If you’ve balked at the price tag for the flagship Pixel 6 and 6 Pro last October, Google is now hoping to woo you with its annual “budget” model, the Pixel 6a. The new phone was the headliner at the company’s 2022 I/O event on Wednesday, which included a new set of Pixel earbuds, Google’s first foray into the smartwatch realm, and a sneak peek at the upcoming Pixel 7 line.
As usual for such a mid-cycle hardware refresh, the Pixel 6a packs most of the same features as its namesake flagship, but with a bit of fat trimmed in favor of a lower price point. It still has an OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400, but it measures 6.1 inches instead of 6.4 inches, and tops out at a refresh rate of 60 Hz instead of 90 Hz.
The biggest point of difference is the camera. The Pixel 6a packs 12-MP wide and ultra-wide cameras on the back, which are capable of more than enough for most people. This might seem like a massive drop from the Pixel 6’s 50-MP main camera, but you’ll have to make some sacrifices somewhere.
Thankfully, most of Google’s photography software tricks remain intact on the Pixel 6a. This includes the powerful low-light mode Night Sight and Magic Eraser, which lets users select and remove photobombers or unsightly objects in the background of Snaps. A new feature for the latter adds the ability to change the color of objects in photos, in case your friend’s neon pink shirt is distracting attention from your dog, or whatever.
Google says the Pixel 6a is running the same Tensor processor and Titan M2 security system as the Pixel 6, which packs 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The battery capacity is a bit small, but the company still claims that the 6a can deliver over 24 hours of use on a single charge. Wireless charging has also been dropped, but it’s a luxury that many users can do without.
The most important number may be the price, and Google says the Pixel 6a starts at US$449 – which is a nice saving over the Pixel 6’s $599 – and will launch on July 21.
The Pixel 6a wasn’t the only piece of hardware showcased at I/O 2022 – the long-rumored Pixel Watch is now a reality. While the company has long supplied Wear OS, the operating system for the wearables of the likes of Samsung et al., this is the first all-Google watch. It looks quite slick in the initial render, but other than that the details are slim. (Northern Hemisphere) More details will be announced before launch.
Pixel Buds Pro were also announced, which include active noise cancellation, wireless charging, 31 hours of battery life, and a “Transparency” mode that allows users to better hear their surroundings. They launch the Pixel 6a – July 21 – on the same day for $199.
And finally, the company has teased early glimpses of the upcoming Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. And when we say “glance,” we mean it in the most literal sense—it was 30 seconds of ultra-dramatic close-up renders of the phone on what the Pixel 6 lineup looks like. Apparently the Pixel 7 series will be running on the next-generation Tensor processor and Android 13, and we’ll assume some fancier cameras and other predictable upgrades.
If history is any indication, mark October in your calendar for the full Pixel 7 reveal.