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Google Pixel 6a had this secret feature all along

Pixel 6a deals
(Image credit: Future)

Update: Google Pixel 6a is seriously tough — and now cheaper than ever.

The Google Pixel 6a is one of the best mid range smartphones and best cheap phones under $500 right now. It packs in some pretty impressive features including Google’s Tensor system-on-chip and a 6.1 inch OLED display with a 60Hz display rate. 

Now though, it seems that the Pixel 6a has had a secret 90Hz display all along, that can be unlocked with a hack. Twitter user, TheLunarixus (opens in new tab) has created a mod to unlock the 90Hz refresh rate on the phone. 

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It’s not clear if Google is holding back the true potential of the Pixel 6a by artificially reducing the frame rate or if the phone even supports a 90Hz display. However, TheLunarixus says the display panel supports 90hz and is not being overclocked. 

It is a slightly strange hack as it isn't safe for the phone and most users will probably not even get to try it out. Plus, you would have to jump through many hoops to actually unlock the 90Hz display on the Pixel 6a and for users with a locked carrier, it may not even be possible. 

First you would need to enable debugging mode and OEM unlock in the settings. Then unlock the bootloader and you will have to flash a modified version of the Android 13 beta and finally, apply a tweaked boot image. It is pretty complicated and does not yield a glitch-free 90Hz display. 

Some users have reported that once they applied the mod their screen went black while others have said there is a strange green tint that appears on the screen. 

It would be easier to enable a higher refresh rate on the Pixel 6a with a custom ROM. Google may also have been planning a surprise hardware update for the phone for a later date — although that is unlikely. But now that users know the phone is capable of displaying a 90Hz refresh rate, we wonder if Google will push out a hardware update in the near future.

The Pixel 6a ships with a 60Hz display which was already pretty impressive for a mid range phone. In our review of the device, the OLED display really stood out for us. A 90Hz refresh rate would make scrolling as well as gaming a lot smoother and is usually found on high end phones like the 6a’s sibling — the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro (which also goes up to 120Hz). 

In fact it is not surprising since the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6a share a similar Samsung-made OLED panel that sparked the debate on social media in the first place. But if the Pixel 6a is not overclocking to reach 90Hz it is pretty surprising that Google downgraded the display on the phone. 

Developer Kuba Wojciechowski (opens in new tab) warns that the 90Hz hack is “not something that's supported by Google or Samsung and definitely might cause damage”. Until we hear from Samsung or Google, we wonder if we will officially get to see the higher refresh rate on the Pixel 6a. A 90Hz refresh rate could take the phone’s already pretty good display, to the next level.  

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.