Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro
Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro

The Pixel 6a is rumored to be the next affordable smartphone from Google. But with fresh “leaks” appearing at a near frenzied pace, not all of which are entirely trustworthy, we’ve created this guide detailing the most legitimate looking rumours about the Pixel 6a.

When will it be unveiled?

We expect to see the Pixel 6a unveiled at Google I/O 2022, which kicks off tonight at 10am PDT (6pm in the UK), so you hopefully won’t have to wait long to get the official information on the phone. Trusted Reviews’ team of product experts will be on hand providing real time coverage so make sure to keep checking our homepage for all the latest IO news. You can also the opening keynote yourself, using our handy how to watch Google IO 2022 guide.

What is the Pixel 6a?

At the moment the Pixel 6a is vapourware. Google hasn’t unveiled the handset yet, and the only references to it come from rumors and leaks that have been appearing online over the past year.

The leaks suggest it will a follow up affordable version of the premium Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro we reviewed and recommended last year. This would be in line with Google’s previous phone release strategy with releasing affordable a-series Pixel 3a, Pixel 4a and Pixel 5a variants of its 2019, 2020 and 2021 flagships under a similar model detailed in the leaks.

The only difference is that, if rumors are to be believed, the Pixel 6a’s release will be a little earlier than previous a-series Google phones.

Release Date

The strongest indication yet of this estimated release date came about 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 alongside the typically software-focused fare.

Admittedly, this does mark a change to the usual launch schedule for the A series, given that the Pixel 5a and the Pixel 4a were both released in August, but 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 back in January.

This supposition was significantly strengthened when DroidLife published Federal Communications Commission documents believed to pertain to the new handset, comprised of four different model numbers: GX7AS, GB17L, G1AZG, and GB62Z. This registration process typically occurs imminently before a launch, so it’s another strong indication that we don’t have to wait much longer for the big day.

Additionally, it’s also highly probable that the very same launch event could be the the launching pad for 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 spotlight on one of Google’s biggest stages.

Design

Our strongest impression yet as of the Pixel 6a’s appearance arrived in the form of a photo of its product packaging:

Pixel 6a leaked packaging
Image: Techxine

This picture was first published by Techxine, which received it from an anonymous source. Evidently the design is incredibly similar to that of the Pixel 6 – however, it does seem to notably miss out on the neat two-tone colour scheme 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 he’s obviously 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 above, though in a different colour scheme, and according to the annotations it will have a 6.2-inch screen.

Even more evidence appeared in the form of the aluminium production dummy pictured above, posted by the tweeter xleaks7. It further confirms our strong suspicions about the design, and is shown in the hand as a useful frame of reference to the actual size of the finished handset.

Camera

According to a report from 9to5Google, the Pixel 6a will once again cling onto the identical Sony IMX363 12.2-megapixel sensor that had 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 that hardly comes as a surprise given that some such compromises will inevitably be made in order to achieve a lower price point.

Accompanying that main sensor, the same source claims that the Pixel 6a will additionally boast a 12-megapixel ultrawide lens and an 8-megapixel selfie camera; both of these are on the main Pixel 6 series too, so there will evidently be a strong resemblance that goes deeper than just the design.

The Twitter tipster Mishaal Rahman has been even 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 software, rather than the hardware, and it seems that the Pixel 6a might unfortunately miss out on the snazzy Motion Mode feature that was rocked by the Pixel 6. This quirky mode takes multiple pictures and then combines then together to add a breathtaking 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 – i.e., the Pixel 6a.

Specifications

Last year saw Google unveil its first-ever own-brand processor, known as Tensor, and it was present on both the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6 Pro from launch. The aforementioned report from 9to5Google goes on to claim that this flagship-level chipset will be present on the 6a as well, which would be quite the upgrade seeing as cheaper phones often run on 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.

A list of further specifications were revealed in the extensive leak above, posted by @Shadow_Leak on Twitter, who claimed that the screen would be a 6.2-inch OLED with a 120Hz maximum refresh rate, and that it would have a large 4800mAh battery capacity supported by speedy 30W fast-charging. However, we would treat this leak with a good deal of scepticism given that even the more premium Pixel 6 doesn’t even have a 120Hz refresh rate.

What we want from the Pixel 6a

We’ve composed a short wishlist of the killer 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 wowed us at the end of last year. Here are the top four upgrades 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. It’s undoubtedly an excellent snapper, but it’s surely time to tweak the formula a bit with this new release to give it a qualitative edge over its fast-improving rivals.

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 can only offer 90Hz, while the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 boast a super smooth 120Hz. We’d like to see the Pixel 6a improved to 90Hz at least so that budget buyers can also enjoy a smoother screen.

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 anything about the Pixel 5a then there’s a good reason for that; it was exclusive to the US and Japan and never made its debut in Europe. We’d love to see the sequel come to British shores as well, because Google’s mid-rangers do tend to offer a winning balance between an affordable price and top-end camera performance that is hard to beat.

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