Google’s A-series Pixel phones have routinely ranked among the more popular devices from the company, with affordable prices, intelligent features, and long software support lifespans. Now, with the Pixel 6 series launched and in the hands of fans around the world, it’s time to turn our attention towards the next budget Pixel, the Pixel 6a.
Over the past year, the A-series has offered an unpredictable balance of size, regional availability and connectivity options. With the recent soft reset of the Pixel brand, though, there are plenty of things on our wish list for the Pixel 6a. These are our top six picks.
1. A Google Tensor processor
If Google wants to disrupt the mid-range like never before, it should fit the Pixel 6a with the same homegrown Tensor processor as the Pixel 6.
Tensor in the Pixel 6a may seem like overkill. But moving the entire Pixel line over to Google silicon sooner rather than later would make a lot of sense.
Tensor would allow Google to offer 5 years of updates to cheaper Pixels.
It allows Google to continue building out unique features powered by machine learning, and do so at its own pace without backporting them to run on Qualcomm silicon for its cheaper phones. Google would also benefit from reduced engineering overhead if the A-series Pixel simply uses the same Tensor processor from the previous year’s Pixel flagship.
High-end Pixels could continue to differentiate themselves through snazzier designs, better camera hardware and superior screens. Meanwhile, Tensor would raise the ceiling in terms of the AI-based features Google is able to offer in mid-range Pixel phones. The A-series would finally be able to compete with less expensive iPhones in terms of raw power, while also bringing the heat to cheaper, higher-specced devices from Chinese OEMs, most of which are poorly supported in terms of Android updates.
Tensor is the primary reason Google has been able to offer five years of support to the Pixel 6 series. A Tensor-based Pixel 6a allows Google to extend this same support to the mid-range space, where competitors are unlikely to offer such generous support lifespans.
2. A faster display
Plenty of manufacturers can offer 90Hz displays in handsets priced around the Pixel 6a’s likely $400-450 price point, and it’s time for Google to do the same.
A faster display is one of the more meaningful quality of life improvements found in the best Android phones around, and while 120Hz is still kind of overkill, the jump from 60 to 90 is a noticeable improvement. Improved touch response makes devices feel quicker, while faster scrolling makes every app more enjoyable to use.
What’s more, devices like the Pixel 5 and Pixel 6 show it’s possible to push a Full HD image at 90Hz without significantly denting battery life.
3. More colors
The past couple of generations of A-series Pixels have been painfully dull to look at. The Pixel 4a, 4a 5G and 5a were available only in black, or colors so dark they might as well be black. And while that’s all well and good if you’re using a case, we think it’s time for a splash of color to be brought back with the Pixel 6a.
It’s time for an A-series Pixel in something besides black.
Color is a major part of Material You in Android 12, as reflected by the colorway options offered in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. (Even the black Pixel 6 isn’t really black, but two subtly different shades of mid-grey.) So it’d be truly disappointing to see the affordable Pixel for 2022 available in just one hue.
4. Wireless charging
It’s been a long time since Qi wireless charging was a luxurious extra present in only the most expensive phones. Premium Pixels have offered this feature for the past three years, and it’s been in every iPhone since 2017.
Google doesn’t necessarily need to replicate the faster wireless charging speeds of the Pixel 6 Pro. But the ability to conveniently top-up your device throughout the day is increasingly a table-stakes feature across the board, even in more affordable handsets.
5. Wider international availability
The Pixel 5a was stung by the current global supply chain issues and chip shortage, particularly around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G, leading to availability being limited to the U.S. and Japan. (Sources tell Android Central that a European and Indian launch for the 5a had originally been on the cards.)
Supply chain issues are expected to last well into 2022. But we’re hoping Google will be able to flash expand the Pixel 6a to, at the very least, the countries where the Pixel 6 is available. Ideally the company would be able to add India to that list, however import duties could hobble the 6a in that country.
If Google does use its own Tensor processor in the Pixel 6a, it at least wouldn’t be fighting for the same supplies of Snapdragon chips as every other manufacturer.
6. A small option
Google has flip-flopped over the past few years when it comes to sizing of Pixel A-series phones. In 2020 the Pixel 4a initially launched as a smaller handset, before the 4a 5G gave buyers a slightly-less-small option. Then in 2021 the Pixel 5a was only available in a larger form factor.
We’d like to see Google return to the series’ roots and offer the 6a in both small and “XL” variants. The lack of a clear successor to the pocket-friendly Pixel 5 presents an opportunity for the standard Pixel 6a to fill this spot. Meanwhile a Pixel 6a XL, Plus or Pro could target buyers who want a bigger screen without paying Pixel 6 Pro money.
The recent momentum is definitely in the direction of larger displays, though, as features like 5G demand bulkier handsets with larger batteries. So we wouldn’t necessarily bet on Google following our advice here.
The Google Pixel 6a is likely to break cover sometime during Summer 2022, ahead of the launch of Android 13. As always, Android Central is your source for leaks, news and hands-on coverage.