It’s a bit weird for me to say that I’m excited about a mid-range smartphone. That’s actually kind of weird to say for anyone that’s in my line of work. I usually get to play around with a lot of devices per year, quite a few of which are high-end. That goes for smartphones as well, and yet, I’m excited for a mid-range smartphone. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons. I am quite a picky user, so that definitely has something to do with it. I’m currently using the Pixel 4a, and I may even upgrade to the Pixel 6a.
At the time of writing this article, the Pixel 6a is not yet official. Google I/O is tomorrow, when the phone will launch, but I decided to write this at the peak of excitement, right before Google I/O begins. Below, I’ll try to break down the reasons why I’m looking forward to this smartphone, and why I think it will be a good fit for me, though not a perfect one, for sure. Pretty much all of its specs leaked up to this point, and the same goes for its design, so we know exactly what to expect.
Things I’m excited about
As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I’m currently using the Pixel 4a. That is a 5.8-inch smartphone that Google launched back in 2020. Back when it launched, it was a budget phone, and nowhere near the most powerful devices on the market. This phone still performs admirably, though, and I never had serious issues with it. I’ve used it on and off since I got it about a year and a half ago. One thing I truly love about it is the size, that’s for sure. That’s one of the main things I look for in a smartphone, a compact size. That’s really to come by these days, especially when it comes to flagship Android phones. iPhones are out of the question for me, for a number of reasons. I tried using the iPhone 13 Mini recently, but the software is simply a no-go for me.
Now, there are not many compact Android smartphones out there. The ZenFone 8 is one of them, and so is the Galaxy S22, kind of. I considered getting the first one, but I decided against it, as I really do dig the Pixel experience, though I was really close to getting it. The Galaxy S22 is also a device I considered, but the Exynos SoC that is included inside it, and the still-bloated Samsung software is not something that I want to deal with. So, in the end, I decided to keep using the Pixel 4a until something else comes along. The Pixel 6a is not exactly a perfect replacement, as it will be considerably larger, but it will still be smaller than most smartphones these days.
I’ve always enjoyed Google’s stock Android. I do have some complaints when it comes to Android 12, but, for the most part, it was a great experience for me. I’ve used it on both the Pixel 6 and 4a, and it worked really well on both. Getting updates as soon as they’re available is important to me, a is having a really nice-looking UI to work with. On top of that, Android 12 worked really well, without any major issues for me. There was a bug here and there, but all those bugs were device-specific, and didn’t really bother me all too much. I didn’t experience the vast majority of bugs that were reported. So, the bottom line is… I really enjoy Google’s software, and Google’s version of Android is in a really good spot at this point in time.
The Google Tensor SoC will fuel the Pixel 6a. That is the same chip that fuels the company’s current-gen flagships, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The Google Tensor has proven itself to be an immensely powerful processor, and it’s focused on Pixel smartphones. It worked really fine for me inside the Pixel 6, and chances are it will do the same inside the Pixel 6a. I believe that the performance will be on point, though I’m wondering how will it affect the camera performance. The Pixel 4a is fueled by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 730 SoC, and the camera performs really well, mainly thanks to Google’s software. The Pixel 6a is said to have the same main camera, but I do expect the performance will be a bit different due to a different SoC, and thus hardware processing the shots.
The Pixel 6a is said to feature a 6.2-inch fullHD+ AMOLED display with either a 60Hz or 90Hz refresh rate. At first, it was reported that the device will include a 60Hz display. Then, rumors started popping up claiming that a 90Hz display will be included. Up until now, those rumors hinting at a 90Hz display are still louder, so that’s what we’re expecting. The difference between a 90Hz display and a 120Hz display is much less noticeable than the difference between a 60Hz display and a 90Hz display, in my experience. Therefore, I’m certainly looking forward to this bump. The Pixel 4a includes a 60Hz display, so getting a 90Hz one instead would be an improvement.
