Google Pixel 6a vs. Pixel 6: What are the differences?

  • Source: Google

    Google Pixel 6a

    Super phone at a better price

    $317 $349 Save $32

    The Pixel 6a is an affordable and reliable phone, thanks to fantastic software features and a great camera. It’s one of the best value options out there.


    • Longer security and OS update schedule
    • Easier to hold
    • Longer battery life
    • Snappy performance

    • Smaller display, 60Hz refresh rate
    • Less RAM and storage

  • google-pixel-6-square-render-01

    Source: Google

    Google Pixel 6

    Larger but more expensive

    $397 $599 Save $202

    The Pixel 6 isn’t as widely available anymore, but it’s still a good option if you want something a bit bigger than the Pixel 6a and can’t afford the Pixel 7. Its 90Hz display and wireless charging are added bonuses.


    • More RAM and storage
    • Snappy performance
    • Outstanding camera array
    • Larger display

    • Less battery life
    • Shorter OS and security patch schedule
    • Costs more
    • Pixel 7 is readily available


  • The Google Pixel 6a is a more affordable option compared to the Pixel 6, with prices as low as $300 for the unlocked model.
  • The Pixel 6a has a smaller display and lacks a high refresh rate compared to the Pixel 6, but it still offers a reliable and affordable smartphone experience.
  • The camera on the Pixel 6a is not as impressive as the Pixel 6’s, but if camera performance is not a priority, the Pixel 6a is a sensible choice for budget-conscious buyers.

Although Google has released the newer and upgraded Pixel 7-series models, the company’s Pixel 6a and Pixel 6 remain good options for anyone looking for a capable Android phone on the cheap.

But which of these two slightly dated phones makes the most sense if you have a tight budget? Is it the midrange Pixel 6a that houses a flagship-grade processor or the last-generation value flagship, the Pixel 6? Let’s find out.

Price, availability, and specs

The Pixel 6a may have gotten a successor in the 7a, but it’s still very much available on the market. And considering it’s over a year old, it has gotten considerably cheaper than its launch price. The $450 unlocked Pixel 6a model with sub-6GHz 5G now retails at just $300, and even goes down to $249 during sales. Similarly, you can get the $500 Verizon version of the phone with mmWave 5G at just $400 by ordering from Amazon, the Google Store, or Verizon.

Although the Pixel 6 is even older than the Pixel 6a, it’s still finding space on store shelves, but it’s increasingly hard to find. For now, you can grab the 128GB model at $399, down from $599, and the 256GB model at around $405, down from $699. Both versions can be found on Amazon and Best Buy.

Just bear in mind that you may want to consider one of the more recent phones over the Pixel 6, since you can often find the Pixel 7 at only $100 more and the Pixel 7a at about $50 more.

Turning our attention back to the Pixel 6 and 6a, here are the specs in each phone:

  • Google Pixel 6a Google Pixel 6
    SoC Google Tensor Google Tensor
    Display 6.1” 2400×1080 (20:9) 60Hz OLED 6.4″ 1080p OLED, 90Hz
    RAM 6GB 8 GB
    Storage 128GB 128 GB, 256 GB
    Battery 4,400mAh 4,614 mAh
    Operating System Android 13 Android 13
    Front camera 8MP f/2.0 IMX355 84°FOV 8 MP f/2.0, 84° FOV
    Rear cameras 12MP f/1.73 IMX 363 w/OIS 77° FoV; Ultra-wide: 12MP f/2.2 IMX386 114° FoV 50 MP f/1.85, 82° FOV (primary); 12 MP f/2.2, 114° FOV (ultrawide)
    Connectivity 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, LTE, 5G
    Dimensions 152.2mm x 71.8mm x 8.9mm, 178g 158.6mm x 74.8mm x 8.9mm, 207g
    Colors Sage (green), Chalk (white), Charcoal (black) Stormy Black, Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral
    IP Rating IP67 IP68


pixel 6 rear fall leaves

The Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6a sport the same design language. Both feature a rear camera bar housing dual camera sensors, giving them a distinct look compared to other smartphones. However, the two Pixels differ in their build quality.

The Pixel 6 uses a Gorilla Glass Victus panel at the front and Gorilla Glass 6 at the rear, sandwiching an aluminum chassis in an IP68-certified body. As for the Pixel 6a, it sports a Gorilla Glass 3 display panel and a “3D thermoformed composite back” rear with a fingerprint-resistant coating. The phone is dust- and water-resistant, but it has a lower IP67 rating.

Despite packing a 6.4-inch display, the Pixel 6 is a relatively large phone thanks to its massive bezels. If you want a more compact-sized phone, the Pixel 6a would be the ideal choice. Its 6.1-inch display gives it a more compact form factor that aids one-hand use.


Google Pixel 6 with display illimunated

The two Pixels differ significantly in the display department. The Pixel 6 sports a 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, while the cheaper Pixel 6a has a smaller 6.1-inch 60Hz OLED panel. Both OLED panels feature High Brightness mode, a feature that boosts display brightness in direct sunlight.

Many users might prefer the smaller display of the Pixel 6a; however, its 60Hz refresh rate is a bummer. High refresh rate displays are common even in the best budget Android phones, and its omission from the Pixel 6a is an odd choice on Google’s part.

The two phones also feature an in-display fingerprint scanner. Google uses a different sensor on the Pixel 6a that’s notably better than the Pixel 6’s buggy and slow fingerprint scanner.


