Google Pixel 6a review

A budget blower with a big drawback

The Google Pixel 6a
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Google Pixel 6a has features that might appeal to Pixel fans including its smaller form and faster fingerprint scanner, but those are largely cancelled out by its weak battery life and slow charging. It’s priced a little too high to truly compete with the Pixel 6 too, so it’s not going to turn heads as much as Google likely hoped.


  • +

    Snappy fingerprint scanner

  • +

    Relatively compact size

  • +

    Clean software


  • -

    Poor battery life

  • -

    Slow charging speed

  • -

    Was too expensive at launch

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Two-minute review

We found it hard to review the Google Pixel 6a. Normally, cheap alternatives to flagship phones are interesting, thanks to their competitive price points and feature sets - but two issues (one major, one minor) make Google's last-gen mid-range Pixel hard to recommend. That sentiment is especially true in 2023, with the phone's successor, the Google Pixel 7a, now out in the wild (head over to our Google Pixel 7a review for our verdict on that device). 

Let's start with the minor gripe - it's the existence of the Google Pixel 6, to which the 6a is purportedly a budget alternative. Thanks to almost a year of price reductions and deals, the older model costs pretty much the same as the newer one - in some regions, the Pixel 6 has actually been cheaper - despite the older phone having more impressive specs.

So, it’s hard to recommend the lesser phone when the more premium one won’t set you back much more, though some of the Pixel 6a’s features, like the smaller size and improved fingerprint scanner, may appeal to some (again, however, you may want to check out what the Google Pixel 7a offers in that regard).

The bigger issue is the phone’s battery life. We’re not going to mince words here, it’s absolutely dreadful. Getting the phone to last for a full day of use was almost impossible - in fact, we didn’t always get it through a full waking day even when battery saver mode was turned on.

Rarely when testing phones do we get such battery anxiety - though technically ‘battery anxiety’ is when you’re worried your phone won’t last through the day, and we had no worry since we were certain it wouldn’t. The charging speed doesn’t help either, with the 18W powering being one of the slowest we’ve seen on a phone of this price.

Since battery life is such a core aspect of a phone, it’s hard to recommend the Google Pixel 6a, despite it still having some strong qualities elsewhere.

As we’ve mentioned, the phone is smaller than its siblings, making it easier to hold and use without stretching your fingers. It’s also got a snappy and intuitive fingerprint scanner, fixing an issue that many people had with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.

It’s also a decent little alternative to its siblings in its own right, with the same chipset, a good-looking screen and many of the same AI-powered camera features that made the Pixel 6 Pro one of our favorite camera phones.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

It’s a real shame, then, that the Google Pixel 6a’s battery life is such an Achilles’ heel, because if the phone lasted even just a little bit longer, it’d be a really great budget handset.

The battery life issue won’t ruin the phone for everyone, but it does make you stop and think “can I use a phone that needs charging multiple times per day?” If you can, that’s great. But we imagine lots of people will rule out the phone based on this simple issue.

Looking for the perfect audio pairing for the Pixel 6a? Check out our review of Google Pixel Buds Pro.

Google Pixel 6a price and availability

  • Cost $449 / £399 / AU$749 at launch
  • Now $349 / £349 / AU$599
  • Only one storage option
  • Out in many regions

The Google Pixel 6a was announced at the company’s annual IO conference in May 2022, but it took until June 21 for pre-orders to start, and it went on sale on June 28. That means it came 9 months after the rest of the Google Pixel 6 family went on sale.

At launch, the handset cost $449 / £399 / AU$749 for its single configuration with 128GB storage. However, now that the Google Pixel 7a has hit the market - for the more expensive price of $449 / £399 / AU$749, no less - the 6a has been discounted significantly to $349 / £349 / AU$599.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 6a, then, now offers better value than ever. That said, it would have been a more competitive phone, both against other Pixel phones and the slew of affordable phones on the market, if its starting price had been lower.

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Google Pixel 6a design

  • 6a looks similar to 6 family with big camera bump
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Snappy in-screen fingerprint scanner

The Google Pixel 6a retains the same design language of its siblings, but there are a few changes - for better and worse.

For better, this phone is fairly small and lightweight, measuring 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm and weighing just 179g. It’s easily pocketable, not just compared to the other Pixel 6 phones but also most other smartphones out there, and it’s comfortable to use in one hand.

The camera bar on the back of the phone is much smaller than the one on the Pixel 6, so it doesn’t gather nearly as much dust as its sibling does.

