Google Pixel 6a Review

Google’s Pixel 6a phone is a value packed device for folks looking for some flagship features without paying a flagship price. I think most consumers will find this to have everything they’d want in a phone: a nice display, great camera, and excellent performance on par with their flagship phones. You can watch my full review here.

The Pixel 6 series phones are the first to use Google’s new Tensor processor which is tuned for some of the AI work and computational photography that Google integrates into their products. The new 6a also has a Tensor and it performs identically to the flagship 6 and 6 Pro phones.

Tensor doesn’t best its Android or Apple flagship rivals on performance benchmarks tests but what’s notable here is that there isn’t a performance penalty for choosing the lower end phone. Apple’s iPhone SE by comparison is powered by the same A15 chip as the iPhone 13 Pro but Apple throttles the SE’s performance to keep it from besting their top of the line product. That’s not the case here with the 6a.

The camera system is excellent here thanks to Google’s advancements in computational photography. The phone has two cameras on the back – one ultrawide lens with a 114 degree field of view and a wide angle camera. Photos look great in most light and the portrait mode gets better and better every year. The phone will also shoot clean and optically stabilized video at up to 4k at 60 frames per second. You can see some examples of photos and videos in the video.

So what’s missing from this phone vs. the 6 and 6 Pro? A few things. The 6a does not have wireless charging, the 6a’s back is made out of plastic vs. glass, it has a lower resolution wide angle camera (12 vs. 50 megapixels), its display is running at a 60hz refresh rate vs the 90 & 120 hz refresh rates on the 6 and 6 Pro, and it lacks the telephoto lens found on the 6 pro. Despite all that it doesn’t feel cheap nor does it feel lacking in any way.

I have long been a fan of the “a” series Google phones and this one is a nice upgrade over prior models. If you’re still running with the 3a this one will be a huge upgrade.

DISCLOSURE: Google sent me the Pixel 6a free of charge but this is not a sponsored review. Google did not have any input into the review nor did they review or approve it before it was uploaded.

New Video : Your Next Smartphone Might Use Satellites vs. Cellular Networks for Messaging

This week’s Weekly Wrapup Video was inspired by a Robert X. Cringley post about a rumored secret deal between Apple and satellite operator Globalstar. From the post:

Apple will shortly enter the satellite business by acquiring GlobalStar and its 24 satellites. They will use those 24, plus 24 more satellites that Apple has already commissioned, to offer satellite service for iMessage and Apple’s Find My network just like they implied in their denial last year.

The link in Cringley’s post goes to this Space News Article about a recent infusion of cash that Globalstar is set to receive from a top secret potential customer.

The operator said Feb. 24 it picked MDA and Rocket Lab to supply a set of 17 satellites to replenish its constellation after a “potential customer” agreed to fund most of the $327 million project. The agreement includes an option for up to nine additional satellites at $11.4 million each

The potential network will only run at about 10 megabits per second per satellite so it won’t be able to transfer large items like videos or high resolution imagery, but it is enough to provide service even in the most remote locations. In fact this type of messaging is very popular in the amateur radio world, with protocols like APRS transmitting location data in very small bursts at a much slower rate 1200 bits per second.

Would it work indoors? Who knows. But developments in weak signal technologies lead me to think that it will be able to send small bits of data anywhere in the world with an off-the-shelf consumer smartphone.

Like many other tech leaps the confluence of a bunch of technological developments are coming together here: cheaper launches to space, microprocessor advancements and smaller and cheaper satellites.

The EU May Decide Phone Charging Standard Next Week

Reuters reports that the European Union is likely going to meet next week to solidify a common standard for charging smartphones. That standard will of course be USB-C which means the lightning port’s days may be numbered.

According to the article it looks like lawmakers are also trying to codify a laptop charging standard too.

I covered this topic in detail last year when this effort started gaining steam.

Boost Mobile Goes Freemium

Boost Mobile is a prepaid wireless carrier here in the USA owned by Dish Network. They are introducing a new program that will let you bring your monthly bill down to nothing – but you have to sing for your supper by earning “Boostcoins.”

Here’s how the company says you earn them:

Boost Mobile’s BoostOne app allows users to earn blockchain-backed “Boostcoins” by playing games like “Spin & Win,” watching videos, and engaging with thousands of partners to complete offers to earn coins that can be redeemed for discounted and free wireless service.

These Boostcoins are of course “blockchain-backed” but have their value pegged to the dollar. According to CNET it looks like 100 boost coins equals about a dollar.