Google Pixel 6a Features We Love And Hate – Most reviewers will agree that smartphones have gotten a little boring of late, none making you particularly annoyed or extremely excited. Folds aside, they all look alike, do most things well, and that’s why reviews are now mostly about figuring out the things a particular phone does slightly better, or worse, than its price competitors.
Google’s Pixel 6a, which I’ve been using as my daily driver for the past two weeks, is a refreshing departure from this norm, in good and bad ways. From frustration to joy, the Pixel 6a has taken me through a range of emotions and I’m already dreading writing the conclusion.
Google Pixel 6a Features We Love And Hate
The last smartphone Google released in India was the Pixel 4a, way back in 2020. So it was with great anticipation that smartphone nerds awaited the launch of the Pixel 6a. Priced at Rs 43,999, the Pixel 6a isn’t quite a flagship, as it’s part of Google’s ‘a’ line, which focuses on delivering value by sacrificing some bells and whistles. But what makes the Pixel 6a new in the ‘a’ lineup is that it features the same flagship Tensor chipset from Google’s own chip design team, which also finds its place in the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro.
Opinion: I Don’t Love The Pixel, But I Bought It Because Of Google’s Software Package And What It Means
The body is a relatively compact slab with a 6.1″ 60 Hz AMOLED screen. While it’s easy to use one-handed, the slippery back and sides mean you’ll need to get a case. It’s definitely not when it comes to ergonomics. The back shows off the strikingly attractive Pixel -design featuring a nice plastic panel and the signature black camera bar.
Here, too, we see the first major downgrade – the Pixel 6a reuses the aging, small, 12.2 MP Sony IMX363 as its main sensor, instead of the new sensors found in the 6 and the 6 Pro. This is a unit that was introduced in Pixel phones from 2017. There is also a 12 MP ultra-wide sensor.
The single variant comes with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The battery is 4410 mAh, and while there is no charger in the box, the maximum charging speed is now a very slow 18W. Tragically, in a departure from the a-series phones, Google chose to remove the headphone jack from the Pixel 6a.
Setting up the Pixel 6a was an exercise in frustration as the phone refused to register my thumbprint. Despite multiple attempts, it kept failing, and this brings me to my main grouse: the fingerprint sensor. There is no polite way to say this. It’s garbage, the worst biometric authentication method I’ve used on a smartphone. While , I complained about FaceID, but I’ll choose it any day and twice on Sunday over the Pixel 6a’s fingerprint sensor.
Google Pixel 6 Pro Single Sim + Esim 256gb Rom + 12gb Ram (gsm Only
I finally managed to register my fingers, but even then the sensor was slow and unreliable, and every time I had to unlock the phone in a hurry, it would just refuse to work. I even tried the ‘register the same finger twice’ trick and that did little to improve things. It was a never-ending source of frustration and I eventually started using the phone permanently unlocked to get around it.
It’s just baffling that Google would use a bottom part like this on its phone when phones costing less pack much better fingerprint sensors.
Now the good news is, that’s the end of the bad news. I really don’t have any other major complaints about the phone. Just like most other smartphones, the Pixel 6a is fast and smooth and loads apps and switches between apps without a problem.
The 60hz AMOLED display won’t set any performance charts alight, but still does a solidly competent job. The brightness is adequate, the contrast is very good, and the colors are quite accurate. The 60Hz refresh rate feels primitive and choppy when you’re coming from a 120Hz screen, as I mentioned in my , but I notice that after using a 60Hz screen for a few days, it feels pretty smooth, as long as you don’t choose . bring up a 120Hz device in the meantime. It’s not fancy, but it’s good enough.
Pixel 6a After 1 Month Of Use: An Iphone Killer Or Just Another Affordable Android Phone?
The stereo speakers do a very good job, offering a good amount of detail and bass. It’s a little less than the iPhone, but not too far. Combined with the AMOLED screen, watching videos on the Pixel 6a is a pleasure. The phone also has good haptics, even if not quite the best in class.
The Pixel 6a runs Android 12, although Android 13 is just around the corner. Pure stock Android is what makes the Pixel 6a a quintessentially American smartphone. While Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi and BBK’s cousins pamper you with endless customization capabilities and options, the Pixels hew to a more rigid iPhone-like approach. The inability to shift my back button to the right and other such minor frustrations abound, but I doubt most people would care much about them.
The Material You aesthetic, the absence of bloatware and the general lack of cruft make using the Pixel 6a a light, enjoyable experience, though I personally prefer the more customizable Android skins.
The battery life was great. In fact, even on days of very heavy and long usage, I failed to kill the battery, with the phone going through 7 hours of screen-on time without breaking a sweat. Here I have to mention Android 12’s annoying changes to battery usage information, which forced me to use a separate app – AccuBattery – to measure this number. The long battery life somewhat makes up for the lack of fast charging or wireless charging although at least one of these would be nice to have at this price.
Google Pixel 6 Vs Pixel 6 Pro: Should You Spend More For The Pro?
Pixel phones have always been known for their cameras. Until the Pixel 6 and the 6 Pro, Google has been using the same sensors since 2017, tweaking its algorithms to squeeze out the best performance. And exactly these sensors find a place in the Pixel 6a. But in the five years since these cameras made their debut, sensors in general have gotten much bigger, with even cheaper phones featuring sensors much larger than those found on the Pixel 6a. So I was very curious to see how they held up against the competition.
The laws of physics mean that despite the brilliance of Google’s computational photography team, the small sensors in the Pixel 6a suffer when it comes to low light. When shooting with the main sensor, if you can somehow hold the phone steady – with a tripod or otherwise – for the time it takes for Night Sight to do its job, you get great results with great colors and well-rated white balance. But when you’re shooting handheld, you end up with blurry shots half the time because the exposure is just too long, and that means you can’t really depend on it all the time. The results are more or less the same with the ultrawide.
However, give it a bit of light, and it’s a whole different animal. Photos are rated pretty well in terms of exposure, colors, dynamic range and contrast. Add to this that the Pixels offer the best camera interface of any phone I’ve used, with the ability to not only adjust exposure, but also color temperature and shadows. The HDR can sometimes overcook brightly lit landscapes – as is the case with most phones – but a quick pull down on the shadow slider takes care of that and gives you a great tonemap.
Now let me come to the crowning glory, the thing that sets the Pixel 6a apart – skin tones.
Google Pixel 7 And Pixel 7 Pro Review: Refined In Every Way
When it comes to photographing people, especially the range of skin tones you see in India, there is simply no better phone camera. While there is some light, the skin colors that the Pixel 6a produces are noticeably better than those of any other phone, including the iPhone 13, which otherwise does a very good job. Google talks about the Real Tone feature in their cameras, where their algorithm is designed to work well with skin tones of people of color, and they didn’t oversell it. In terms of color, contrast and texture, the Pixel 6a produces by far the best skin tones I’ve seen from a phone camera. If you like taking pictures of people, this is the phone to buy.
When it comes to landscapes and objects, there are other phones that can match and surpass the Pixel 6a, but when it comes to portraits, the Pixel 6a is the undisputed champion.
Although the Pixel 6a doesn’t have a telephoto lens, its digitally zoomed 2x photos are often better than those of phones with dedicated telephotos when it comes to pictures of people.
The ultrawide performs creditably, with color science very closely matching the main sensor. I’m disappointed that it lacks autofocus, but that’s pretty standard