The Pixel 6a is a smartphone equivalent of Diet Coke in that it has much of the same taste but with some of the sweet elements removed to help ensure it reaches the right price.

We’re sure that for many of you out there, the Pixel 6a looks like a more enticing package than even the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Here are five key reasons we think you might want to make it your next device.

Video – 5 reasons the Pixel 6a could be your perfect smartphone

Subscribe to 9to5Google on YouTube for more videos

Clean Android as Google intended

There are few affordable smartphones that offer clean, bloat-free Android as Google intended. The Pixel 6a is likely the only option in North America with the exception of the Pixel 5a. This is the feature-rich full Android 12 build with all of the trimmings and even a few timed exclusives like Camouflage for Google Photos.

You can even install the most recent Android 13 Beta builds, which only a small pool of devices are able to do. There is zero bloat, plus you’ll get timely updates for the next five years. Within that time period, Google has promised three full OS upgrades all the way until Android 15, with two more years of security patches on top. The value proposition is almost unrivaled by any OEM save Samsung. One UI isn’t for everyone, and major updates are often slower to rollout, making the Pixel 6a a great alternative for those wanting the best mobile software experience.

Perfect size

Because the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have basically become supersized smartphones, the shaved dimensions of the 6a will offer a welcome reprieve for many fans and potential buyers. Let’s temper those expectations a little though; the Pixel 6a is not quite pint-sized.

At 6.1 inches, it’s still big compared to the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5, but it’s certainly more manageable than the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro. Put a case on and you’ll notice a clearer size difference with a smaller camera bar, and better reachability overall given that the display bezels are slim on all sides. When smartphones seemingly increase year over year, the Pixel 6a might provide a more comfortable footprint for you.

Google’s best in-display scanner (despite some issues)

Pixel 6a trade-in

There have been some concerning in-display fingerprint scanner stories floating around where some reviewers have devices that can be unlocked with any unregistered digit. In our own testing with several devices, we haven’t been able to replicate this. This does not appear to be a widespread issue, but it is something to be aware of.

A potential dealbreaker aside, at least in our testing, the Pixel 6a has the most reliable in-display scanner in Google’s 6-series smartphone lineup. The improved scanner unlocks marginally faster than the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro too. Some people have had major issues with the in-display scanner tech on those two devices, but there are no such problems here.

Tensor processing power

After years of pushing low- to mid-range processors for the Pixel A-series, the flagship Tensor chip has been slapped inside the Pixel 6a, and that puts this just beneath many of the best Android phones of the past 18 months. Nothing is out of bounds including gaming and video and photo editing, Google’s first chip may not be outright top of the performance charts, but it’s not far behind.

On-board language processing is instantaneous with transcription and translation being the best in the business. There are also a number of post-processing camera effects that require the enhanced AI muscle that Tensor brings. Motion Mode, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and much more are all possible with even faster processing of all of your images thanks to the return of Pixel Neural Core.


pixel 6a smartphone

$449 is by no means cheap, but the package for the price is very good here. In context, there is likely not a single sub-$500 smartphone in the United States that will receive day-one updates for as long as the Pixel 6a.

Factor in trade-in rates and the ability to get deals with carriers and the Pixel 6a is a truly affordable phone without many of the compromises we associate with cheap Android phones. What’s more, unlike the Pixel 5a, the Pixel 6a is available in more regions at relative regional prices. Those markets are more competitive, but the 6a is still an enticing buy with free gifts like the Pixel Buds A-series.

Bonus: IP rating

Water resistance is not equal, but for an affordable smartphone like the Pixel 6a to come with an IP rating at all is a big bonus. An IP67 rating essentially means that your phone is protected from immersion in 1 meter or 3.3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. You definitely shouldn’t think about taking the Pixel 6a swimming, but a dip in water shouldn’t spell the end of the device. Just avoid salt or sea water as this can cause damage. Rain, puddles, and fresh water are all safe.

It’s not all roses

The Pixel 6a is a great budget smartphone, but it’s not perfect. A big bone of contention for tech enthusiasts, in particular, is the usage of a 60Hz display. In the context of the Pixel 6 lineup though, this makes more sense. You have the entry-level Pixel 6a with a 60Hz panel, the base Pixel 6 with a 90Hz panel, and then the top-of-the-line Pixel 6 Pro with a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s enough division to make each price point increase more enticing in terms of features and functions.

It’s easy to point the finger at the camera setup on the Pixel 6a too especially given the massive upgrades on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro late last year. The 50-megapixel ISOCELL GN1 sensor is a major step up over the Sony IMX363 – there’s no real way to sugarcoat that. However, the now four-year-old 12.2-megapixel main sensor is still capable, and with a lot of Google’s secret sauce post-processing, it’ll be a reliable companion in almost all scenarios.

There’s also the removal of the 3.5mm headphone port, which has been a staple of the Pixel A-series since 2019. You’ll need to pick up a pair of Bluetooth earbuds like the recent Pixel Buds Pro, Pixel Buds A-series, or go out and grab a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter to continue using any wired headphones you have.

Are you thinking of picking up Google’s latest affordable phone? Or have you grabbed one already? Let us know why you picked the Pixel 6a as your next smartphone in the comments section below.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

You’re reading 9to5Google — experts who break news about Google and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Google on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Damien Wilde

Damien is a UK-based video producer for 9to5Google. Find him on Twitter: @iamdamienwilde. Email: damien@9to5mac.com

Damien Wilde's favorite gear