Google announced the newest iteration of its Pixel phone, the Pixel 6, on October 19. Over the last five years, Pixel phones have gained popularity for their clean Android interfaces, impressive camera systems, ample cloud photo storage, and reasonable price points.
The Pixel 6 and its more advanced sibling, the Pixel 6 Pro, are supposed to be the most capable Google phones yet in terms of their capabilities and specs, but along with these upgrades comes a higher price when compared to older models. If you go with an older Pixel, you can get some of the same benefits at a much lower price. Should you buy the new Pixel 6 or go with an older Pixel? We break your options down below.
The Pixel 6 is more powerful than previous generations, with a Tensor chip for more A.I. and machine learning capabilities, faster performance, and improved battery efficiency.
Because Google actually designed the Tensor chip for A.I. and machine learning instead of just adding more raw computing power, the Pixel 6 should feel more intuitive and intelligent overall. From text-to-speech capabilities to language processing, the Pixel 6 will likely be closer to what we imagine when we think about these features, with fewer glitches and mistakes, plus a more seamless and natural experience.
The phone will be able to translate chats and podcasts in real time. Computational photography will be a huge area of improvement, along with security, as the Titan M2 security module provides more layers of security than on any other phone so far. A feature called Magic Erase (pictured above) can remove people from the background of photo shots, while face unblur can sharpen up photos.
The Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display made of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus for twice the scratch protection. The rear camera system has a 50-megapixel wide sensor and a 12 MP ultrawide sensor. If you opt for the Pixel 6 Pro, it has a 6.7-inch display (120Hz refresh rate), along with a rear camera that has three sensors: a 50MP wide sensor, a 48MP telephoto sensor, and a 12MP ultrawide sensor.
The Pixel 6 retails for a starting price of around $599, while the Pixel 6 Pro should start at $899. The pricing on the Pixel 6 is a bit lower than Apple’s iPhone 13 series.
Google discontinued its Pixel 4a 5G phone, as well as its Pixel 5. These phones weren’t out for very long before being discontinued, so you can still find them at many retailers for the time being. However, given that these two models are discontinued, it leaves only the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5a 5G for sale on Google’s U.S. site. That is, until the release of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Why did Google discontinue the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5? Both phones are powered by Snapdragon 765G chips, which also power the newer Pixel 5a
Aside from its more intelligent Tensor chip, the Pixel 6 has a significantly better camera system. Naturally, the Pixel 5a 5G has a better camera system than the 4a, while the 5a’s camera array doesn’t even come close to that of the Pixel 6. The 5a has a 12.2MP main camera, a 16MP ultrawide sensor, and an 8MP front camera. Compare that to the 50MP wide sensor and 12MP ultra-wide sensor you get on the Pixel 6 (along with an additional 48MP telephoto sensor on the Pro version), and the older Pixel models just can’t compete. The larger sensor means more light — up to 150% more. And, as mentioned, features like Magic Erase let you remove background bystanders from photos. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro’s selfie cameras are 8 and 11.1 MP, respectively. Plus, they have an extremely wide field of view (84 degrees on the regular version and 94 degrees on the pro version). This allows you to fit more people in your shot.
In particular, on the Pixel 6 Pro, the refresh rate should make for faster responses and better scrolling. The Pro has low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) technology that can lower that rate to as little as 10Hz to save battery, as well as dynamically vary refresh rate depending on your usage and speed of your finger swipes.
Right now, you can buy a Pixel 4a for around $350, which is just over half of the price of the upcoming Pixel 6. You can find a 5a for about $450 — still a large discount compared to the Pixel 6.
If you’re someone who wants the latest and greatest mobile technology, and you’re willing to pay for it, the Pixel 6 is certain to be the all-around better phone. But if you just want a phone that can take good photos, perform reliably, and compete with other flagship phones (yet at an affordable price), go with an older model. You can always upgrade later.
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