Google’s Pixel smartphones are widely regarded as some of the best phones you can buy with their clean Android software, excellent cameras and long battery life. The company’s latest smartphones are no exception, with the flagship Pixel 6 and budget-friendly Pixel 5a with 5G remaining true to what it means to be a Pixel phone.
Of course, deciding which one to buy can be tricky, especially if you’re unsure of what each phone specializes in. So we’re breaking down both phones to help you make the right buying decision.
You should get the Pixel 6 if…
You want the best camera
The Google Pixel series is known for providing a fantastic camera experience. The company’s computational approach to photography has led to fantastic results across multiple generations of the device, and the same reigns true for the Pixel 6.
Google finally upgraded the camera hardware with a new 50-megapixel main camera, which leads to much sharper and crisper results compared to previous models. The phone also received a handful of software features like Magic Eraser (aka the ability to effortlessly erase unwanted subjects and objects from your photos), enhanced long-exposure modes and Real Tone for capturing different skin tones with better accuracy.
Video quality also saw an improvement with the Pixel 6, finally putting the device in the same league as the industry-leading Apple iPhone. Stability, clarity and shooting options all got upgraded with the Pixel 6.
If you care about the quality of your phone’s camera, the Pixel 6 is an obvious choice. That’s not to say the Pixel 5a has a bad camera, because it certainly doesn’t. But for those who crave the best of the best in the Pixel world, the Pixel 6 can’t be beat.
You want flagship-level performance
The Pixel 6 offers the best performance you can currently get from a Pixel phone. It comes loaded with the company’s Tensor processor that matches and outperforms the speed of the popular Snapdragon 888 in many different areas. Flipping through multiple apps, multitasking and even gaming are all a breeze on the Pixel 6. Paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, you’ll likely never see this phone slow down to a halt.
The Pixel 5a, for contrast, has a Snapdragon 765G processor, which isn’t quite as powerful as Google’s Tensor. It also isn’t as well optimized since Google doesn’t have as much control over Snapdragon processors as it does its own. Therefore, if you’re a heavy smartphone user and need top-tier performance, the Pixel 6 is for you.
You want a high refresh rate screen
This is a feature that some don’t realize they want until they see it, and it’s a deal breaker for those who have.
It’s a high refresh rate screen, and anyone who wants one will have to buy a Pixel 6 to get it. The Pixel 5a sticks with an ordinary 60Hz display, which won’t feel as smooth when scrolling or watching content. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6’s 90Hz screen adds a silkiness to the overall experience, enhancing virtually every aspect of your interactions with the device. It’s a fantastic bonus feature that’s been in high demand over the past few years.
You should get the Pixel 5a with 5G if…
You want to save some money
By far, the biggest reason you should consider the Pixel 5a over the Pixel 6 is if you’re on a budget. The Pixel 5a is $150 less than the Pixel 6, which can make a huge difference depending on how much you’re comfortable with spending.
In exchange, you get a Pixel experience that isn’t terribly different from the higher-end alternative. You still get a clean version of Android with all the fixings (including Now Playing and Call Screening), decent performance and a nice camera. You also get 5G connectivity. The $449 Pixel 5a won’t disappoint.
You care about battery life
While the Pixel 6 is the more premium device of the two, the Pixel 5a remains dominant when it comes to battery life.
Inside the Pixel 6, you’ll find a 4,614mAh battery. While a battery of that caliber is an indication of great endurance on paper, in practice, it’s a bit disappointing. On typical days with medium usage, the phone is nearly drained by the time you go to bed, eliminating the possibility of using the device for two days on a single charge.
Meanwhile, the Pixel 5a can easily last two full days on one charge, thanks to its enhanced efficiency. The phone is powered by a slightly larger 4,680mAh battery. That’s paired with a less impressive display and lower-tier specs, so it uses less energy throughout the day. This makes the 5a the perfect Pixel for those who want maximized endurance.
You don’t want a glass phone
The Pixel 5a looks significantly different from the Pixel 6, and that’s due to its positioning as a budget-friendly smartphone. Google used cheaper materials to produce the device, leaning on a blend of plastic and aluminum for its construction.
While that may sound less appealing than a gaudy glass-and-metal sandwich like the Pixel 6, many people actually prefer not to have their phone covered in such delicate materials. The Pixel 5a isn’t as prone to shatter on all sides and is much easier to grip since it doesn’t have a slick coating.
While both devices remain true to what Google Pixels are known for, they’re built to serve two different kinds of users. The Pixel 6 is geared toward those who’d like and appreciate a more premium experience, while the Pixel 5a with 5G can help you save money while still getting a well-rounded smartphone.
6.4-inch Full HD+ OLED with a 90Hz refresh rate
6.34-inch Full HD+ OLED with a 60Hz refresh rate
Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
128GB or 256GB
50MP f/1.9 main, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 8MP f/2.0 selfie
12.2MP f/1.7 main, 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 8MP f/2.0 selfie