Google Pixel 7a could have a 90Hz display — why I'm excited and concerned

Google Pixel 7 vs PIxel 6a cameras
(Image credit: Future)

A Pixel 7a leak hit the internet this week with an alleged prototype. Not only did we get to see the handset's possible design, but also a look at the display and some of the settings. One thing that immediately stood out, despite the foreign language, was a toggle for 90Hz. 

Yes, 90Hz on a Pixel A-series. That's a pretty big deal.

Once I calmed my excitement, I came to my senses. First of all, 90Hz isn't all that impressive when you look at the Galaxy A53, a Pixel A-series rival that rocks a 120Hz panel (albeit not adaptive). Even OnePlus Nord N phones have high refresh rate displays at a fraction of the Pixel A's cost. 

Where those phones fall behind Google is the chipset — and cameras. The Pixel 6a was the first Pixel A phone with a flagship-class processor, Tensor G1, much like how the iPhone SE family uses Apple Silicon's top-end chips from the previous year. I fully expect the Pixel 7a to continue in the Pixel 6a's footsteps, using the Pixel 7's Tensor G2 system-on-chip when it debuts later this year.

A Pixel 7a with Tensor G2, the same camera hardware as last year, and a 90Hz display has the potential for the phone of the year. But I'm getting ahead of myself, because one of the areas that has me concerned is the price of such a device.

Adding a 90Hz display is not cheap, even if Google keeps costs down elsewhere. Right now, the Pixel 6a's $449 price makes the best cheap phone on the market right now. If the Pixel 7a deviates from that too much, say climbing higher than $500, then I think it will lose a lot of its appeal. That price would also be too close to the $599 Pixel 7 (and the Pixel 8, if that future phone costs the same as its predecessor).

I foresee a modest price hike for the Pixel 7a, possibly to $479. That would still be fair to pay for a phone that will likely have flagship-level hardware, a 90Hz display, incredible software and amazing cameras that can challenge devices that cost hundreds more. 

The leaked prototype, if legitimate, indicates to me that Google is further along with the Pixel 7a's development than you might think given that it's the beginning of January. An early version with what looks like a decently finalized design that is also working properly (from what we can tell)? I have to wonder if we might get a Google I/O launch in May. That would hearken all the way back to the Pixel 3a in 2019.

The coming months will likely hold more leaks and rumors for the Pixel 7a, which I will follow closely. The Pixel 6a was a no-brainer recommendation last year, so I hope its successor carries that torch. 

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six 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. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.