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Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: What's the difference?

Google Pixel 6 vs 6a
(Image credit: Google)

Although the Google Pixel 6 (opens in new tab) misses out on the excellent telephoto lens seen in the Google 6 Pro (opens in new tab), it’s still one of the best camera phones (opens in new tab) for photography in its respective price bracket and has been incredibly popular due to this combined with its great design and user experience. 

So, has Google managed the same type of magic with the Google Pixel 6a? Slashing the price again but still delivering on specs?

Google Pixel 6 (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Design 

The Google Pixel 6 family is a very good-looking unified bunch, and as such the Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 look very similar. The distinctive rear camera bar housing protrudes less on the Pixel 6a, but that’s because it’s a more compact phone. 

Build quality differs slightly between the models, with the Pixel 6 using a Gorilla Glass Victus panel at the front and Gorilla Glass 6 at the rear, with an aluminum chassis in an IP68-certified body. The Pixel 6 has a Gorilla Glass 3 display panel, and the rear is made of plastic with a fingerprint-resistant coating. It is however also dust and water resistant, but carries a lower IP67 rating.

As the Pixel 6a uses a more advanced version of the Pixel 6's in-screen fingerprint scanner, it’s faster and more reliable, which is always a bonus. 

Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Display 

Google Pixel 6a (Image credit: Google)

Moving on to one of the areas where the phones differ significantly – the displays. The Pixel 6 boasts a 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6a has a smaller 6.1-inch OLED panel – as you would expect on a smaller phone – but its 60Hz refresh rate is a real disappointment, especially as we’re come to expect high refresh rates on mid-range phones.

Google Pixel 6 display  (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)
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Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Camera 

As we’ve reported previously (opens in new tab), it’s disappointing that the Pixel 6a gets a 12MP main camera downgrade, rather than the 50MP sensor seen in the Pixel 6. 

The Pixel 6a’s 2MP f/1.7 main camera is as seen in the Pixel 5 (opens in new tab)Pixel 5A (opens in new tab)Pixel 4 (opens in new tab) and Pixel 3 – it’s most definitely not cutting edge. The Pixel 6a’s main camera is joined by a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide and the camera disappointment sadly continues in the 8MP front-facing selfie camera. 

The Google Pixel 6 has an excellent camera set-up, which will no doubt make photography lovers still choose this model over its newer, cheaper sibling.

Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Performance 

It’s great news for the Google Pixel 6a that it features the same Google Tensor chip as the Pixel 6 and indeed the Pixel 6 Pro. Benchmarking has shown strong upper-mid-range results with it doing best in the range of AI features that it facilitates, many of which are in the camera department.

The Pixel 6 wins when it comes to looking at RAM, as you get 8GB in that, while the Pixel 6a has been cut to 6GB. Both 5G phones get a 128GB storage option, but only the Pixel 6 comes with a 256GB option.

Software-wise, both the Google Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 are equal, running stock Android 12, which work exactly as maker Google intended it to. Google guarantees five years of security updates for both phones.

Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Battery 

Pixel 6a

Google Pixel 6a (Image credit: Google)

The Pixel 6a has a smaller battery than it’s big brother – 4410mAh vs. 4614mAh, meaning the phones should offer similar battery life, if not better on the 6a thanks to the screen refresh rate.

However, there are differences, namely that the Pixel 6 supports up to 23W wired fast charging, as well as wireless charging and reverse wireless charging. The cheaper 6a on the other hand simply offers 18W wired charging. 

Google Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: Price 

The Pixel 6a wins on price, being the cheaper of the two phones, but then that is the point of the new smartphone. The Google Pixel 6a has a very competitive price point of $449 / £399 / AU$749, compared to the higher $599 / £599 / AU$999 for the Pixel 6. 

Photography lovers will want to still opt for the Pixel 6 in our opinion. However, those simply looking for a good-looking mid-ranger that aren’t swayed by the camera system, will find the Google Pixel 6a a strong option. 

The Google Pixel 6a is available for pre-orders now (opens in new tab).

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Rachael Sharpe
Rachael Sharpe

Rachael is a British journalist with 18 years experience in the publishing industry. Since working on www.digitalcameraworld.com (opens in new tab), she’s been freelancing, and contributing to some of the world’s best-loved websites and magazines including T3.com and TechRadar.com and has also had a book, iPad for Photographers, published. She's currently acting as editor of 5GRadar.com - a website specializing in the latest cellular technology.