Google looks to attract smartphone buyers with more affordable Pixel 6a

Google has already teased the upcoming launch of its seventh smartphone iteration, the Pixel 7, but in the meantime all eyes are on the company’s recent launch of the Pixel 6a, a mobile device that aims to strike a balance between performance and price. The 6a, which retails for $449 and has been seen on sale as low as $399, shares many of the same components as its higher-end siblings, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, including Google’s custom Tensor processor, the MP20 GPU, support for the latest Android 12 OS, 5G connectivity, and Pixel’s renowned AI for photo processing.

Selling the 6a for half the price of most flagship smartphones means cutting back in certain areas. The screen, for example, while still OLED, maxes out at a resolution of 2400 x 1080 instead of the 6 Pro’s 3120 x 1440, and it only supports a refresh rate of 60Hz instead of 120Hz. It’s also smaller at 6.1 inches and features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 versus the more durable Gorilla Glass Victus found on the 6 Pro.

For snapping photos, the 6a trades in a triple-camera system for a dual-camera setup with slightly lower capabilities overall, but Google’s sophisticated image processing helps to minimize that difference with the 6 Pro for most point-and-shoot situations. There’s no wireless charging on the 6a either, but it still offers fast charging when plugged in.

With inflation making it harder on consumers this year, anyone looking for a new smartphone may not be comfortable spending upwards of $1,000 to get the top tier devices on the market when they can spend $500 or less and get a model that ticks off enough boxes to meet their everyday needs. The mid-tier and budget market has become increasingly crowded, and the Pixel 6a is going up against the likes of the iPhone SE, Samsung’s Galaxy A53, and other cheaper Android models from companies like OnePlus.

One knock against the Pixel 6a is that its battery life doesn’t quite hold up compared to similar phones, but critics have mostly lauded the model’s price-to-performance ratio. “…the Pixel 6a is hard to beat if you’re looking for a great phone for under $500,” said Tom’s Guide. “And that Tensor chipset means your budget phone is capable of doing much more than the low-cost competition.”

According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, while the vast majority of consumers are choosing either Samsung phones or Apple’s iPhone, Google’s continued pursuit of the smartphone market has seen the company gain some slight ground in the past two years. The Pixel 6 has been a big driver of recent success, as Google shipped 1.2 million phones in the first quarter of 2022. Even so, Pixel only commands about 3% of the US smartphone market, according to Interpret data.