Everything you want to know about Google’s next mid-range Pixel
The Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro heralded a sea change in Google's smartphone strategy. After years of struggling against the tide with off-the-shelf components, the Pixel 6 series truly brings some innovative and class-leading features to the table, largely thanks to Google's Tensor chip. This also makes the company's upcoming mid-ranger, the Pixel 6a, that much more exciting.
The budget Pixel 'a' phone has helped keep Google's phone lineup interesting, and perhaps even alive, all these years. Google may not have sold millions of Pixel 4a or 5a units the way Xiaomi or Samsung do with their mid-range phones, Pixels still have a fan following. The Pixel 6a hasn't yet been officially announced, but leaks and rumors have already given us a fair idea of what to expect from Google's next mid-ranger.
One significant issue with the Pixel 6 is that despite packing a 6.4-inch display, it is not as compact as it could be. The Pixel 6a could very well fill those shoes and be the compact Pixel 6 that many users have been asking for. Renders show the device as having a design largely similar to the Pixel 6 — a dual-tone design with a glass back and a camera visor, albeit in a more compact form with a slightly smaller 6.2-inch display. The device will reportedly measure 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.7mm, with the rear camera bump protruding by another 1.7mm. For comparison, the Pixel 6 measures 158.60 x 74.80 x 8.9mm.
A recent leak showed off the retail box of the Pixel 6a, and while it did not reveal anything new about the device itself, it did corroborate that the rear design will be similar to what we see in the renders above. Another leak from a carrier database indicates the Pixel 6a will be available in black, white, and green colorways with 128GB of storage.
The camera visor on the Pixel 6a will house a dual-camera setup along with an LED flash. Keeping the budget nature of the device in mind, it is understandable that the periscope/telephoto zoom camera won't make the cut for the 6a, with Google opting for a primary and ultra-wide camera setup.
The front of the Pixel 6a will reportedly be dominated by a 6.2-inch FHD+ OLED display with a punch-hole camera centered at the top. It should also feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, which, with any luck, will be better than the slow sensor found in the Pixel 6. Renders also show the all-plastic Pixel 6a without a headphone jack, marking its demise from Google's budget Pixel lineup. That should not be surprising since the headphone jack has all but vanished from other mid-range and premium devices.
An aluminum dummy unit for the Pixel 6a has shown how big it will actually be in real life and the exact location of the ports and sensors — it also confirms the headphone jack's removal. And if for some reason you were worried that there's no Pixel 6a, that it was all some elaborate hoax, worry not: Google has accidentally already confirmed its existence.
Codenamed "bluejay," the Pixel 6a will reportedly pack the same raw horsepower as its bigger siblings in the performance department. It will supposedly feature the Tensor GS101 SoC, the same chip that powers the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. That's a flagship SoC with some serious ML and AI processing power. Google could reduce the chip's clock speed for thermal reasons, but otherwise, the Pixel 6a should punch above its price category in performance. Google reportedly wanted to use the Tensor chip on the Pixel 5, so it makes sense if it goes with its own chip inside the 6a.
By using the Tensor chip, Google could also bring some of the exclusive new features from the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to the 6a like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and Live Translate.
There's no word on the amount of RAM, but it is safe to expect Google to include either six or eight gigs of RAM in its mid-range Pixel for 2022. The battery capacity also remains unknown at this point. However, Google's Pixel a devices are always known for their battery life, so hopefully, the Pixel 6a won't disappoint on this front.
The Tensor chip could also allow Google to provide the same level of software support to the Pixel 6a as its bigger brothers: three years of OS updates and five years of security updates.
Camera performance has always been one of the strengths of Google's Pixel phones. However, prepare to be disappointed if you expect the Pixel 6a to pack the same primary 50MP camera as seen on the 6 or 6 Pro. A teardown of the Google Camera app points to Google using the same camera sensors on the Pixel 6a as the ones on the 5a, which was first used on the Pixel 3 series in 2018. This means the primary camera will use the 12.2MP Sony IMX363 sensor, while the 12MP IMX386 sensor will do the ultra-wide duties. It seems the front camera will also remain the same as seen on the Pixel 5a and 4a: an 8MP IMX355.
On paper, that doesn't really sound impressive. However, the Pixel 6a will be powered by Google's Tensor chip, so the company could work its magic and extract even more performance from these sensors thanks to its custom ISP. Google likely traded the 50MP primary camera from the Pixel 6 with its Tensor chip due to cost concerns, so it must be pretty confident about the phone's imaging performance despite the older sensors. Additionally, Google could make up for the older camera sensors by offering Pixel 6's exclusive camera features like Magic Eraser on the 6a.
The Pixel 6a is unlikely to run Android 13 out of the box despite Google releasing a couple of Developer Previews so far. The final stable release of the OS is scheduled for release after July while the Pixel 6a is expected to launch in the spring.
Instead, the Pixel 6a should run Android 12L — which was released along with the March 2022 Feature Drop and introduced several new features — out of the box.
Google launched the Pixel 4a and 5a in August 2020 and 2021, respectively. The Pixel 3a was launched in May 2019. Like practically everything else, the release timeline of mid-range Pixel phones has been affected by the pandemic in the past two years, with the semiconductor crunch not helping things either. Nonetheless, this year, there's a possibility of the Pixel 6a making its debut earlier than usual, possibly around May or June. Leaker Max Jambor has also claimed that we could see the mid-range Pixel launch in May this year.
An early launch will help Google create a bit more gap between the launch of its mid-range and flagship Pixel device later in the year.
The price tag of the Pixel 'a' series has always been its highlight. Last year's Google Pixel 5a carried a lower price tag — $449 vs. $499 — than 2020's Pixel 4a 5G despite packing better specs. With the Pixel 6 series starting from $599, it would make sense for Google to price the 6a between $449 and $499. Thanks to the Tensor chip and other yearly improvements, the upcoming Pixel could be an excellent mid-range offering at that price point.
Since Pixel phones have a niche appeal, Google does not tend to launch them globally. Instead, they are only released in a handful of markets. The Pixel 6 series is only available in a handful of countries, and the Pixel 6a will likely also see a limited launch in selected countries — though hopefully more than the Pixel 5a, which is only available in the United States and Japan.
Rajesh Pandey started following the tech field right around the time Android devices were going mainstream. He closely follows the latest development in the world of smartphones and what the tech giants are up to. He loves to tinker around with the latest gadgets to see what they are capable of.
Everything you want to know about Google’s next mid-range Pixel