It’s Google I/O today, and a big part of the keynote was the official confirmation of the Pixel 6a, Google’s next mid-range smartphone. The Pixel A series has been a great option since its inception in 2019, but this year is different. The Pixel 6a—confirmed today to cost $449—is shipping with a flagship SoC—the very same Google Tensor chip that ships in the $600 Pixel 6 and $900 Pixel 6 Pro. Apple regularly ships its flagship SoC in the $400 iPhone SE, but for most Android markets, especially the US, this kind of hardware at this price point is unheard of.
For $449 you get a 6.1-inch 2400×1080, 60 Hz OLED, that flagship Google Tensor SoC, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,306 mAh battery. It really feels like the goal here is to create a “third flagship,” and the three Pixel phones are now all equally spaced from each other. Each tier is around $150-$200 more and increases by 0.2-0.3 inches, 30 Hz, and 2GB of RAM: the $449 Pixel 6a with a 6.1-inch 60 Hz display and 6GB of RAM; the $600 Pixel 6 with a 6.4-inch 90 Hz display and 8GB of RAM; and then the $900 Pixel 6 Pro with a 6.7-inch 120Hz display and 12GB of RAM.
Just like how the spec sheet makes this a smaller flagship Pixel phone, the design follows that motif, too. The Pixel 6a looks just like the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, with an all-screen front design, a centered front camera, and an in-screen optical fingerprint reader. The back has the Pixel 6’s trademark back camera bar. We were big fans of this design with the Pixel 6, both for being very distinctive and good looking, while also giving the phone a stable base to sit on when you put it down and start tapping it. So many phones are wobbly on a table, but not the Pixel 6.
Inside that camera bar, you’ll find two cameras, one of which is the tried-and-true 12MP Sony IMX363 sensor that Google has been using on Pixel phones since the Pixel 2. It’s a bit of a downgrade from the upgraded Pixel 6 sensor, but we never saw a huge difference between the two in side-by-side photos. It’s a fine camera for this price. The second camera is a 12MP wide-angle lens.
Just like the Pixel 6, Google says the phone will get “five years of security updates” and three years of major OS updates. The phone is in stores on July 28, with preorders starting July 21.