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Google Pixel 6a early rumors and what we want to see

Alleged Google Pixel 6a renders
(Image credit: 91mobiles / OnLeaks)

We're a ways out from Google's Pixel 6a announcement, but we've already started hearing some early rumors. Considering how much we liked the Pixel 5a when it came out halfway through 2021, we have high hopes for the next budget Pixel.

In fact, the Pixel 5a needs few upgrades, so its successor can manage with moderate improvements in our opinion. Some are just wishful thinking, like a Tensor chip for the Pixel 6a. Others, like autofocus on the ultrawide lens, are more realistic.

Right now, there aren't many rumors to go off of since the Pixel 6a is still a ways out. Here's what we've heard about the next Pixel.

Google Pixel 6a expected release date and price

The Pixel 5a released on August 26, 2021 in the US and Japan. Google didn't explain why the phone was limited to two countries, but we expect the ongoing chip shortage that has plagued the industry had something to do with it.

pixel 5a vs pixel 4a

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

August seems to be Google's new timeline for the A series. The Pixel 3a was revealed on May 7 at Google I/O 2019, but the Pixel 4a came out on August 20, 2020. Many blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on the 4a's delayed release date. The late-August 2022 timeline seems likely for the Pixel 6a.

As for the price, that's pretty up in the air. The smaller Pixel 3a (there were two sizes) came in at $399, but the Pixel 4a undercut it at $349. Then, the Pixel 5a bumped up to $449 and added a second camera and 5G. If we had to guess, the Pixel 6a will likely stay in the $449 ballpark, depending on the chip Google uses.

Google Pixel 6a early rumors

So far, there's only one rumor about the Pixel 6a. According to Mishaal Rahman on Twitter, there's a device codenamed 'bluejay.' Rahman found a possible camera setup for bluejay, which includes Sony IMX363, IMX386 and IMX355 sensors.

For reference, the Pixel 5a used the same 12MP IMX363 for its main sensor and an 8MP IMX355 for its front-facing camera. The ultrawide was an 16MP IMX481. The IMX386 is a 12MP sensor with a pixel size of 1.25 μm versus the IMX481's 1.0 μm. So while the purported Pixel 6a's ultrawide camera is a lower resolution at 12MP, the pixels on the sensor are larger, which let in more light for better-lit images.

New Google Pixel 6a renders based on the allegedly leaked information so far have popped up courtesy of OnLeaks and 91mobiles. The design language here is very similar to that of the Pixel 6, with a flat display featuring a center punch-hole selfie camera, and a rectangular read camera bar aping the design of the full-flagship phone.

Alleged Google Pixel 6a renders

(Image credit: 91mobiles / OnLeaks)

While divisive, the design of the Pixel 6 is certainly differnet, So seeing it carried over to the Pixel 6a would be no bad thing. Alternatively, Google could row in the opposite direction and stick with the design of the Pixel 4a only with some tweaks to camera specs and internal silicon.

Google Pixel 6a: What we want to see

The rear of the Google Pixel 5a showing the camera module, against a background of pink flowers

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Again, we really liked the Pixel 5a, calling it the best camera phone under $500, handily beating anything else in the price category. But that doesn't mean the phone was without fault, so here's what we want to see improved for the next go around.

  • Wider availability: If Google wants the Pixel 6a to sell, it needs to expand its availability. Leaving countries like the U.K. and India out of the picture likely severely hampered the Pixel 5a's success. Although we have our suspicions that the 5a experienced some production trouble, it was still a bummer that so many people outside the US and Japan didn't get a chance to use the Pixel 5a.
  • Wireless charging: This is a given, but we want to see the Pixel 6a get wireless charging. As we understand it, adding the charging coils isn't an expensive addition and we think Google could still include Qi charging and keep the Pixel 6a's price down.
  • Ultrawide autofocus: The 16MP ultrawide camera was a new addition for the Pixel 5a, bringing the A-series up to dual lenses. It certainly came through, delivering excellent ultrawide-angle shots. But one thing we've seen on higher-tier phones like the iPhone 13 is autofocus on the ultrawide camera. This is something we want to see Google implement for all of its 2022 lineup.
  • Modern chipset: The Pixel 5a repurposed the Snapdragon 765G, a year-old chip that we saw in phones like the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. The 765G is not bad, but we want to see something more modern to handle things like 5G and gaming more efficiently.
  • Tensor: This is a long shot, but we can still hope. Google's Tensor chips are still in their infancy as far the end user is concerned. But like Apple did with the iPhone SE (2020), Google could either use the GS101 chip found in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro or build a budget-friendly option. We'd prefer the former, since the first-generation Tensor is a very good chip and could make the Pixel 6a a powerful competitor in the budget phone space.
  • Better battery life: The Pixel 5a didn't turn in a bad battery life result in the Tom's Guide test, coming in at 9 hours and 45 minutes. Considering the size of the battery in that phone, we expected better. Google has long struggled with Pixel battery life, even as recently as the new Pixel 6 phones. Other budget phones last longer than the Pixel 5a, especially the Moto G Power (2021). Any improvement would be good for the Pixel 6a.
  • Longer updates: One of the advantages to buying an iPhone is that it'll be supported for many years after you purchase it. Even going with an older iPhone today will still net you a lot of updates, whereas the same cannot be said for Android phones. Google and Samsung have the best update policies, but we want to see Google support the Pixel 6a for longer, at least four years of platform updates and five years of security patches. That would make the Pixel 6a a safe and future-friendly purchase, which is an important consideration for those who opt for budget phones.
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter.

  • rochrunner
    I think that the recent late-August intros of the a-series is a bit too close to the usual October flagship releases, and that the 4a and 5a were released then only because of pandemic-related causes. It would make more sense -- to me at least -- to move the 6a back to the May-June timeframe to more clearly put distance between the two annual product releases. Anyway, I'm hoping for this since I just canceled my Pixel 6 order and will hang onto my perfectly functional 3a for a bit longer.
    Reply