Update: The Google Pixel 6a has a big problem in the form of the Pixel 6.
When the Google Pixel 6a was officially shown off yesterday, there was only one question on my mind: where is it being sold? While the Google I/O presentation left this query hanging, the good news is that the Pixel 6a is being shipped to a much wider selection of countries than the Pixel 5a was.
In a disappointing move last year, Google decided to sell the Pixel 5a only in Japan and the United States. However, the Pixel 6a, according to Google's device availability page, will be in the 12 counties where Google already sells Pixel 6 handsets. It's also coming to Puerto Rico, which currently doesn't have access to the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro like the rest of the U.S. does. Good news for those who felt left out from the Google Tensor fun.
Google's decision to limit the Pixel 5a's availability is somewhat understandable given the shipping troubles and global chip shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But at a time when the cost of living is rising, it's good that Google's made sure its cheaper phones are available to users who might need to replace aging or broken handsets.
Shoppers aren't lacking for choice in this segment of the smartphone market, with devices like the iPhone SE (2022), the Samsung Galaxy A53, OnePlus Nord 2 or OnePlus Nord N20. But more choice is always good, since more competition for users' attention and money leads (in theory) to better products overall.
It's particularly good in the Pixel 6a's case since Google saves a lot of fun software trickery for its own phones rather than building them into Android. That includes stuff like Live Translate to help you speak to others in real-time, or Magic Eraser editing that lets you recolor or remove objects that are spoiling your photos.
The poor availability was perhaps the worst problem with the Pixel 5a, but it had other flaws, too. The lack of wireless charging isn't be addressed with the Pixel 6a, unfortunately. We're also concerned with the fingerprint sensor embedded in the display for the Pixel 6a, which has moved from the back of the previous phone. The Pixel 6's sensor has proven slow.
But overall we're very optimistic about Google's new phone. In fact, the Pixel 6a could blow away the iPhone SE with its larger display and more robust camera system. Stay tuned for our full review later this summer.