Google Pixel 6a unveiled with full Tensor speeds

Even by Google smartphone standards, the Pixel 6a was a poorly kept secret — mentioned in the company’s own product colouring book for Pixel superfans a few months back — but now it’s finally official. The Pixel 6a will launch on July 28, priced at £399.

Announced tonight at the Google I/O developers conference, just as the original Pixel 3a was three years ago, it’s essentially what you would expect from a Pixel ‘a’ handset, which is to say it’s a scaled back version of the flagship Pixel 6, which we rather liked when we reviewed it last year.

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But there’s a key difference this time. Google has taken a leaf out of Apple iPhone SE handbook by matching the processing power and making cuts elsewhere. The Pixel 6a uses Google’s own Tensor chip, giving it the same processing and graphical grunt as the Pixel 6 Pro. This will be backed by 6GB RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.

This isn’t just positive in its own right: it also means the Pixel 6a should stay just as fast as the flagship version, which is probably why Google has felt confident enough to promise at least five years’ worth of security updates. And given Pixel phones get access to new builds of the OS first, that shouldn’t be underestimated.

It even maintains the under-screen fingerprint reader. Impressive stuff.

Of course, the Pixel 6a wouldn’t be cheaper than the flagships if Google hadn’t cut a few corners to keep the costs down. And unfortunately that does involve a reduction in the camera specs, with the Pixel 6a reverting to the 12MP main sensor used on the previous three generations of Pixel, as opposed to the 50MP number that debuted on the Pixel 6. This will be supported by a 12MP ultrawide camera.

That’s disappointing but it’s worth noting that previous Pixels punched above their weight in the photography stakes, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case again here. Especially when features such as Magic Eraser, Real Tone and Face Unblur are still inherited.

Elsewhere, you can expect a “thermoformed composite back”, rather than the metal or glass you get with flagships. The 6.1in screen is a 1080p 60Hz number too – a mild step back on the 90Hz offered on the Pixel 6, and indeed the 120Hz offered by the Pixel 6 Pro.

Considering the mid-range £399 price tag, these cuts don’t sound too unreasonable. We’ll know for sure once we have our review unit though, so watch this space.

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