Google unveils Pixel 6a phone, pro earbuds, and its first smartwatch
If you balked at the price tag for the flagship Pixel 6 and 6 Pro last October, Google is now hoping to entice you in with its annual “budget” model, the Pixel 6a. The new phone was the headliner at the company’s 2022 I/O event on Wednesday, which also featured a new set of Pixel earbuds, Google’s first foray into smartwatch territory and a glimpse at the upcoming Pixel 7 line.
As usual for this kind of mid-cycle hardware refresh, the Pixel 6a packs most of the same features as its namesake flagships, but with a bit of the fat trimmed off in favor of a lower price point. It still has an OLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 2400, but it’s 6.1 inches across instead of 6.4 in, and tops out at a refresh rate of 60 Hz instead of 90 Hz.
The biggest point of difference is the camera. The Pixel 6a sports a pair of 12-MP wide and ultra-wide cameras on the back, which are more than capable enough for most people. It may seem like a steep drop from the Pixel 6’s 50-MP main camera, but you’ve got to make sacrifices somewhere.
Thankfully, most of Google’s photography software trickery remains intact on the Pixel 6a. That includes the powerful low-light mode Night Sight, and the Magic Eraser, which lets users select and remove photobombers or unsightly objects in the background of snaps. A new feature for the latter adds the ability to change the color of objects in photos, in case your friend’s neon pink shirt is taking the attention away from your dog, or whatever.
Google says the Pixel 6a is running the same Tensor processor and Titan M2 security system as the Pixel 6, with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The battery capacity is slightly smaller, but the company still claims the 6a can get over 24 hours of use on a charge. Wireless charging is also stripped out, but that’s a luxury many users can do without.
The most important number might be the price, and Google says the Pixel 6a starts at US$449 – which is a decent saving from the Pixel 6’s $599 – and will launch on July 21.
The Pixel 6a wasn’t the only piece of hardware Google showcased at I/O 2022 – the long-rumored Pixel Watch is now a reality. While the company has long supplied the operating system Wear OS to wearables from the likes of Samsung et al, this marks the first all-Google watch. It looks pretty slick in the early renders, but other than that, details are slim. More info will likely be announced before it launches in the (Northern Hemisphere) fall.
Pixel Buds Pro were also announced, adding active noise cancelation, wireless charging, 31 hours battery life, and a “transparency” mode that allows users to hear their surroundings better. They launch the same day as the Pixel 6a – July 21 – for $199.
And finally, the company teased an early glimpse of the upcoming Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. And when we say “glimpse,” we mean it in the most literal sense – it was 30 seconds of overly-dramatic close-up renders of phones that look very much like the Pixel 6 line. Apparently the Pixel 7 series will be running the next-generation Tensor processors and Android 13, and we’d assume some fancier cameras and other predictable upgrades.
If history is any indication, mark October in your calendars for the full Pixel 7 reveal.