This is Google’s least expensive Pixel smartphone in the lineup, and you get a lot for the price tag.
For starters, the phone is the perfect size. The screen is big enough to be helpful but not too big where you can’t fit the phone in your pocket comfortably.
This current crop of Pixels struggles with their fingerprint readers and the Pixel 6a is no different. It feels a bit faster than the Pixel 6 Pro but overall, it’s the slowest and least accurate of the recent smartphones I’ve tested from Samsung and OnePlus.
There is no face unlock so you’re stuck with this less than ideal unlock experience, but it’s certainly not a dealbreaker.
Overall, the software on the Pixel is the best available on an Android. It’s fast, simple, and smart.
There are features on the 6a that will tell you current hold times when you type in an 800 number. Once you’re on the call, the phone will transcribe any phone tree menu onscreen and even offer to hold the line for you. The phone will ring loudly when an agent arrives on the other end.
Voice typing is the best on any phone. It’s fast and accurate. You’ll type less when you carry a Pixel.
This phone is also a translation genius. You can translate spoken words, on screen text or signs and even live or recorded videos. If a text message arrives in a different language, you’ll get a prompt to translate it into your preferred language instantly.
When it comes to the camera, the Pixel 6a is excellent for everyday shots. It’s not the most powerful camera out there because the wide angle is less wide and there is no optical zoom, but for day-to-day snapshots and short videos, this will be a champ.
Excellent pictures are effortless. The results you get from this phone rival phones that cost three times as much. Your friends will consistently be impressed when you show them the picture you got versus theirs.
There are also a few fun editing features including Magic Eraser, which lets you “erase” unwanted people or places out of your photos. Camouflage is a new feature that will sort of blend in an otherwise distracting object on the screen.
I took a bunch of pictures at the The Shoseian Teahouse in Glendale, which was recently renovated. It’s a gem of a place and while the park is worth a visit in itself, the Teahouse is open to the public on the third Sunday of each month.
As for battery life, I didn’t have any issues in my testing. Google says the Pixel 6a is their first phone that has an Extreme Battery Saver mode, which can last up to 72 hours when you turn it on. I didn’t test this feature, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
The biggest downside of the 6a is the sluggish screen experience. Technically speaking, the phone doesn’t have the same high refresh rate I’m used to on flagship phones. What this means in real life is that it seems like the screen is a bit slow. Tough to explain and you won’t even notice it day to day once you get used to using this device, but coming from a high refresh rate on an iPhone and other Androids, it’s quite apparent.
The funny thing is that this phone is super speedy compared to other “budget” phones. I had no issues whatsoever with processing speed. Editing video gave me zero issues, something I can’t say about some other Androids I’ve used to do that.
Other things to know: there is no wireless charging and no memory card slot.
But at $450, the Pixel 6a is incredible value. The only little issue is that this phone’s higher end sibling, the Pixel 6, was recently on sale for $499 over Prime Day.
This has two implications. First, if you can get the Pixel 6 at that price, it’s an overall better buy for $50 more.
Second, I expect the Pixel 6a price to drop to $399 if and when it goes on sale, particularly over the holidays.
Just a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of purchasing. The Pixel 6a is available for pre-order now, it ships July 28.