The Google Pixel 6a is still a ways off, but that hasn't stopped me from drawing up my own wish list for Google's next budget phone. The Pixel 5a is incredibly good value at $449, offering decent performance and excellent cameras that crush anything else in its price category.
But the 5a is not perfect. It could stand to last a bit longer on a charge, for example, and Google could really set itself apart in the budget-phone space by offering more features such as wireless charging.
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More importantly, the Pixel 6a should have wider availability if it wants to have any chance of winning more fans. With the apparent success of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro — and if the accompanying stock shortage issues are anything to go by — I think the Pixel 6a could be a great phone now that Google seems to have decided it wants to take mobile hardware seriously.
And with new renders of the Google Pixel 6a, supposedly based on leaked information popping up, here are the five things I want to see from the Pixel 6a.
Availability in more countries
As I said above, the Pixel 6a needs to be available in more countries. While it's nice that American and Japanese buyers got a chance to pick up a Pixel 5a, phone users in the U.K., EU, India and wider Asia lost out unless they imported the phones — which of course runs up the price and runs into compatibility issues with mobile carriers.
I want to see the Pixel 6a available globally because, ultimately, I want to see the phone succeed. I found it unfortunate that so many people lost out on 2021's budget camera-phone king, so let's hope Google gets production and/or distribution figured out for 2022.
If the Pixel 6a comes out next August, as previous A-series phones have, that gives Google a lot of time to fix this issue.
This is a simple one, but I want the Pixel 6a to support wireless charging. The $399 iPhone SE (2020), arguably the Pixel 5a's biggest competitor, has Qi charging capabilities. I fail to see any reason why the Pixel 6a can't have those, too.
While wireless charging is a convenience, not a necessity, it would help the Pixel 6a stand out in a sea of budget Android phones. Wireless charging couldn't sell the phone on its own, but its inclusion would be another checkbox we could tick off in the phone's favor.
Better battery life
Google proudly told me that the Pixel 5a, at the time of its release, had the biggest battery ever in a Pixel. At 4,614 mAh, that was certainly true until the Pixel 6 Pro with its 5,000-mAh power pack came along.
While the Pixel 5a isn't terrible in terms of battery life, it certainly lags behind competing phones like the Galaxy A42 and OnePlus Nord N200.
I don't know what Google's problem is with battery life, because every Pixel I can recall has struggled in this regard. Even the Pixel 6 Pro, with its huge battery, falls on its face in the Tom's Guide battery-life test. After all these years, you'd think Google could figure it out, but here we are.
Honestly, at this point, the Pixel 6a could just hit the 10-hour average we expect of modern smartphones and I'd be happy. It doesn't need to win our best phone battery life test — it just needs to be better than all other Pixels before it. Considering that Google is the company that builds Android, this sadly laughable problem baffles me.
Come on, Pixel 6a, I know you can do it.
Ultrawide camera improvements
The Pixel 5a brought a 16MP ultrawide camera to the table, bringing it line with the Pixel 4a 5G. And it certainly was a good camera, capturing beautiful ultrawide-angle shots full of rich color and detail.
But one thing I noticed was soft, and sometimes blurry, focus. At the time, I accepted that as a fact of most ultrawide cameras, but then the iPhone 13 Pro landed on my doorstep for review.
Apple added autofocus to the iPhone 13 Pro's ultrawide camera, and it certainly comes in handy. I find it helpful when the phone doesn't want to focus on the right thing, which is what often leads to the softness that distracts from an otherwise good photo.
Google could one-up basically every other budget phone by including autofocus on the Pixel 6a's ultrawide camera (currently rumored to be a 12MP IMX386). Like wireless charging, this is a small thing, but it'd make quite an impact. Again, it won't sell the Pixel 6a on its own, but it'd certainly help make the phone an easy recommendation to people who want the most bang for their buck.
I'll admit that of all the things on this wish list, this one is the most far-fetched, but hear me out.
Google could repurpose the Tensor chips that we currently see in the Pixel 6 series for the Pixel 6a. After all, Apple took the A13 Bionic from the 2019 iPhone 11 family and slapped it into the iPhone SE (2020).
With Google now controlling the silicon in the flagship Pixels, I think the company could take a page from Apple's book and use first-generation (GS101) Tensor chips in the Pixel 6a.
Not only would that make the 6a the best performing Android phone in the category — the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro outdo the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 888 in some benchmarks — it could also give the 6a some serious smarts.
Things like the Magic Eraser photo-editing feature, the Pixel 6's incredibly good speech-to-text dictation, and other Google Assistant goodness would truly set the Pixel 6a apart.
With the current worldwide chip shortage, I'm not entirely sure if Google could manufacture enough Tensor chips to meet current Pixel 6 demand and still prepare for the 6a, but I think a Tensor-powered 6a would be one of the most interesting phones of next year.
Google Pixel 6a outlook
The Pixel 6a is still a long way off, but we're bound to start hearing more about it in the coming months. Whether Google returns to a Google I/O spring announcement in 2022 or sticks to the August timeline that we saw with the launches of the Pixel 4a and 5a, we have several months to wait. But that also means Google could implement some of the suggestions that many of us had after leaving the Pixel 5a.
Hoping for a Tensor-powered A-series Pixel phone is a bit out there, yet of all the things here, that would catch my attention the most.
We basically know the Pixel 6a's cameras will be good and I really hope it sees wider availability, but a budget phone with much of the same power and smarts as the Pixel 6 would be incredibly interesting.