Pixel 6A: The “perfect” iPhone and Galaxy replacement - hard to recommend thanks to Google

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Pixel 6A: The “perfect” iPhone and Galaxy replacement - hard to recommend thanks to Google
It took no time for the Google Pixel 6A to make the headlines with new and bigger bugs, but the phone also comes with what would be considered dated display tech, especially in 2022...

Just when the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro bugs were getting somewhat sorted, and when I thought I might be able to recommend a Pixel to those who need a new phone, we're back to square one. This time the heavy load falls on the shoulders of the newly-launched budget offering, the Google Pixel 6A, which was shaping up to be one of the best mid-range phones of 2022.

According to multiple reports, there are two big problems with the Pixel 6A that you need to be aware of before ordering one for yourself. The first one has to do with a major security flaw related to the (wait for it)... the Pixel 6A's fingerprint reader, and the other with a display omission that Google has (consciously) decided to make...

Let's discuss both of them in detail…

Pixel 6A Fingergate: Critical fingerprint scanner flaw allows random people and fingers to unlock Google's new Pixel 6A

Sure, the fingerprint reader on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro is slow. My very own Pixel 6 Pro's fingerprint reader is sometimes inaccurate, too, and can require multiple attempts to register my finger (although it's gotten better with updates). For the record, this still seems to be the case with the new Pixel 6A, despite the fact that it has a "new" scanner.

But none of this holds a candle to the more serious fingerprint issues found on the Google Pixel 6A! As seen in multiple videos by YouTube content creators like Geekyranjit and Beebom, the Google Pixel 6A's fingerprint scanner:

  • Can be unlocked by fingers that aren't registered - you can unlock the phone with your left and right thumb, even if only one of your thumbs was registered
  • Lets other people unlock your phone

Will Pixel 6A fingerprint issues be resolved before it starts shipping out to customers?

This is the big question, especially since the Pixel 6A officially starts to ship out to those who've ordered it... today!

The truth of the matter is that the tech video creators who've discovered the Pixel 6A's fingerprint scanner issues say they've had their hands on the phone for over a week now. The first reports of the Pixel 6A's broken fingerprint reader arrived on June 22.

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This means that Google has had enough time to hear about the issue. However, this one still hasn't been addressed with a software update.

As you can see, it's being reported that Google hasn't sent a software update to the Pixel 6A since units have been handed out to reviewers, which could mean two things:

  1. Google is still unaware of the Pixel 6A's broken fingerprint reader, which could result in a widespread security problem
  2. Google is aware of the Pixel 6A's fingerprint scanner issue, and it's currently working on a fix, which review units will receive soon

According to Google, the fingerprint scanner on the Pixel 6A has been upgraded - it's safe to assume due to the poor fingerprint reader performance on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. However, videos show that this one doesn't seem all that much faster than the one on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which started what I can now label as "Fingergate".

Given the security flaws found in certain review units, the "new" fingerprint reader certainly doesn't appear to be more reliable either. At least for now. It’s important to note, that we don’t know how widespread the fingerprint scanner issues of the Pixel 6A are/will be.

Either way, in case the issue is more widespread than we know it to be, we can only hope that Google finds a way to address it before the new Pixel gets to the hands of the consumers, which should be quite literally anytime now. Perhaps the problem is only with review units? Who knows!

Google Pixel 6A: Things don't always go as planned when Android tries to emulate the iPhone’s conservative approach to hardware (60Hz display on Pixel 6A isn't as smooth as 60Hz on iPhone)

And now to the second part of the story...

Apart from the fingerprint reader controversies surrounding entire the Pixel 6 series, Google also seems to be cutting corners that some didn't expect might be cut…

For starters, the Pixel 6A's back is made out of plastic instead of the more premium glass expected in mid-range phones today. Frankly, that can be seen as a positive, as the back of the phone shouldn't crack as easily. Still, it technically makes the phone less premium compared to rivals, but it's not a dealbreaker to me.

However, the Pixel 6A also leaves out features such as:

  • A high-refresh-rate display
  • Fast charging (only 18W)
  • Wireless Charging

To be clear, slow charging could be a real dealbreaker for some, and I am one of those people. Wireless charging - not so much. But what I'd like to focus on is the lack of a high-refresh-rate display on the Pixel 6A.

Pixel 6A uses “old school” display tech in 2022

The lack of a high-refresh-rate display on the Pixel 6A has been a topic of discussion all over tech Twitter, and it was a major focus of the Pixel 6A's review published by Marques Brownlee. And I'd have to agree with Marques on that one, especially because I put out a similar story regarding Android's 60Hz displays just a few weeks ago.

Anyway, Google's decision to give Pixel 6A a 60Hz display is being heavily criticized because it simply doesn't sit well with all the other mid-range phones on the market, but also with the rest of the package you get with the phone, like the "flagship-grade" Tensor chip.

Android aside, one exception to the above-mentioned rule in the mid-range segment is, of course, Apple's iPhone SE (2022). However, as discussed in the mentioned story, named "No 120Hz display for iPhone 14: But Apple has a secret for smooth performance (that Android doesn't)", iPhones with 60Hz displays appear to be much smoother than Android phones on 60Hz.