I’ve always thought that smartphones don’t need QHD or 4K displays, fullHD(+) resolution is more than enough for them, as long as they’re responsive enough, and bright enough. There are, of course, bad fullHD+ panels out there, but I’m hoping Google will opt for a solid panel for the Pixel 6a. The fact this display will be flat is only a bonus in my book. I’m just hoping Google will move on from the Gorilla Glass 3 it used on the Pixel 4a and 5a, as it’s really prone to micro-scratches. I’m hoping that the Gorilla Glass 5 will be used here.
The Pixel 6a will feature a 4,500mAh battery, if rumors are to be believed. That battery is slightly smaller than the one included inside the Pixel 5a, though. On the other hand, so is this phone’s display. The Pixel 5a offered outstanding battery life, to say the last, so I’m having high hopes for the Pixel 6a as well. Battery life is one of the most important aspects of a phone for me, as I use it quite a lot during the day, so having it last until the very end of the day is a must. The Pixel 6a battery life may not be as great as the Pixel 5a’s, presuming that a 90Hz display will be included, but I’m expecting great battery life nonetheless. Google’s processor, plus a good battery capacity give me hope. I would love to see wireless charging on this phone, but that likely won’t happen.
The A series factor
What do I mean by the “A series factor”? Well, Google’s A series smartphones were, historically, the most stable. The company’s flagship smartphones usually have quite a few bugs. Google tends to squash them quickly, but new ones appear. The Pixel A series was not affected by those, at least not nearly as much as the flagship series phones. The Pixel 4a was a joy to use ever since I got it, and the Pixel 5a was also relatively bug-free. We can say the same for the Pixel 3a series as well. So, I’m hoping the same will translate to the Pixel 6a. I’m hoping this will be one of the most stable, and most fluid Android phones out there.
I have some concerns as well
The camera performance
The Pixel 6a is said to feature the same camera hardware like the Pixel 5, at least as far as the rear cameras are concerned. That means that we’ll get a 12.2-megapixel main camera (Sony’s IMX363 sensor), and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera (Sony’s IMX386 sensor). I don’t really care much about the front-facing camera, so that’s not really something I’m too worried about. As long as it’s as good as the one on the Pixel 4a, I’m good. Now, Google has been using this main camera sensor since the Pixel 2, so, for a long, long time. That camera still performs admirably on the Pixel 4a. I take a lot of pictures with my phone, and I do require it to have a good camera. That speaks volumes about the Pixel 4a camera performance.
Google finally upgraded the camera hardware on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro series. We won’t be seeing that hardware on the Pixel 6a, though, as the company has to cut costs somewhere. If I get the same camera performance as on the Pixel 4a, I wouldn’t complain much, though I’m hoping for something better. Considering Google’s very own SoC will be included here, I do hope that Google did its best to optimize it for these sensors, and the same goes for the camera software. I’m worried that the pictures will end up looking worse than on the Pixel 4a. That fear may be unwarranted, but there you go.
RAM & storage
Unfortunately, the Pixel 6a will most likely include LPDDR4X RAM and UFS 2.1 flash storage. Needless to say, I would prefer LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 flash storage to be included here. Google did have to cut costs somewhere, though. What worries me even more is the RAM count. The Pixel 6a is said to feature 6GB of RAM, not 8GB. That basically means that it will have the same RAM count and version as the Pixel 4a. That likely won’t be an issue when it comes to everyday performance, but it’s definitely on my mind, as it’s something I do worry about.
Pixel 6a vs Pixel 7
Truth be said, it’s highly unlikely I’ll buy a non-Pixel smartphone this year. I want a somewhat compact smartphone, and a great software experience on top of that. Google’s clean software speaks to me, and the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7 are tipped to feature 6.2 and 6.3-inch displays, respectively. So, if I don’t end up getting the Pixel 6a, I may go for the Pixel 7 later this year. We have far less information about the Pixel 7, but it may end up being worth the wait. I would prefer it to be smaller than it will be, but… there you go.