Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6: how does Google's former cheap flagship phone compare?

The Google Pixel 6 turned out to be one of the most popular Pixel phones of all time, with fans loving its design, photography experience and clean software, and it leapt onto our list of the best smartphones.

But one issue was that it was quite an expensive phone, and that's something the Google Pixel 6a aimed to solve - being a budget alternative to the 2021 flagship model with a lower price and some corners cut to keep that cost down.

That said, now that the Google Pixel 7 line is out, the Pixel 6 has become something of a mid-ranger, making it even more comparable to the Pixel 6a (which itself has been succeeded by the Google Pixel 7a). 

In any case, if you're looking to buy a new Android phone, you might be interested in buying one of these Pixels - so how exactly do they compare? We'll run through their specs side-by-side so you can see.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 price

The Google Pixel 6a

The Google Pixel 6a's app drawer (Image credit: Future)

At launch, the Google Pixel 6a was the cheaper phone of the two, costing just $449 / £399 / AU$749 compared to the $599 / £599 / AU$999 of its non-A sibling.

However, both phones have since been succeeded by follow-up devices, so their prices have changed. The Pixel 6, for instance, is no longer sold by Google itself, meaning you can pick it up for far less than its initial $599 / £599 / AU$999 retail price. The 6a, on the other hand, is still stocked by Google following the release of the 7a, but it too has relieved a price cut to just $349 / £349 / AU$599.

Our advice, then, is to hunt around for the best deals if you're buying a new Pixel phone, as price will likely be a big factor in your buying decision. 

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 design

We can basically put our feet up and make a coffee for the Pixel 6 vs 6a design section, because it'll virtually write itself - these are very similar looking phones.

The Pixel 6 family is united by its appearance, with a horizontal camera 'visor' breaking up the back of the device. The 6a's protrudes less, but that's really the theme of this phone - it's smaller than the 6.

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6a also has a plastic back, unlike the glass of the 6, so it'll feel cheaper but will likely withstand more of a beating.

Neither phone has a 3.5mm audio jack, and both use the USB-C standard for charging and data transfer.

A point in the Pixel 6a's favor is that it uses a more advanced version of the Pixel 6's in-screen fingerprint scanner, so its noticeably quicker and more reliable to unlock.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 display

The Google Pixel 6 has a bigger display than its sibling, with its 6.4-inch panel looking large compared to the Pixel 6a's 6.1-inch one.

Beyond your opinion of 'big vs small' screens, the Pixel 6 has the superior display. It has the same resolution, at 1080 x 2400, but a 90Hz refresh rate instead of 60Hz, and more advanced display tech so it supports HDR10+.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

Both phone displays are broken up with 'punch-hole' cut-outs for the front camera at the center-top of the panel.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 cameras

The Google Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 have two cameras in common, and one that's different.

The first similarity is in the selfie camera, with both boasting 8MP f/2.0 snappers that worked fine in our testing, and the second is the 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera with a 114-degree field of view.

The main difference here is in the main camera - while the Pixel 6 gets a high-res 50MP f/1.9 main camera, the 6a is stuck with the same 12.2MP f/1.7 unit that Google put in all its smartphones for a few years.

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Future)

This isn't as huge a downgrade as the numbers suggest - it's still good for taking bright pictures, but they won't have as high a resolution as those taken on the Pixel 6.

The phones have more in common than they don't, especially when you factor in the software. Google is big on its AI, especially when it comes to scene optimization, and with the same algorithms optimizing pictures on both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a, the results aren't a world apart.

The 6a gets lots of the Pixel 6's camera features too, most notably Magic Eraser which lets you pick unwanted background elements in photos and have them scrubbed using AI.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 performance and specs

This is another area which is very easy to write: all three members of the Google Pixel 6 family have the exact same chipset.

That's the Tensor chip, developed by Google itself, and this trio of handsets marks its debut in consumer-ready phones. In terms of performance power, it returned upper-mid-range results in our benchmarking tests, but its real strong suit is the range of AI smarts that it facilitates. Lots of these are in the camera department.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to gaming, AI and intensive processes, the Google Pixel 6a will feel almost exactly the same as the Pixel 6, so you can't use this as a way to decide which model to buy. That said, the standard Pixel 6 has the edge when it comes to RAM, as you get 8GB in that, while the Pixel 6a has 6GB.

They're both 5G phones, so your connectivity should be equal regardless of which model you pick.

A spec you can use though is the storage - while both phones get a 128GB option, only the Pixel 6 also comes with a 256GB one.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 software

Behold, another area where the Google Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 are equal.

Both phones run stock Android 12 out of the box, and both can upgrade to stock Android 13 at the time of writing - Google makes Android, and the stock versions are exactly how the company intended it to look (lots of phone makers tweak Android in a few ways to create a different experience). 

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Future)

Stock Android though is very clean, with no bloatware and only Google's own apps pre-installed (like Pay, Maps and the Play Store).

Pixel phones are often considered the epitome of the Android experience, and that's the case here, with the key features present and accounted for. A big one is Material You, which lets you tweak lots of design elements of the software depending on your wallpaper.

Pixel 6a vs Pixel 6 battery life

Unfortunately, the two Pixel phones don't have enough in common when it comes to battery life.

On paper, it would seem that the Pixel 6's 4,614mAh battery and the 6a's 4,410mAh one would be quite similar when you bear in mind the display and size differences.

But in our experience, we found the Pixel 6's battery life was fine, but the Pixel 6a's was disappointing, rarely lasting a day of use.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

The charging speed is another key difference - it's only 18W on the 6a, which means it takes nearly two hours to power until full. That's compared to 30W on the Pixel 6, which got to 80% after an hour of charging, and that handset also gets 21W wireless charging and wireless power sharing too.


In some areas, these phones are identical.

You're getting the same software, the same chipset and the same camera software, making the user experience similar in quite a few ways.

And the Pixel 6a does pip ahead in a few ways, with a more responsive fingerprint scanner and a smaller body that might appeal to some users.

However in quite a few ways, the Pixel 6 is the better phone with its higher-res main camera, higher storage options, faster charging, longer-lasting battery and higher screen refresh rate.

When you consider that the Pixel 6 can often be bought for cheaper than the 6a too, it seems like the better buy for most people (though again, it's worth checking the latest prices of both phones, since the 7a is now out in the wild). 

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.