I'll tell you why in the next few sections of the story, but it's simple - the Pixel 6A would benefit from a 90Hz display much more than the iPhone SE would. Furthermore, the competition has caught up with Google big time…

Phones like the Nothing Phone 1, Galaxy A53, and Galaxy S21 FE, which are in the same price category as the Pixel 6A, offer displays that refresh at 120Hz. This is something that can make an actual difference in day-to-day use when it comes to how smooth your phone looks and feels. It's especially true if your current phone has a 90-120Hz display, and you're used to it.

But why did Google give Pixel 6A a 60hz display when it was avoidable!

Technically, Google's decision to give Pixel 6A a 60hz display is rather easy to explain. Just take a look at the current lineup of Google Pixel phones and their display refresh rates:

Google Pixel 6 Pro - 120Hz display
Google Pixel 6 - 90Hz display
Google Pixel 6A - 60Hz display

So, I'd have to agree - on paper, andfor the sake of price segmentation, giving the Pixel 6A a 60Hz screen... makes sense. However, this doesn't mean that it's the best solution, considering the outside Android world. In the end, Google's phones don't exist in a vacuum. Not at all.

The truth is that Google could've easily dodged all this criticism floating around Twitter by simply equipping the Pixel 6A with a 90Hz screen and trying to differentiate it from the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro (due in October) instead of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which are 10 months old now.

If we look at timing, despite its name and specs, the Pixel 6A should be considered a part of the Pixel 7 lineup of phones rather than the Pixel 6. Once we start viewing things from thatangle, a Pixel 6A with a 90Hz display would make much more sense, only if Google was to adjust the display specs of its 2022-2023 Pixel lineup like so:

  • Google Pixel 7 Pro - 120Hz LTPO 2 display (variable refresh rate 1-120Hz)
  • Google Pixel 7 - 120Hz display (variable refresh rate 60-120Hz, like on Nothing Phone 1)
  • Google Pixel 6A - 90Hz display (variable refresh rate 60-90Hz)

This simple solution would've made the Pixel 6A much more competitive when compared to phones like the Nothing Phone 1, Galaxy S21 FE, and even the upcoming Pixel 7, which are the phones it will actually compete against.

60Hz doesn't look as smooth on Pixel 6A like it does on iPhone 13 - the reason is... Android

Since writing the "No 120Hz display for iPhone 14: But Apple has a secret for smooth performance (that Android doesn't)" story and forcing myself to use my Pixel 6 Pro on a 60Hz setting (yes, it's something you can do), I might have a hunch as of to why 60Hz on modern Android phones doesn't look as smooth as on my iPhone 13, for example.

This isn't more than an educatedguess, but I think Android 11, Android 12, and surely Android 13 are being optimized to work with high-refresh-rate displays. This by itself isn't all that surprising. However, it means that the animations and overall UI navigation style in newer versions of Android rely more on the new display tech to look smooth...

The fact that Android 12 is the boldest ever version of the OS when it comes to animations, alongside the presence of the rubber band scrolling that allows the UI to bounce off the edges contributes to the theory that new versions of Android are made for HRR displays and HRR only.

For example, widgets in Android 12 now have their own animations, and manufacturers that use their own skins on top of Android go beyond that and make their phones even livelier with more and heavier animations.

What about iPhone 13 - why is it smoother on 60Hz compared to Android Phones and the Pixel 6 series?

Well, Apple's phone seems to be much more conservative when it comes to animations. If you've both iPhones and Android phones for a while, you'd know that. Now, it's not that iOS doesn't use animations - it's simply that animations on iPhone are noticeably slower... somewhat more relaxed.

Add to that the fact that, as a whole, iOS has always been the smoother OS compared to Android, and Apple's far superior gesture navigation implementation, which has a lot to do with animations... And that's how 60Hz on iPhone looks about as smooth as it can be, but yet, somewhat sluggish on Android.

In the end: The Pixel 6A is hard to ignore and even harder to recommend

This will be a slightly unconventional “verdict”, but anyway… Here goes nothing!

My mum has an old Galaxy S9. My aunt has an old iPhone 8. Both phones are due for a replacement (really, have been for a while).

  1. The Google Pixel 6A comes out with its “flagship-grade” chip and possibly the best camera on a mid-range phone.
  2. Google offers me to buy a Pixel 6A for €460, which is a good price to begin with
  3. Google also gives away a pair of Pixel Buds A, worth €100 (that my aunt and mum actually need and would be thrilled to get for free)
  4. Google’s also offering to take off €200 of the total price if my aunt trades in her five-year-old iPhone 8 (which isn’t worth more than €100-150 on the resale market), and €80 if my mum trades-in her Galaxy S9 (I know - not as great)

And with all that seemingly unbelievable value in mind, I’m sitting here, feeling very, and I mean very hesitant to say:

“Go ahead, fam! Get the Google Pixel 6A for… €160 (!) after trade-in and free earbuds!”

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