Google Pixel 6 on a colorful background

The Pixel 6 and 6a are miles apart in the camera department. This is an area where Google’s cost-cutting on the cheaper Pixel 6a shows. The phone uses the same 12MP Sony IMX363 primary sensor that debuted in October 2018 on the Pixel 3. In the following years, it was used on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 5.

The Pixel 6 uses a newer and bigger 50MP Samsung sensor with an f/1.8 aperture that absorbs more light and provides a better dynamic range. It makes use of pixel-binning to output detailed 12MP photos. An LDAF sensor helps to focus on the subject quickly, even in challenging conditions. Both phones use the same ultra-wide camera: a 12MP f/2.2 shooter with a 114° field of view and 1.25μm pixel width. You get a better 10MP f/2.2 selfie sensor on the Pixel 6 compared to an 8MP f/2.0 snapper on the Pixel 6a.

The budget Pixel cannot capture as many details as its more expensive sibling, especially in challenging situations. Apart from that, it can easily hold its own against its bigger brother. Besides image quality, the Pixel 6a provides the same camera experience as the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. In addition, you get features like Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Portrait Light, and Face Unblur to play around with.


Render of Google Tensor G2 chipset with metallic object in background

Source: Google

Google’s first in-house Tensor chip powers the entire Pixel 6 series. The Tensor GS101 SoC is fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm LPE process and packs two high-performance Cortex X1 cores, two medium A78 cores, and four high-efficiency A55 cores. On the GPU front, there’s a 20-core ARM Mali-G78 MP20 unit.

The Tensor G1 was never the fastest SoC on the market, but it brought notable performance improvement over the Snapdragon 765G found inside the Pixel 5a. Google claims an 80% faster CPU and a 370% faster GPU; however, Google’s Tensor is special because of the various custom bits that the big G has developed specifically for it.

This includes the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) for AI and ML tasks, which is behind many Pixel 6-exclusive features like Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, and live language translation. The enhanced ISP is another highlight of the Tensor SoC and enables features like Real Tone and HDRNet. Since the same chip powers the Pixel 6a, it also packs these functionalities.


Efficiency is not a strong suit of Google’s chip, though. Both phones will get warm and can overheat when pushed hard. So if you are a gamer or tend to use your phone heavily, look at other options. The Pixel 6 packs more RAM and storage than its smaller sibling. It comes with 8GB RAM and is available in 128GB and 256GB storage configurations. On the other hand, the Pixel 6a comes only in one configuration with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage — there’s no microSD card slot or 256GB configuration.

Connectivity is another area where the phones differ. The unlocked Pixel 6a has only sub-6GHz 5G (though the Verizon version ships with mmWave support), while the more expensive Pixel 6 supports multiband 5G. NFC and Wi-Fi 6 are available on all models. Note that both phones use an Exynos modem that’s not known for delivering the best connectivity experience. So, if you live in an area with poor network coverage or want one of the best 5G phones, look at other options.


Google guarantees five years of security updates for its Pixel 6 lineup. The Pixel 6 launched in October 2021, and its security updates are expected to dry up October 2026. OS updates are guaranteed until October 2024.

As for the Pixel 6a, its later launch date means its OS updates are guaranteed until July 2025, while its security updates will run until July 2027. Considering the fast-approaching support cutoffs for the Pixel 6, you might want to consider the Pixel 7 if you plan on using a larger phone for years to come.

Battery life

All Pixel 6a colors

Despite its slightly smaller battery — 4410mAh on the Pixel 6a vs. 4614mAh on the Pixel 6 — the cheaper Pixel provides better battery life. It is not as good as other mid-range phones packing massive 5,000mAh+ batteries, but still good enough to easily last a day. The Pixel 6 does not fare any better in this department, either. In our review, we found its battery life to last a full day only with a top-up in the afternoon or late evening.

The Pixel 6 has two advantages in the charging department. First, it supports up to 23W wired fast charging and wireless charging. There’s also reverse wireless charging, so you can use the device to top off your Bluetooth accessories and even another phone when in a pinch. The less expensive Pixel 6a supports 18W wired charging.

Neither Pixel comes bundled with a power adapter in the box, so you’ll probably want to pick up a solid PPS power adapter if you don’t have one lying around. Despite supporting higher charging speeds, the Pixel 6 takes a long time for a full charge; a full top-up takes well over 90 minutes.

Which should you buy?

With its considerably more attractive pricing and longer software update period, the Pixel 6a makes an excellent case for someone who wants an affordable Pixel. Sure, it doesn’t have a high refresh rate panel, but unless you’re coming from a phone with a 90Hz or 120Hz display you won’t really notice the lack of it. The primary camera is the biggest downgrade compared to the Pixel 6, so unless you really want the Pixel 6 camera, the Pixel 6a makes more sense. And if camera performance is important, Pixel 7a is also worth looking at.

Google Pixel 6a smartphone

Source: Google

Google Pixel 6a

Editor’s choice

Great phone at a great price

$317 $349 Save $32

A reliable and affordable phone without the flagship price, the Pixel 6a is a perfect option for those who want to spend less and still get a great device.

The Pixel 6 only really makes sense if you want the 90Hz display, wireless charging, and better primary camera but don’t have the budget to spend on the Pixel 7 or 7a. Otherwise, it’s an old phone that will only get two more Android updates. None of this means it’s not a good phone, it’s just that you have better options.


Source: Google

Google Pixel 6

Larger but more expensive

Check out the Pixel 7 or 7a first

$397 $599 Save $202

The Pixel 6 has been surpassed by the Pixel 7, and those who want a larger phone should definitely check that out first. Still, the Pixel 6 can be purchased at a discount for those who don’t mind not having the latest model.

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