Google May Have a Cheap Pixel 6 Coming This Spring

A photo of the Pixel 5a

The Pixel 5a could see its successor arrive this year.
Photo: Sam Rutherford / Gizmodo

Before the pandemic, Google would introduce a new version of its lower-cost A-series smartphone around the same time as its Google I/O developers conference. The company may return to that launch timeline with the Pixel 6a, and it could accompany the long-anticipated Pixel Watch, plus a wallet-friendly HD version of its Chromecast with Google TV dongle.

According to leaker Max Jambor, Google’s budget Pixel 6a will be revealed in May. That’s typically when Google hosts its annual developer’s conference, which is likely to happen this year, either virtual or in person. Google has not made an official announcement yet.

The rumor mill has already been churning about the 6a, which is expected to have a 6.2-inch display that’s slightly smaller than the one on the current Pixel 5a. The screen is capped at a 60Hz refresh rate rather than the previously rumored 120Hz. However, that lower refresh rate might be better for battery life. Coupled with the Pixel 6a’s potential 4,800 mAh battery pack, this would make the phone compete with more entry-level launches from brands like Motorola, which tend to dial down essential specs like processing power in favor of longer battery life.

But the Google Pixel 6a could have a homemade Tensor chip like its flagship counterpart. It’s unclear how much ability the processor will have, but it’s likely to be tweaked so the Pixel 6a can perform some of the Pixel 6’s marquee features, like its impressive on-device language processing.

The Tensor chip would also help enable camera smarts, another reason that folks choose the A-series over other middle-of-the-road Android devices. We could see a 12.2-megapixel primary camera, a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera in the Pixel 6a. Expect the smartphone to take after its flagship siblings in design, too, as that angular look is coming to Google’s budget lineup, as well as the multiple camera array on the backside.

If Google announces a new smartphone this spring, it’s likely to accompany the Pixel Watch, which we’ve been talking about for what seems like forever. Last month, Jon Prosser showed off renders of the Android smartwatch of our dreams, and it’s got us excited at the probability of a major hardware dump from Google.

We’re also expecting another Chromecast dongle with Google TV to be added to the hardware family. Initially pegged by 9to5Google as an upgrade to the current Chromecast, Protocol followed up that the dongle, codenamed Boreal, would be marketed instead as a low-end entry into Google’s streaming ecosystem.

Leaks point the Chromecast to sporting an Amlogic S805X2 CPU with a Mali-G31 GPU. What’s particularly interesting about this component is that it supports AV1 decoding, which Google’s been pushing heavily. It’s a royalty-free open-source video codec that’s efficient for low-bandwidth networks. It’s what Google uses with its Duo video chat.

It’s likely the new Chromecast will only stream at a 1080p/60fps resolution, which could make it competitively priced against entry-level Google TV devices from Walmart, which cost as little as $20, and rival Amazon and Roku devices with similar AV1 decoding. It would also add a more affordable streaming device to Google’s first-party hardware lineup.