The Google Pixel 6a has one big issue which made it very hard to review

by | Jul 23, 2022 | Smartphones | 0 comments

The Google Pixel 6a has features that may appeal to Pixel fans, such as a smaller form factor and a faster fingerprint scanner, but these are largely offset by its poor battery life and slow charging. It’s also a little too expensive to truly compete with the Pixel 6, so it’s unlikely to turn heads as much as Google hoped.

We’d love to recommend the Google Pixel 6a – budget alternatives to flagship phones are always appealing due to their lower prices and feature sets – but it has one minor and one major flaw that prevents us from doing so.

The presence of the Google Pixel 6, to which the 6a is allegedly a budget alternative, is a minor issue. Despite the older phone having more impressive specs, both phones cost roughly the same after nine months of price cuts and deals – in some regions, the Pixel 6 is actually cheaper.

So it’s difficult to recommend the less expensive phone when the more expensive one isn’t much more expensive, though some of the Pixel 6a’s features, such as the smaller size and improved fingerprint scanner, may appeal to some.

The phone’s battery life is the bigger issue. We’re not going to sugarcoat it: it’s a nightmare. It was nearly impossible to get the phone to last a full day of use—in fact, even with battery saver mode turned on, we didn’t always get it through a full waking day.

We rarely get such battery anxiety when testing phones – though technically, ‘battery anxiety’ is when you’re worried your phone won’t last the day, and we had none because we were certain it wouldn’t. The charging speed is also subpar, with the 18W powering being among the slowest we’ve seen on a phone of this price.

Because battery life is such an important aspect of a phone, it’s difficult to recommend the Google Pixel 6a, despite its strong qualities.

The phone, as previously stated, is smaller than its siblings, making it easier to hold and use without stretching your fingers. It also has a quick and easy-to-use fingerprint scanner, which addresses a common complaint about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.

It’s also a good little alternative to its siblings, with the same chipset, a nice screen, and many of the same AI-powered camera features that made the Pixel 6 Pro one of our favorite camera phones.

It’s a shame that the Google Pixel 6a’s battery life is such an issue, because if the phone could last just a little bit longer – and if the price was a little lower – it’d be a fantastic budget handset.

The battery life issue isn’t going to ruin the phone for everyone, but it does make you wonder, “Can I use a phone that requires charging multiple times per day?” That’s fantastic if you can. However, we anticipate that many people will dismiss the phone due to this minor issue.

GOOGLE PIXEL 6A PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

  • Costs $449 / £399 / AU$749
  • Only one storage option
  • Out in many regions

The Google Pixel 6a was announced at the company’s annual IO conference in May 2022, but pre-orders did not begin until June 21, with a ‘true’ release date of June 28. That means it will be available 9 months after the rest of the Google Pixel 6 family.

The handset costs $449 / £399 / AU$749 for its single storage configuration of 128GB.

Yes, it’s less than the Pixel 6’s starting price of $599 / £599 / AU$999, but that device has been discounted for months. In some regions, sales of the older handset have made it cheaper than the 6a.

If the starting price had been lower, this phone would have been more competitive, both against other Pixel phones and the slew of affordable phones on the market.

GOOGLE PIXEL 6A DESIGN

  • 6a looks similar to 6 family with big camera bump
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Snappy in-screen fingerprint scanner

The Google Pixel 6a has the same design language as its siblings, but there are a few differences – for the better and for the worse.

For better or worse, this phone is small and light, measuring 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm and weighing only 179g. It’s easily pocketable, not just when compared to other Pixel 6 phones, but also to most other smartphones on the market, and it’s easy to use with one hand.

The phone’s camera bar is much smaller than the one on the Pixel 6, so it doesn’t collect nearly as much dust as its sibling.

For better or worse, unlike its siblings, the Pixel 6 has a plastic rear, which makes it feel cheap; however, plastic is more resistant to impacts such as drops, so it’s not all bad news.

The Pixel 6a lacks a headphone jack, a first for a Google a-series phone, but it does have the standard phone accoutrements of a USB-C port, volume rocker, and power button (the latter two on the device’s right edge).

The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the display, as it is in the Pixel 6 siblings, but it is far more intuitive and responsive than their counterparts. The phone unlocks quickly and smoothly.

GOOGLE PIXEL 6A DISPLAY

  • 6.1-inch FHD+ display
  • Generally fit for purpose
  • Surprisingly low refresh speed

The Google Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch display, which is slightly smaller than the Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch panel. It does, however, have the same resolution of 1080 x 2400.
That is the resolution used by the vast majority of smartphones, and for good reason: most apps, including streaming services and games, output at that resolution. As a result, the Pixel is unquestionably fit for purpose.

The phone’s refresh rate of 60Hz is an oddity; this was the standard for many years, but most phones now use 90Hz, 120Hz, or even higher refresh rates. This specification specifies how many times per second the display’s image is refreshed, with higher figures indicating smoother motion. At 60Hz, the Pixel 6a is missing one crucial feature.
Having said that, not everyone is concerned with refresh rate, so it won’t be a deal breaker for some.
The display is broken up by a punch-hole camera at the top, which isn’t particularly large and thus doesn’t take up much space.

GOOGLE PIXEL 6A CAMERAS

  • 12.2MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP selfie
  • Lots of AI software tricks and extras
  • Magic Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from photos

If the whole point of the Google Pixel 6a is to get the Pixel 6 experience on a budget, the camera is a good example of that. This isn’t a phone for professional photographers, but it can take Instagram-worthy photos.

Instead of the 50MP main camera found on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the Pixel 6a features a 12.2MP f/1.7 sensor alongside a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide snapper with a 114-degree field of view.

The images are excellent. Sure, they won’t match the vibrancy or detail of photos taken on the standard Pixel 6, but they’ll outperform nearly any other handset at this price.

This is most likely due to Google’s AI scene optimization, which can adjust images depending on the setting to make them as appealing as possible.

Because there is no optical zoom and digital zoom only goes up to 7x, don’t expect to capture long-distance shots. The more you zoom, the less detail you get, though 7x shots aren’t too grainy.

The front camera is an 8MP f/2.0 selfie shooter, which is a little low-res compared to rival devices’ front cameras, but the camera performs admirably.

Selfies appear fairly bright and colorful in well-lit conditions, with the AI depth effect mostly – but not always – accurate in its blurring of backgrounds. To summarize, the Pixel is only good, if not great, for selfies.

The AI is truly this phone’s saving grace, with a few flagship features from the original Pixel 6 duo present. Magic Eraser is an excellent choice because it is essentially a version of Adobe’s Content-Aware Fill tool. It allows you to click on unwanted elements in the background of snaps, and AI will remove them and fill in the background. It’s a fun tool to experiment with, and depending on the photo, it can produce quite convincing results.

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Video recording goes up to 4K and 60fps – which, to be honest, is all anyone really needs – and includes time lapse and slow motion modes. However, the front camera’s resolution is limited to 1080p as a result of its 8MP sensor.

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