Pixel 6a: All we know so far about Google’s upcoming budget phone

pixel 6a all we know so far about googles upcoming budget phone

Google’s next mid-range smartphone is strongly expected to arrive in May, and it could be joined by the brand’s much-awaited smartwatch too.

Evidently, Google is eager to follow up on the success of the premium Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro with an affordable option, because the latest reports indicate that the tech giant is preparing to release a new handset very soon indeed.

Release Date

We strongly expect to see the Pixel 6a unveiled at Google I/O 2022, which starts on May 11.

The strongest indication of this to date was when Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an earnings call, “I’m excited about the products we have coming and look forward to sharing more at Google I/O”, firming up the fact that we’ll see some exciting hardware at the event.

Even though both the Pixel 5a and the Pixel 4a were released in August, we’re expecting the Pixel 6a to be overturn the schedule and be released a little earlier in this year this time.

Even before Pichai’s hint, the evidence had been mounting towards a May launch, starting with the short and sweet tweet (above) from tipster Max Jumbor that was posted in January.

This supposition was significantly strengthened when DroidLife published the Federal Communications Commission documents believed to pertain to the new budget phone, which four different model numbers: GX7AS, GB17L, G1AZG, and GB62Z. This usually happens directly before a launch, so it’s another strong indication that we won’t have to wait much longer to see it.

On top of this handset, there is also plenty of conjecture that the very same launch event might be the one where we finally get to see the much-rumoured Pixel Watch, Google’s first own-brand smartwatch intended to rival the likes of the Apple Watch Series 6. We’ll just have to wait and see if that comes to pass, but it’s certainly plausible that the two devices could share the stage.

Design

Our biggest clue yet as to the Pixel 6a’s appearance has come courtesy of an image purportedly of its packaging:

Pixel 6a leaked packaging
Image: Techxine

This picture was first published by Techxine, which received it from an anonymous source. As you can see the design is incredibly similar to that of the Pixel 6 – however, it does seem to miss out on the eye-catching two-tone colour shceme boasted by that and the Pixel 6 Pro.

Previously, the Twitter tipster @OnLeaks had showcased his impression of what the Pixel 6a could look like, and it’s evident that he was also expecting a continuation of the design language from this budget phone’s premium siblings. It looks almost identical to that image on the packaging box, though in a different colour scheme, and according to the annotations it will have a 6.2-inch screen.

Even more solid evidence came in the form of the aluminium dummy pictured above, posted by the tweeter xleaks7. This once again confirms our suspicions about the design, and is shown in the hand as a useful frame of reference to its actual size.

Camera

According to information published by 9to5Google, the Pixel 6a will once again cling onto the same Sony IMX363 12.2-megapixel sensor that has featured on Google’s phones since the Pixel 3. This means it won’t get the upgrade to the 50-megapixel Samsung GN1 sensor boasted by the Pixel 6, but it’s hardly surprising that some such compromises will be made for a lower price point.

Accompanying that main sensor, the same source claims that the Pixel 6a will also have a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera; both of these are on the main Pixel 6 series.

The Twitter tipster Mishaal Rahman has been more precise about the specific sensors set to be present on the Google 6a (which is allegedly codenamed “bluejay” internally). The triple shooters are said to be the IMX363, IMX386, and IMX355 (all manufactured by Sony).

Moving onto the photographic software, and it seems that the Pixel 6a might miss out on the Motion Mode feature that was boasted by the Pixel 6. This quirky mode takes multiple pictures and then combines then together to add a motion blur into the background of your shot; but according to XDA Developers, the developer Kuba Wojciechowski noticed that the relevant code had been amended to exclude devices of the name bluejay.

Specifications

Last year saw Google launch its own-brand processor, known as Tensor, for the first time, and it was present on both the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro. The aforementioned report from 9to5Google also claims that this flagship-level chipset will be present on the 6a as well, which would be quite the upgrade as usually these cheaper phones have less capable silicon than their premium counterparts.

The FCC listing mentioned previously also seems to confirm that the Pixel 6a will have 5G connectivity, Wi-Fi 6E, and NFC.

Further specifications were revealed in the extensive leak above, posted by @Shadow_Leak, who claimed that the screen would be a 6.2-inch OLED with a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, and that the battery would have a large 4800mAh battery supported by 30W fast-charging. We would treat this leak with a good deal of scepticism however, specially given that the Pixel 6 doesn’t even have a 120Hz refresh rate.

What we want from the Pixel 6a

Whether or not the device materialises in May of this year, we’ve still composed a wishlist of the features we’d like to see the Pixel 6a rocking if it’s to be a successful sequel to the premium Pixel 6 handsets that blew us away at the end of last year. Here are the top four features we’re crossing our fingers for:

Camera Upgrade

The Pixel 5a had the same camera apparatus as the Pixel 5 and even the Pixel 4a 5G. That it’s an excellent snapper is beyond doubt, but it’s surely time to tweak the formula a bit with this new release.

Refresh Rate Boost

Google seems to have lagged behind its Android competitors a little when it comes to display refresh rates; even the Pixel 6 Pro can only offer 60Hz, while the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 boast a super smooth 120Hz. We’d like to see the Pixel 6a join its siblings on 90Hz, but this might be a forlorn hope.

Slicker Software

A highlight of the Pixel 6 was just how well the software worked in tandem with the brilliant hardware. Of the Pixel 6, our Editor Max Parker stated that “it packs some of my favourite software features ever on a phone” (including Magic Eraser and Live Translate among other neat tricks), so we’d love to see these come to the mid-range line as well.

Wider Availability

If you’re sat here wondering why you don’t remember the Pixel 5a then there’s a good reason for that; it was exclusive to the US and Japan. We’d love to see the sequel come to our shores as well, because Google’s mid-rangers tend to offer a winning balance between an affordable price and top-end camera performance that it’s hard to beat.

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