It looks like the Pixel 6a is outsmarting the Pixel 6 in one huge way

Google Pixel 6a
(Image credit: Google)

 Google’s Pixel 6a may not have formally hit the market yet but that hasn’t stopped some reviewers from getting hands on a device early, testing it out and showing a few ways that the cut-price Google phone doesn’t quite belong with the Pixel 6 family.

Malaysian tech YouTuber, Fazli Halim, managed to get hands on a retail-ready Pixel 6a sample in early June and gave it the unboxing treatment, but now he’s back with a full review, in which we see the 6a’s fingerprint sensor compared side-by-side with the line’s current top-dog, the Google Pixel 6 Pro.

While both phones feature optical in-display fingerprint sensors, in Halim’s review, the Pixel 6a’s sensor proves to be both consistently quicker at reading and unlocking the phone, as well as more consistent, when compared to the Pixel 6 Pro.

It's surprising given the lower-spec (and therefore cost) of the Pixel 6a that the performance would be so much better - but early signs seem to suggest as much.

Analysis: a lighter touch

Sluggish and lacklustre fingerprint sensor performance was just one of the many small quirks that plagued the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro around their launch in late 2021, with Google only partially addressing some of the issues the phones have faced via subsequent software updates.

With this in mind, it was heartening to learn that the Pixel 6a would be using a different fingerprint sensor to the 6 and 6 Pro, something Senior VP of Devices & Services at Google, Rich Osterloh, confirmed during Google I/O 2022 when the Pixel 6a was first officially announced.

While Halim’s video gives us our first proper look at the Pixel 6a, consumers will have to wait until July 28 to officially buy the phone, which swaps out several key hardware attributes found on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to achieve a lower asking price of $449 / £399 / AU$749, granting it the potential to be in the running as one of the best cheap phones out there.

The fingerprint is just one tweak that the Pixel 6a offers by comparison to its siblings, with a smaller 6.1-inch 60Hz Full HD+ OLED display, a lower resolution 12.2MP primary camera (compared to the 6 and 6 Pro’s 50MP main unit, which render them some of the best cameraphones currently on the market) and a base memory and storage configuration of 6GB and 128GB, respectively.

Where the Pixel 6a does hold up is with the same Google-made Tensor SoC and, of course, that snappier fingerprint sensor, which – paired to the lower price tag – might make for the perfect combination for some.

Then again, we’ve got the Pixel 7 just around the corner after Google inexplicably showed it off at I/O earlier this year - and that will probably come with a new PIxel 7a model not that long after, so the search giant hasn’t made it easy to decide when to go for a new phone, it seems. 

Alex Walker-Todd
Senior Phones Editor

Alex joined as TechRadar's Senior Phones Editor in June 2022, but brings over a decade's worth of experience to the role, with an expertise in smartphones, tablets and wearables. He's covered keynotes hosted by the biggest brands and attended the launches for some of the most influential mobile products of the last few years. His experience was amassed at some of the most reputable consumer technology publications out there, including GSMArena, TechAdvisor and Trusted Reviews.