Google’s upcoming budget phone, the Pixel 6a, is getting upgrades everywhere and now looks a lot like the flagship Pixel phones, but how does it actually compare to the top-of-the-line Google Pixel 7 coming later in 2022?
The big news with the Pixel 6a is that for the first time, Google has given its budget phone a more advanced processor in the form of Tensor, the same one we have in the 2021 flagship Pixel 6 series. The Pixel 7, on the other hand, gets the even more powerful second-generation Tensor.
- 6a is more compact
- Only the 7 has a fast screen refresh rate
- Similar dual rear cameras
- Tensor Gen1 at 6a vs Gen2 at 7
- 6a is cheaper
Design and display quality
The Pixel 6a is more compact, but only runs at 60Hz
The Pixel 6a takes the design style of the Pixel 6 series with the camera bar on the back and the two-tone look, so it’s no surprise that it’s also quite similar to the Pixel 7, which is just an evolution of that design.
Both phones also use similar materials with a metal frame and Corning’s Gorilla Glass on the back. The Pixel 6a does use the 3rd generation tempered glass while the Pixel 7 uses a newer generation, but still. Both are also officially protected against water and dust. The Pixel 6a comes with an IP67 rating and we expect only a small improvement with an even higher IP68 rating for the Pixel 7.
And here’s how they compare in pure size:
Pixel 6a – 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm
Pixel 7 – 155.6 x 73.1 x 8.7mm
Pixel 7 Pro – 163 x 76.6 x 8.7mm
iPhone 13 – 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.65mm
As you can see, the Pixel 6a is actually smaller than the Pixel 7, so for those looking for a compact phone, this is an important perk to consider. We’ve also added the size of the iPhone 13 to illustrate that the 6a, while smaller, isn’t as compact as Apple’s popular 6.1-incher.
As for biometrics, no surprises: both use an in-screen fingerprint scanner. We’re yet to see if Google will also support facial recognition as the feature has actually been abandoned for the Pixel 6 family.
Performance and software
The Pixel 6a steps up to a high-end Tensor chip
Under the hood, both phones have the same brand of processor: Google Tensor. However, the Pixel 6a uses the original Tensor chip, while the 7 has the Tensor v2, which will be more powerful, but no details on that yet.
Expect to see more RAM on the Pixel 7 as well, which will definitely help with faster and more efficient multitasking.
Being “Google Phones”, these two will have a squeaky clean Android build. The Pixel 6a will debut with Android 12, but it is expected to receive Android 13 on day one when that new version launches in the fall, while the Pixel 7 that launches later will come preloaded with Android 13. This timing is interesting because the Pixel 6a will thus “burn” one of the three years of major Android updates that Google promises, while the Pixel 7 will get another major Android update and thus have a longer lifespan.
Pixel 7 has a bigger sensor, but no zoom camera
So far we know that the camera systems on both phones are very similar, with a single front camera and two rear cameras, a wide and a secondary ultra-wide lens. Both lack a dedicated telephoto zoom.
Of course, if you dig deeper, you’ll find differences: the Pixel 7 is expected to use a much larger sensor for the main camera, while the Pixel 6a sticks to an older generation, smaller main camera sensor.
We wouldn’t be surprised if some of the camera features are missing on the Pixel 6a and there have been compromises in terms of video recording, as this is usually an area where budget phones compromise on their flagship peers. We’ll update this section shortly when we have camera samples from the Pixel 6a.
Audio quality and haptics
The Pixel 6a does away with one feature that used to stay on Google’s budget phones: the headphone jack. It’s gone, and the Pixel 7 doesn’t have one either.
Both phones come with dual speakers, but it’s too early to comment on quality, so stay tuned for more on this soon.
And the same goes for the haptic feedback and the quality of the vibration motor on these two phones, expect more comments closer to their launch./
Battery life and charging
Pixel 7 has wireless charging and a slightly larger battery
So far, it’s too early to compare battery life between the two as we only know the battery capacity of the Pixel 6a, while Google has kept the battery size of the Pixel 7 a secret.
Of course, we’ll update this section as soon as we learn more about the battery sizes and longevity of the two phones.
While the Pixel 7 is expected to support wireless charging, the more affordable Pixel 6a can only be charged via wire.
And like many modern phones, don’t expect a charger in the box. Maximum charging speeds on the Pixel 6a are set at 18W, while the Pixel 7 family will be a bit faster to upgrade over a wire (expect charging speeds up to 25W).
And here’s a quick rundown of the Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 7 specs:
Summary and final verdict
At the end of the day, it’s clear that Google has really stepped up its game with the significantly faster processor on the Pixel 6a and we also appreciate that it’s a bit more compact than the Pixel 7.
At the same time, there are a few things missing and we feel that having only a 60Hz screen refresh rate on the Pixel 6a is the biggest compromise in the experience. Still, we understand that a compromise had to be made to arrive at that very lucrative $450 price.
In contrast, the Pixel 7 looks just a little more refined, with a sleeker look, faster chip, more powerful camera setup. The big mystery is the price tag Google will associate with its 2022 flagship phones, which we don’t know yet. However, for what it’s worth, we’re really happy that Google now seems to have an incredibly solid budget offering that rivals even the best phones out there.