For worse, the Pixel 6 has a plastic rear, unlike the glass of its siblings, and this makes it feel a bit cheap - still, plastic holds up more against impacts like drops, so it’s not all bad news.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel 6a doesn’t have a headphone jack, a first for one of Google’s a-series phones, but it has the standard phone accoutrements of a USB-C port, volume rocker and power button (the latter two along on the device’s right edge).

The fingerprint scanner is built into the display, as in the Pixel 6 siblings, but it’s much more intuitive and snappy than their equivalents. Unlocking the phone is snappy and smooth.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Google Pixel 6a display

  • 6.1-inch FHD+ display
  • Generally fit for purpose
  • Surprisingly low refresh speed

The Google Pixel 6a has a 6.1-inch display, making it a smidge smaller than the 6.4-inch panel on the Pixel 6. It offers the same resolution of 1080 x 2400, though.

That’s the resolution the vast majority of smartphones use, and for good reason - most of the apps you use, including streaming services and games, output at that resolution. So the Pixel is certainly fit for purpose.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

One slight oddity is the phone’s refresh rate of 60Hz - this was the standard for many years, but now most phones use 90Hz, 120Hz, or even higher refresh rates. This spec dictates how many times per second the display refreshes its image, with higher figures indicating that motion looks smoother. At 60Hz the Pixel 6a misses on one important feature.

Saying that, not everyone really cares about refresh rate, so it won’t be a deal breaker for some.

The display is broken up by a punch-hole camera at its top - this isn’t huge, so doesn’t take up much space.

  • Display score: 3.5/5

Google Pixel 6a cameras

  • 12.2MP main, 12MP ultra-wide, 8MP selfie
  • Lots of AI software tricks and extras
  • Magic Eraser lets you remove unwanted elements from photos

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

If the Google Pixel 6a’s whole deal is about getting the Pixel 6 experience on a budget, the camera is a good example of that. This isn’t a phone for professional photographers, but it’ll take snaps that are social media-worthy.

Instead of using the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s 50MP main camera, the Pixel 6a gets a 12.2MP f/1.7 one, which sits alongside a 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide snapper with a 114-degree field of view.

Pictures are good. Sure, they won’t match snaps taken on the standard Pixel 6 in terms of vibrancy or detail, but they’ll beat out nearly any other handset at this price.

That’s likely thanks to Google’s AI scene optimization, which can tweak pictures depending on the setting to make them as attractive as possible.

There’s no optical zoom here, and digital zoom only goes up to 7x, so don’t expect to capture long-distance shots. You lose detail the further you zoom too, though 7x shots aren’t too grainy.

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

On the front there’s an 8MP f/2.0 selfie snapper, which is a little low-res compared to front cameras on rival devices, but the camera performs just fine.

In well-lit conditions selfies look fairly bright and colorful, with the AI depth effect mostly - but not always - being accurate in its blurring of backgrounds. Suffice to say that the Pixel is only good, though not great, for selfies.

The AI really is a saving grace of this phone, with a few flagship features of the original Pixel 6 duo present here. Magic Eraser is a great one, as it’s basically a version of Adobe’s Content-Aware Fill tool. It lets you click on unwanted elements in the background of snaps and will use AI to remove them and fill in the background. It’s a fun tool to play around with and depending on the photo it can provide quite believable pictures.

Video recording goes up to 4K and 60fps - which is all anyone really needs, if we’re being honest - with a range of modes like time lapse and slow motion. The front camera maxes out at 1080p though, a side effect of its 8MP sensor.

  • Camera score: 3.5/5

Camera samples

Google Pixel 6a performance and specs

  • Uses Google's Tensor chipset
  • Mid-range processing power
  • 6GB RAM and 128GB storage

Google opted to use the same chip in the Pixel 6a as in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro - its self-designed Tensor chipset - and this means the three phones are equally powerful.

When we tested the Google Pixel 6 using the Geekbench app, it returned a multi-core score of 2837, which is on the boundary between mid-range and top-end power. We’d have liked to test this on the 6a too, but curiously, benchmarking apps were blocked on our test unit. 

Our experience backs up this figure - it was snappy enough for navigation and most tasks, but now and then it slowed down when we were taxing it too much. That’s not unusual - you can’t just switch between games and streaming services without noticing some jitters.

This isn’t really a phone designed for gamers though, with its mid-range chip and small display, so it’s unlikely that too many customers will mind.

The single configuration of phone going on sale has 6GB RAM, and its chipset has a 5G modem, so you can connect to next-gen networks if you’re on the right contract. Your speed will depend more on your area and provider than on the phone though.

