Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The Pixel 6a isn’t perfect, but I love it for one important reason

The Google Pixel 6a is finally here. Pre-orders are open, regular sales begin July 28, and reviews for the phone are now live. That includes my Pixel 6a review, which I used to (mostly) praise the phone. There’s quite a lot that the Pixel 6a gets right. The new design is striking, Google’s Tensor chipset enables significantly more power than in previous generations, the cameras are a joy to use, and the Android 12 software experience is as outstanding as you’d expect from Google.

But none of those stand out as my favorite thing about the Pixel 6a. As much as I appreciate its flagship-grade performance and reliable cameras, what I’ve become most infatuated with about the 6a is admittedly quite boring: It’s how the phone feels. In a world of increasingly large smartphones from Apple, Samsung, and even Google itself, the Pixel 6a goes in the opposite direction with a petite, lightweight form factor that I absolutely adore.

Righting the biggest mistake of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

The Google Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, and Pixel 6a all lined up on a wooden desk.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Last year’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro were incredible smartphones when they launched in October 2021, and they remain two of the best phones for 2022. But while Google made huge leaps in chipset technology, camera sensors, and charting a unique design language, it did so all at the expense of portability. In other words, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are both big smartphones.

The baseline Pixel 6 is taller and heavier than the Galaxy S22+ and iPhone 13 Pro, while the Pixel 6 Pro is roughly the same height and nearly just as heavy as the Galaxy S22 Ultra (one of the biggest phones available today). That was great news for people who prefer big phones, but for someone like me who misses the days of small handsets, it’s a shift that’s never sat quite right with me — especially as the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro replaced the perfectly-sized Pixel 5.

But the Pixel 6a fixes this completely. Side-by-side with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, the size difference of the Pixel 6a doesn’t immediately look all that impressive, but it absolutely is. You can see this right away just by looking at the dimensions of the phones. The Pixel 6a is 152mm tall, the Pixel 6 is over 158mm, and the Pixel 6 Pro clocks in at nearly 164mm tall. The weight difference is even more substantial, with the Pixel 6a weighing 178g, the Pixel 6 207g, and the Pixel 6 Pro 210g.

All Pixels all the time

Using a small Pixel again feels fantastic

Someone holding the Google Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6a next to each other.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

After spending over two weeks with the Pixel 6a, it makes me incredibly happy to report that those smaller numbers make a big difference in daily use. The 6a feels noticeably lighter, smaller, and more compact than the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Is it as petite as the Pixel 5? No, but it’s as close as Google’s gotten to making a small phone since then. And even now that my Pixel 6a review is published and I don’t have to keep using it, I’m choosing to do so anyway.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro both have nicer displays, more capable cameras, longer battery life, and wireless charging — one of the most annoying missing features from the 6a. Even so, I still find myself reaching for the Pixel 6a over them. A difference of a few millimeters or grams doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but when you want a phone you can easily use one-handed, prop on your pinky without any fatigue, or slip in a tight pocket with ease, they matter more than you’d think — and those are all areas where the Pixel 6a becomes a far better choice over its more expensive siblings.

In my normal use, there are plenty of scenarios where this matters. When I’m out shopping, pushing a grocery cart in one hand and using my phone in the other, the Pixel 6a is far easier to manage. When I’m lying in bed and completing a few late-night Duolingo sessions, the Pixel 6a is much less likely to fall in my face than the 6 or 6 Pro. And when I head out on a few work-related trips next month, I’d much rather fumble with the Pixel 6a than a phone that’s larger and heavier while jumping between different NYC subways.

More of this, please, Google

Google Pixel 6a standing up against a tree.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

As much as I love how the Pixel 6a feels, I fully acknowledge that there’s a lot about it I would have preferred to be different. I wish the display was at least 90Hz, battery life is only adequate at best, and no wireless charging is a regular pain I have to deal with. Those annoyances may eventually add up and make me shift back to the Pixel 6, but at least right now, the Pixel 6a’s compact design is keeping it in my rotation.

I also hope this is a sign that Google may shift back to its small phone roots with the Pixel 7 later this year. I fully expect the Pixel 7 Pro to be a big, beastly device to challenge the Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro Max. But, if the Pixel 7 can shed some of the Pixel 6’s height and weight — and once again deliver a flagship Pixel in an actually small body — I’ll be over the moon.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Maring
Section Editor, Mobile
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
I really like the Pixel 7a, but there’s one big issue I can’t ignore
Google Pixel 7a laying on ground

Google revealed the Pixel 7a at Google I/O 2023, and it is available for purchase right now for $499. It’s the cheapest of the Pixel 7 lineup, and it packs in the Google Tensor G2 chip, a crisp display with a 90Hz refresh rate, and a 64MP main shooter, plus it’s the first Pixel A-series with wireless charging. The Pixel 7a even comes in four fun colors: Charcoal, Snow, Sea, and the Google Store-exclusive Coral.

But with all of those upgrades from its predecessor, the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 7a is $50 more than the original price of the Pixel 6a, which was $449 at launch. However, Google also decided to keep the Pixel 6a around (this is the first time the previous model has remained for sale) and even gave it a $100 price cut, so it is now just $349.

Read more
I’m excited for the Google Pixel Fold, and you should be too
Side view of the Pixel Fold

It’s official: the Google Pixel Fold is coming. After months of rumors and speculation, Google revealed the Pixel Fold on Star Wars Day, of all days. With the tagline “May The Fold Be With You,” Google dropped a tweet that showed off the Pixel Fold in all of its glory. And now, after the official announcement at Google I/O 2023, the Google Pixel Fold is shaping up to be one of the more exciting releases this year.

I’ve always been an iPhone gal, but since I joined Digital Trends, I’ve been checking out Android phones more than ever before. I’ve taken quite a liking to the Pixel lineup of devices, including the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a, which also just dropped today. But the Google Pixel Fold is the one device I can’t wait to get my hands on, especially when compared to the competing Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 (and the Galaxy Z Fold 5, which is likely coming this year too).
It looks like the perfect compact size

Read more
Have the Android 14 beta on your Pixel? You need to download this update now
Google Pixel 7a held in hand showing home screen

Google revealed a bunch of new goodies during its opening keynote for Google I/O 2023, showing off its latest advancements in AI with Bard, as well as the brand new Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet. There was also a sneak peek at upcoming features in Android 14, including new lock screen clocks, shortcuts, and generative AI wallpapers.

If you have a Pixel phone, like the new Pixel 7a or the older Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro, then -- surprise -- Google is rolling out the Android 14 Beta 2 starting right now.

Read more