Robert Triggs / Android Authority
The price of the new Google Pixel 6a puts me in a bind when it comes to recommending someone a new smartphone. On the one hand, the 6a is a rather decent-looking package for just $449. That’s the same price as last year’s Pixel 5a, but now you also get the Tensor processor found in Google’s flagships, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and a much more modern design.
However, Google’s exceptionally good Pixel 6 is only $150 more. Granted, that’s not a small sum, but $150 buys you quite a lot of extra hardware and really levels up the user experience. Google’s plucky affordable flagship risks cannibalizing its latest budget option.
Check it out: Our Google Pixel 6 review
For a little extra cash, the Pixel 6 boasts an upgraded 90Hz refresh rate for silky smooth scrolling compared to the basic 60Hz panel with the Pixel 6a. There’s wireless charging support too, so you don’t have to mess around with USB-C cables. An IP68 rather than IP67 rating will help the phone survive a more substantial spill, and Gorilla Glass Victus provides more robust protection to avoid chips and cracks than the Pixel 6a’s outdated Gorilla Glass 3. Little luxuries really add up to a more refined mid-range experience.
What’s $150 more today for a purchase designed to last the next five years?
Granted the extra 2GB RAM isn’t going to make much of a difference today. However, it will help the Pixel 6 age a bit better than the Pixel 6a when it comes to the more demanding apps and games that are bound to appear over the next five years. And that’s the key thing; what’s $150 more today for a futureproof purchase designed to last the next five years?
Take a closer look: Google Pixel 6 vs Google Pixel 6a
Furthermore, the Pixel 6 has a better primary camera setup. The Pixel 6a sticks with the tried and tested 12MP, ƒ/1.7, 1/2.55-inch setup that Google relied on for years prior to the Pixel 6 series’ debut. The package was already showing its age with the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5a and, despite Google’s fancy new software tricks, it’s simply not going to produce snaps that look as clean as the larger 50MP, ƒ/1.85, 1/1.31-inch sensor inside the Pixel 6, especially in low light situations.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
But it’s not just Google’s own products that threaten to undermine the Pixel 6a’s success. Samsung’s Galaxy A53 5G also costs $449 and scores a few wins over Google’s latest entry-level phone.
For starters, it boasts a sumptuous 120Hz adaptive refresh rate AMOLED panel, offering the benefits of smooth scrolling without the battery drain. It also includes faster 25W charging and a bigger 5,000mAh battery to keep up with demanding users. There are a few extra cameras onboard for some added flexibility. But perhaps most importantly, it just nudges ahead of Google’s update pledge with four years of OS and five years of security updates. Oh, and it has a microSD card slot to bulk up that limited storage, should you run out. Top that, Google.
Will you buy the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6a?
Now to be fair, the inclusion of Google Tensor certainly makes the Pixel 6a one of the more powerful budget handsets on the market. In that sense, it’s reminiscent of the powerhouse Apple iPhone SE (2022), but it takes more than a processor to build a modern classic. Fortunately, the phone also offers the best of Google’s translation, imaging, and other machine learning technologies on-device, and at a very affordable price. There’s definitely a lot going for the Pixel 6a.
Can’t wait? How to save money buying used Pixel phones
At $400 or less, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But as it stands, there are a few other great handsets worth your attention for around $450. Plus, Google’s own Pixel 6 is such a bargain that it’s easy to talk yourself into spending a bit more cash for a lot more phone.