times, the camera does seem to capture details that do not exist, but if you are the type that likes plenty of detail and textures in their snaps, the Pixel 6a’s cameras are perfect. The Night Sight feature adds a little more light to snaps taken in low-light scenarios, but without getting into the grainy or overly bright colored zone. We like how Google has tried to make things more visible in Night Sight and steered away from lighting it up like a Christmas Tree or infusing faux yellow-ish brightness into it as many other brands do.
The ultrawide sensor is frankly not much wider than the main one, but it does help in pulling in an extra bit of landscape or people in group shots and, thanks to its megapixel count, retains a fair bit of detail. While there is no telephoto lens, the Pixel 6a is one of the few phones that do a very good job even with digital zoom – you can go up to about 4x zoom without major detail compromises. The selfie camera stays at 8 megapixels as in previous editions and has the same vivid, detail-heavy approach as the rear cameras. Videos are very good from the front and rear cameras, although the sound leaves a bit to be desired.
This being a Pixel, you get access to Google Photos’ Magic Eraser tool, which lets you remove unwanted objects from shots. It is not always perfect (sometimes leaving a few smudges behind), but it is one of the smoothest implementations we have seen in terms of ease of use and results. The camera app remains a little on the plain side, though with not as many options as on others. All said and done; the Pixel 6a boasts a very good set of cameras.
But the competition has caught up in the camera department
A point to note, however, is that the past couple of years has seen most phone brands up their camera game significantly. So much so that almost every phone, even in the mid-segment, boasts good sensors – we are getting the flagship level 50-megapixel Sony IMX 766 sensor with OIS on devices below Rs 30,000 at the time of writing. As a result, even though the Pixel 6a boasts very good cameras, they do not give it the sort of edge over the competition it provided to its predecessors. Push the cameras and peep into Pixels and you will find the Pixel 6a’s cameras still come out ahead of most of the competition. Still, the difference is not overwhelming, and indeed there will be times when competing devices might deliver better snaps. It is also pertinent to point out that the quality of competition the Pixel 6a faces is also significantly better than the 3a or 4a did, thanks to its much higher price tag. In sum, this is the first Pixel about which we cannot say: get it mainly for the cameras.
Google Pixel 6a: Smooth as silk stock Android
Instead, the two biggest reasons for investing in the Pixel 6a should be its processor and the fact that it comes with Google’s own take on Android. The Pixel 6a comes with Android 12 out of the box and was one of the first to get Android 13 (although our unit got it after Pixel 4a, which was curious). In all, the Pixel 6a should get three OS updates (up to and including Android 15) and five years of security updates. However, assured updates are no longer a Pixel exclusive, with most brands committing to three OS updates and three to four years of security updates. That said, the Pixel 6a is likely to get these updates well before other brands can – it is currently the only phone officially released in India to be running Android 13!
The Pixel range is known for running on perhaps the cleanest version of Android out there, and the Pixel 6a is no different. The interface might seem a little plain, but it comes with absolutely no third-party bloatware, although there are a number of Google apps on the device. If you are the type that likes your phone to be a clean slate on which you decide what to install and what not to, then the Pixel 6a is perfect. It also gets a number of Android 13 features, such as app icons changing shade to blend in with the wallpaper, different language settings for different apps, and improved privacy and security, with apps now asking permission before sending you notifications. Speaking for ourselves, we prefer feature-rich interfaces, but the clean interface of Android 13 on the Pixel 6a has its own charm. Incidentally, the phone supports 5G, so it will be ready to surf the high-speed network when it does come to India.
Google Pixel 6a: Tension free gaming from the Tensor, refreshingly good multimedia
The Pixel 6a runs very smoothly, too, thanks to Google’s Tensor processor, which is the same that is seen on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Tensor is supposed to hit the middle ground between the Snapdragon 870 and Snapdragon 888, which places it firmly in flagship processor territory. Paired with 6GB RAM and 128 GB storage, it turns in a very good performance. We were able to play Genshin Impact and Call of Duty very well on the device, without any hitches.
The 6.1-inch full HD+ display has taken flak from some quarters for coming with “only” a 60 Hz refresh rate, but we had no problems with it as far as viewing content went, although we would have preferred it to be a little brighter. The phone also sports stereo speakers but no 3.5 mm audio jack. The sound from the speakers is of decent enough quality and is distortion-free even at high columns, which makes the Pixel 6a a good option for watching shows and series. Multi-tasking and switching between the apps is a smooth experience as well.
Our only complaint with the Pixel 6a in the performance department was its tendency to heat up at times, especially during online gaming. We found the phone getting uncomfortably warm during some Call of Duty sessions. This is a little unusual at this price point, and it does take a little sheen off what is otherwise very good performance from the Tensor.
Google Pixel 6a: Them fingerprint unlock and charging blues
What creases the smooth performance of the Pixel 6a is a surprisingly inconsistent in-display fingerprint scanner. We found the sensor not responding at least one out of every five times we used it to unlock the phone, sending us down the PIN path. While it did not get unlocked by unregistered fingers (as some devices have, as per what we have heard), it did make unlocking the phone an uncertain experience, which is frankly surprising in this day and age, when fingerprint sensors work reliably even on phones with price tags below Rs 10,000.
The 4410 mAh battery on the Pixel 6a comfortably sees off a day of heavy use. This can be extended to 72 hours if one uses the Extreme Battery Saver mode. However, the speed at which the battery charges could be a bit downer for some. The phone not only comes with no charger in the box but also charges at a rather modest 18W. It took about two hours to charge with a 33W charger, which is a little sluggish when you consider that the OnePlus 10R, which comes at a lower price, sports a slightly bigger battery which gets charged in about 20 minutes, thanks to a 150W charger in the box.
Google Pixel 6a Review: Worth purchasing?
The Google Pixel 6a comes in a single 6 GB /128 GB variant priced at Rs 43,999. Whether you should buy it or not really depends on how much you value a clean Android experience with assured and speedy updates. Unlike in the past, this Pixel does not beat the competition in the camera department, and its overall performance, while smooth, can be matched by others.
The Motorola Edge 30 Pro actually delivers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 chip and a relatively clean Android experience at Rs 42,999, although the brand’s software update record has been less than perfect. There are also a number of Snapdragon 888 devices available in and around Rs 40,000, led by the Mi 10T Pro and the iQOO 9. Then there is the matter of the OnePlus 10R which brings a relatively clean interface, a powerful processor (MediaTek Dimensity 8100 Max) and insanely fast charging at below Rs 40,000. And of course, those wanting clean Android might even be tempted by the Nothing Phone (1), which certainly delivers on that front and is a decent performer at Rs 33,999, although it is not in the same league in terms of camera and processor.
If you are all looking for a budget flagship, there are plenty of alternatives to the Pixel 6a. But if you love stock Android, value speedy updates, and want them both on a compact-ish device with a powerful processor, the Google Pixel 6a remains perhaps the best option out there.
- A different design
- Good cameras
- Smooth overall performance
- Timely and assured Android updates
- Erratic fingerprint sensor
- Can heat up
- No charger or fast charging
|Design & appearance||
At Rs 43,999/USD 449, the Pixel 6a is considerably more expensive than earlier Pixel "a" edition phones. Can the new blend of processor and pure Android win the day for it? Here's our Pixel 6a review.