Update (May 9): A new rumor has claimed the Pixel 6a's launch is "imminent", just days before Google I/O gets underway.
We could be getting our hands on the Pixel 6a in just a matter of weeks, if hints dropped by Google's Sundar Pichai are anything to go by. And since Pichai runs the entire company, they probably are.
Google parent Alphabet announced its quarterly earnings yesterday (April 26) — the tech giant missed Wall Street projections for earnings and revenue. But for our purposes, the real story can be found in comments Pichai made to analysts during a call discussing Google's performance.
According to Pichai, the Pixel 6 phones Google released last fall have been top sellers for the company. "It's the fastest-selling Pixel ever, and we are building broad consumer awareness of the brand and making good progress," Pichai said, in a transcript of the Google earnings call posted at Motley Fool (opens in new tab).
What Pichai said next should be raise the eyebrows of anyone interested in Google's future phone plans. "I'm excited about the products we have coming and look forward to sharing more at Google I/O," he added.
That means we can definitely expect hardware at Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference that gets underway on May 11. And most people expect the Pixel 6a to make its debut at that event.
It wouldn't be an unprecedented move for Google. The first Pixel A series phone, the Pixel 3a, debuted at Google I/O in 2019. Subsequent Pixel A phones came out later in the summer, but that release schedule seemed dictated by the coronavirus pandemic and the global chip shortages that the outbreak has triggered.
For what it's worth, rumors dating back to the start of the year have honed in on May as the likely release date for the Pixel 6a. Earlier this month, the phone reportedly showed up at the FCC for regulatory approvals. Pichai's comments would seem to confirm that a launch of the phone is imminent, even if the Pixel 6a wasn't called out by name.
Certainly, the timing would be right for a new budget phone from Google. In the past couple months, both Apple and Samsung have introduced sub-$500 5G phones — the iPhone SE (2022) and the Galaxy A53, respectively.
The Galaxy A53 in particular has established itself as a compelling alternative to Google's budget phones. (Our Galaxy A53 vs. Pixel 5a comparison looks at why.) If Google hopes to challenge Samsung's new device for the title of best cheap phone under $500, it's got its work cut out for it with the Pixel 6a.
Fortunately, rumors point to a number of ways the Pixel 6a could challenge the Galaxy A53. For starters, there's Google's usual skill at building good budget camera phones — the Pixel 5a is one of the best camera phones you can buy for less than $500, and we'd expect the Pixel 6a to follow suit. Rumors also point to the Pixel 6a adopting the Tensor chip Google unveiled last fall as the silicon for its Pixel 6 lineup, and that could mean plenty of AI-powered experiences for the low-cost phone.
You'll note that Pichai's comments to Wall Street analysts hinted at multiple product unveilings at Google I/O. The Google executive might also have been hinting at the Pixel Watch, Google's long-awaited foray into the smartwatch business that would highlight the company's Wear OS software.