Pixel 6a First Impressions

Priced at Rs. 43,999, the Pixel 6a sits on top of all the mid-tier Android smartphones in terms of pricing. But can it convert the performance-centric youth to become pixel-peepers? Here are our first impressions.

Google’s previous iteration of the affordable Pixel 5a had been pretty boring – it was heavily based on the Pixel 4a and was launched at a really unfortunate time when the hype around the Pixel 6-series was picking up steam. Not to mention, it was never really launched in India.

But this time around, Indians too will get to buy the Pixel 6a when it launches in the rest of the world, which is very exciting.

Offering the best of the big-boy Pixel 6 smartphones in a more affordable package, the Pixel 6a is, in a lot of ways, a missionary trying to convert the buyers of the performance-obsessed mid-range smartphones into pixel-peepers and UI connoisseurs.

It is powered by the same 5nm Google Tensor present in the Pixel 6-series paired with a single 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage variant. To keep the price low, it has a smaller 60Hz refresh display and dual 12-megapixel cameras. However, it still has a premium, all-glass design and a metal chassis and the promise of a fully-optimised, no-frills stock Android experience with the latest and greatest features.

We spent a day with it, and it has left quite a lasting impression on us. Keep reading to find out why.

Pixel 6a: The unboxing experience

Our first interaction with the Pixel 6a began with the unboxing experience, and boy was the box tiny. If you thought Carl Pei’s Nothing went bonkers with a slim packaging, you need to check this out because it literally feels like nothing (no pun intended). The box was half the size of our average-sized palms and only contained the phone, a charging cable, an OTG USB Type-C to Type-A adapter and some leaflets. No extra cardboard, no plastic, no case, just a front-sided display sticker and a cable separator. Even the safety seal on the box features a simple peel-off design that doesn’t require you to use any industrial equipment or fingernails.

The phone sits in the box with the rear side facing you. This is very unlike other smartphones we have unboxed, and it feels like a deliberate move to make you feel that you’re indeed dealing with a premium device.

Once we peeled the protective sticker from the display, we were immediately hit by a truck of nostalgia. That’s because, from the front, the Pixel 6a looks so much like the smaller Lumia smartphones from Nokia/Microsoft.

Pixel 6a: The design

The in-hand feel of the Pixel 6a is only second to perhaps the Nothing Phone (1) at this price, and nothing in the price range comes close to its compactness. The choice of materials is absolutely premium, and the curvature of the rear glass seamlessly disappears into the frame is unique. The Daft Punk-esque signature camera module of the Pixel 6-series is here, but the cliff between the module and the rear glass panel is not that drastic.

Having said that, the Pixel 6a starts catching fingerprints the moment it’s out of the box, and some of them are difficult to wipe off. The Charcoal colour variant we received looks really good, but it’s extremely difficult to photograph because of how reflective it is.

Pixel 6a: What do you get?

A 6.1-inch OLED display lights the Pixel 6a at the front that refreshes at 60Hz. While we only spent a little bit of time with it, it was enough for us to realise that this phone, although boasting the latest chip from Google, doesn’t have much to offer in terms of perceived speed because of how slow the display refreshes. Underneath the display, the Pixel 6a has a fingerprint sensor. So far, it has been a little slow but accurate to register fingerprints.

We are also still getting used to the placement of the phone’s physical buttons. Although they are reachable, the power button sits on top of the volume rockers, which takes a bit of time to imprint in the muscle memory.

Like all Pixel devices, the phone is devoid of any bloatware whatsoever. We tried multitasking with a bunch of light apps and BGMI so far, and we haven’t seen any stuttering while switching apps. We have to take a moment to say that the stock iteration of Android 12 has one of the smoothest and prettiest looking UIs on Android smartphones, at least visually.

While there’s not much Google has officially documented in terms of battery specifications, it has laid down some vague terms like ‘with a few minutes of charging, your phone gets hours of power’ and the claims of 24-hour battery life thanks to the Adaptive Battery that learns your usage patterns. We know that the battery supports 18W charging, but there’s no charger in the box. We are yet to check out these claims in our full review, so keep an out for that in our full review.

Many of the funky new camera features announced at Google I/O this year, including Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Facial Deblur, Speech Enhancement and Live HDR+ video, are here. The camera system comprises dual 12-megapixel sensors. In addition, the ultrawide camera has a 114-degree field of view.

The Pixel 6a is also pushing the envelope for other non-camera-related features such as Material You, Assistant Voice Typing, a more deeply integrated Live Translate, Privacy Dashboard and Security Hub. We will try these out in-depth in our review as well.

Pixel 6a: Initial thoughts

The Pixel 6a, so far, seems to be a smartphone for those who have priorities other than gaming in life. It seems to be the device of choice for those who want a pocket camera with a silky smooth UI experience with a dash of some really powerful yet simple special features. The build quality and the Lumia like-back are welcomed, and its uniqueness has also caught our attention, but its price will definitely spark a debate for recommending it. We would keep an eye out on the display, overall performance and battery life.

Stay tuned for our in-depth review of the Pixel 6a.

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