  • Performance score: 3.5/5

Google Pixel 6a software

  • Comes on clean stock Android 13
  • Material You lets you customize to a high degree
  • All pre-installed apps are Google ones

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

The Google Pixel 6a comes on stock Android - all phones from the company do since it makes Android. The newest version of the software is Android 12, though the 6a will likely be one of the first devices eligible for Android 13.

Stock Android used to feel quite clean, though Android 12’s Material You design features reduce the divide between it and Android forks made by other companies. This tool lets you pick a background and match app icons and menu colors toit, creating a house theme.

The phone comes with all the standard Google-built apps like GMail, Photos, the Play Store and Maps, but there aren’t any pre-installed extras, saving you from that stint of deleting half the pre-installed tools.

Stock Android remains a favorite operating system among Android fans, so if you prefer that experience over the bright and colorful, but often overwhelmingly vibrant, third-party Android forks, this is a good pick for you.

  • Software score: 4.5/5

Google Pixel 6a battery life

  • 4,410mAh isn't small for this sized phone
  • Pixel struggled to last a day of use
  • Slow charging speed of 18W

Smartphone battery life is often hard to quantity. A device might perform well in lab-based tests but struggle in everyday use, given the huge variance of screen-on time that you’ll use day-to-day, and as such testers can be hesitant to provide decisive verdicts on a phone’s lasting power.

Thankfully, we don’t have to beat about the bush with the Google Pixel 6a, though, because its battery life is abysmal. 

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

The Pixel often struggled to last a full day of use, even when battery saver mode was active the whole time. And we’re not talking about a day of hardcore gaming, video recording and so on - the Pixel 6a struggled with everyday medium use.

And don’t get us started on how long the Pixel lasted without battery saver on - our complaints would go on longer than the phone would last (well okay, there’s some hyperbole there, but we were seriously disappointed by the phone’s lasting power).

The battery is 4,410mAh, which isn’t even small for a phone of this size, so we can’t get our heads around why it doesn’t last longer.

Perhaps Google is hoping you won’t be using the phone much, because it’ll be plugged in and charging for so long each day. The 18W powering here means the phone takes nearly two hours to power up to full, which is impressively slow for a handset at this price.

Credit where credit’s due, Google has some helpful battery health features. For example, if you plug the device in overnight, it can check when your alarm is set for, and make sure to be at 100% for that time.

  • Battery score: 2/5

Google Pixel 6a score card

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DesignThe Pixel 6a won't win design awards, but it ticks all the boxes.3.5/5
Display The Google Pixel 6a's display is good generally, though it misses out on a high refresh rate.3.5/5
Performance With its Tensor chip, the Pixel 6a is fit for purpose for most tasks.3.5/5
Camera The Google Pixel 6a has a good camera for the price, with some useful features you won't get on rivals.3.5/5
Battery The Google Pixel 6a doesn't last long enough, and takes ages to recharge.2/5
Software With its clean stock Android interface, people will find using the Pixel a pleasant experience.4.5/5
Value The Google Pixel 6a offers good value for money, though it's not as competitive as many Chinese phones.3.5/5

Should I buy the Google Pixel 6a?

The Google Pixel 6a

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want a small phone
With a smaller display than its siblings, the Pixel 6a is a good choice for people who don’t like stretching their hands around big handsets. 

The Pixel 6 fingerprint scanner put you off
There was a lot of negative attention about the Pixel 6’s fingerprint scanner being poor when that phone came out, but the issues are all fixed for tghis a-series spin-off.

You like a clean operating system
Stock Android doesn’t come with bloatware or cluttered-looking operating systems, so this is a good pick for people who want their phone software to look elegant.

Don't buy it if...

You want your phone to last a day
Thanks to its dreadful battery life, the Pixel 6a is hard to recommend if you only want to charge you device once per day.

You like a fast-charging phone
Very few phones, even cheap ones, offer 18W charging these days, and it means the phone takes ages to power up to full.

The Pixel 6 is on sale
The Pixel 6 is only a touch pricier than the 6a and that division disappears when the former is on sale - it’s better than its budget cousin in almost every way.

Also consider


Google Pixel 6
The Pixel 6 costs a little more than the 6a but has better cameras, a bigger display, a more premium design and a longer-lasting battery, making it a better package overall.
Check out our full Google Pixel 6 review


iPhone SE (2022)
Apple fans might prefer this budget iOS device, which has a powerful processor and decent, though solitary, rear camera, though its design and display aren’t exactly competitive.
Check out our iPhone SE (2022) review


Samsung Galaxy A53
Samsung’s mid-range marvel has an attractive design, good rear cameras, an impressive screen and a similar price to the Pixel 6a, making it a very tempting alternative.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy A53 review

First reviewed July 2022

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.