Google’s ‘iPhone SE Alternative’: The Good, The Bad; The Ugly

Can Google's Pixel 6A convert me, a top end smartphone snob?

Google’s ‘iPhone SE Alternative’: The Good, The Bad; The Ugly

I recently switched my Google Pixel 3 for a Google Pixel 6A – the phone many have likened to Apple’s iPhone SE. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of making the switch.

After switching from iPhone to Pixel a number of years back, and – being the Apple fanboi that I was – struggling, I eventually found myself well and truly immersed in Google’s android technology. So much so that I’ve been using that (at the time) flagship Google Pixel 3 ever since 2019. Until this year.

After cracking my Pixel 3 screen, getting it repaired, and then immediately cracking it again earlier this year, when the chance to try the Google Pixel 6A came up in June, despite it being a mid range smartphone (rather than a top end offering like the Google Pixel 6 or my old Google Pixel 3), I jumped at it. I’ve now used it for a good two to three months. Here’s what I have learned about the Google Pixel 6A (and mid-range smartphones) in that time.

This is the best time (and the worst time) in history to buy a mid-range smartphone

While scrolling through the Pixel 6A’s competitors, I realised this may be both the best and the worst time in history to buy a mid range smartphone. It’s the best because there is more choice than you can throw a super powered handset or ‘disco phone’ at, but it’s the worst because it’s more confusing than attempting to complete advanced calculus after drinking 10 of the strongest cocktails known to man (there are a lot of options).

6.1 inches ain’t all that

At first, I missed the size of my massive Pixel 3. However, this is just a matter of what you are used to. I remember, when I first got the Pixel 3, I hated how big it was. Also, the Google Pixel 6A fits in my pocket (and my bag, when it’s already full to bursting) easier.

You only get 3 colours to choose from

Not much by the way of colour…

Not that I should complain, seeing as every phone I’ve had in the last ten years has been black or white, but I felt, purely as a matter of principle, that the black, white or matte green options you get for the Pixel 6A is quite limited.

It’s well priced

For A$749, I’d say the Google Pixel 6A is pretty good value. For comparison, the iPhone SE costs A$715 and the Samsung Galaxy A53 costs A$680.

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There are surprisingly few significant differences between the mid range Google Pixel 6A and the high end Google Pixel 3 flagship

Despite getting that sinking feeling when holding it in my hand of ‘Oh, this isn’t going to be quite as good’ when I first opened the box, over the last three months it was won me over, proving to hold its charge for (compared to my 3 year old Pixel 3) significantly longer, functioning (as far as I can tell) equally quickly and having an awesome camera. As The Guardian points out: “It [the Pixel 6A] uses the same recipe that makes Apple’s iPhone SE so good: a mid-range phone with the company’s top chip.”

The Google Pixel 6A is much faster than I expected

The Pixel 6a has the exact same Tensor processor as Google’s top 2021 phones (though with slightly less RAM). This makes it a quicker machine than practically all of its mid range competitors and makes it well optimised for Google’s various AI systems. It quickly settled my fears it might be slower than my Pixel 3.

There is no headphone jack

Pixel Buds Pro in action. Image Credit: James Booth/DMARGE

Is Google going all Apple on us? This was quite irritating. Having said that, the wireless Pixel Buds Pro (A$299) that I got to go with the phone were great, and far more intuitive to use than some of the other brands of wireless headphones I have tried. They automatically pause a podcast when you take one of them out, for instance, to order a coffee, and start up again when you put it back in.

The sync to get all your old apps and messages across from my old phone was pretty painless

Remembering all my passwords, however, was another story…

The fingerprint sensor has moved

The Google Pixel 3 had a fingerprint sensor on the back of your phone. The Pixel 6A has an in-display sensor for your thumb on the front. Took some getting used to but I am now in the swing of it.

The camera is great

This is one of the biggest reasons to buy the Pixel 6A instead of another mid range competitor. The camera, which has a 12.2mp primary set up, comes with built-in optical image stabilisation. It’s a great point and shooter, and night sight is automatic. The Google Pixel 6A camera is great at capturing colours just as they look in real life even when the light isn’t perfect, too. Additionally, you have the option of a 12mp ultra-wide shooter. The selfie camera isn’t quite as good as the front one, but I don’t really need it to be.

It will keep getting updates for some time to come

Google promises the Google Pixel 6A software will be updated for at least five years.

Final thoughts

It’s nice to have a phone that performs basically as well as a top end smartphone, but at three quarters of the price. The main benefits are the camera, battery life, the top performance (for the price), the security and the regular updates. The main cons, I’d say, are that screen is only 60Hz and that it’s a bit slow charging.

Breakdown of the specs

  • Screen: 6.1in 60Hz FHD+ OLED (429ppi)
  • Processor: Google Tensor
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Operating system: Android 12
  • Camera: 12.2MP + 12MP ultrawide, 8MP selfie
  • Connectivity: 5G, eSIM, wifi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and GNSS
  • Water resistance: IP67 (1m for 30 minutes)
  • Dimensions: 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 178g

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