Google Pixel 6a first impressions: A fresh start?

The Google Pixel 6a was launched as the successor to the Pixel 4a in India. These phones have a rather unusual two-year gap between them, as Google hasn’t launched its Pixel 5 series or the flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro here. With the launch of the Pixel 6a, Google wants to pick up where it left off. However, the smartphone landscape has changed drastically in this era. Will the Pixel 6a still offer enough value? I spent some time with the Pixel 6a and here are my first impressions.

The Google Pixel 6a is priced at Rs. 43,999 in India for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage configuration alone. Google is running an instant cashback offer of Rs. 4,000 for Axis Bank cardholders and EMI transactions, bringing the effective price down to Rs. 39,999. Google is offering the Pixel 6a in two color options, Chalk and Charcoal.

The youngest member of the Pixel family, the Pixel 6a, shares much of its design with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Pixel 6a is the smallest of the bunch, sporting a 6.1-inch OLED display with Full HD+ resolution. It has a standard 60Hz refresh rate which feels a bit dated compared to the 120Hz refresh rate panels now available on phones in this price range. There’s Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which should be scratch resistant to some degree. The Pixel 6a screen has a centered hole for the selfie camera at the top. It’s not too big to be distracting, but you’ll notice that when you start using this phone. There are thin bezels all around which help deliver an immersive experience. Google also added an in-screen fingerprint scanner which is well positioned and unlocking the phone was easy.

The Pixel 6a has different color finishes on the rear panel

Pick up the Google Pixel 6a and you’ll notice it’s got a good grip. The frame is made of metal, which gives it a premium look and sturdy feel. The phone weighs a manageable 178g and I didn’t feel any fatigue while using it. My thumb naturally rested on the power button while holding the smartphone. The SIM tray is on the opposite side. You only get a USB Type-C port on the Pixel 6a, and it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, which the Pixel 4a had. This USB port is flanked by speaker grilles.

The rear panel of the Pixel 6a looks identical to those of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Google used plastic, and while it looks a bit like glass, it doesn’t feel quite as premium. The Pixel 6a has a large camera module that spans the width of the rear panel. This causes the back to lift slightly when placed on a flat surface, but the phone does not tip over. The Pixel 6a also has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

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A USB Type-C to Type-A charging cable and adapter are all you get with the Pixel 6a

The Pixel 6a features a dual-camera setup on the rear consisting of a 12.2-megapixel dual-pixel primary camera and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with a 114-degree field of view. Optical image stabilization (OIS) as well as electronic image stabilization (EIS) are supported. For selfies, it has an 8-megapixel fixed-focus front camera. Pixel smartphones are known for their camera prowess and I’ve managed to take some stunning photos in my short time with the Pixel 6a so far. Google uses software features like Magic Eraser, Real Tone, and Night Sight to give the Pixel 6a an edge over the competition. I will be testing these and many more in the full review.

Google Pixel 6a first impressions: A fresh start?

Low-light photo taken with Night Sight (tap to see full-size image)

Google Pixel 6a first impressions: A fresh start?

Photo taken in daylight with Pixel 6a’s main camera (tap to see full-size image)

The Pixel 6a is powered by the Google Tensor SoC, just like the Google Pixel 6 Pro, which means this phone packs flagship-grade hardware at a relatively affordable price. It also features Google’s Titan M2 security coprocessor. The Pixel 6a runs Android 12 out of the box and is guaranteed to get three Android software updates and five years of Android security updates. Amazingly, my unit was running the April 2022 Android security patch which is dated at this point. The software interface was clean and free from any kind of bloatware.

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The Google Pixel 6a has a dual camera setup

Google has packed a 4,410mAh battery into the Pixel 6a and claims 24-hour battery life. 18W fast charging is supported, but you don’t get a charger in the box. Charging is slower than what you’d get with most competing smartphones. In contrast, the OnePlus 10R Endurance Edition (Review) supports 150W fast charging.

The Pixel 6a is an interesting smartphone that sports the powerful Google Tensor SoC, which also powers Google’s flagship models. Google’s five-year security update commitment is also better than what the competition offers. However, the Pixel 6a lacks features like a high refresh rate display, fast charging, and wireless charging. Competing smartphones such as the Xiaomi 11T Pro (test), OnePlus 10R and Oppo Reno 7 Pro 5G (test) are some of the best options we’ve seen in this price range. Can the Google Pixel 6a face them? I’ll put the Pixel 6a through its paces in the full review, coming soon.


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