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Google is going to change Pixel phones forever, and I can’t wait

Google Pixel 8 in white and pink.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Google’s Pixel lineup has never been better. Right now, you can find the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro available, as well as its first folding phone, the Google Pixel Fold. And for those who want a budget-friendly option, Google also has the Google Pixel 7a. The phones aren’t perfect, but they are among the best Google has ever produced under the Pixel name.

While rumors from last year made us think that the Pixel 7a could be the last of the A-series, that may not actually be the case. We are likely getting a Google Pixel 8a in just a few months, which we expect to be revealed during Google’s I/O conference in May. However, there are whispers that Google may shift away from an annual upgrade cycle for the A-series and instead move to a bi-annual cycle, similar to Apple’s iPhone SE.

On top of that, this year, we may actually see three Google Pixel 9 devices: a standard Pixel 9, Pixel 9 Pro, and a larger Pixel 9 Pro XL. Again, this move would make the Pixel lineup similar to Apple’s current iPhone lineup.

If these reports are true, this would be a big shift in Google’s strategy — and it’s one I can’t wait for.

Upcoming changes for the A-series

Sage green Pixel 6a and Snow Pixel 7a held in hand.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Google first launched the Pixel series in 2016. In 2019, it introduced the first A-series with the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL — and then continued it with the Pixel 4a, Pixel 5a, and Pixel 6a.

In 2023, Google introduced the Pixel 7a. While the phone itself was quite solid, with decent hardware and camera specs, the price put it in a very odd place, and it really felt like an iterative upgrade from the Pixel 6a before it.

One of Google’s choices with the A-series is that it looks very similar to the mainline Pixel phones that come out a few months prior. Since the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro were released in October 2023 with rounder corners, the Pixel 8a will look similar to those, according to the leaks we’ve seen. There may also be some upgrades to the camera, and the Pixel 8a will likely have the Tensor G3 chip — the same one in the mainline Pixel 8 series (though it may be under-clocked).

Possible renders showing the Google Pixel 8a.
Google Pixel 8a Smart Prix

Personally, I don’t think the Pixel A-series needs an annual upgrade cycle. The iPhone SE is Apple’s budget phone, and it doesn’t get a new version each year — in fact, it’s more like every other year or more. If Google is indeed shifting away from a new A-series each year, I think it’ll be one for the better.

It also never made sense to me that Google would release a budget-friendly option in the middle of the Pixel life cycle. After all, a new mainline series Pixel device would just come out a few months after that.

Google could easily simplify things or at least make the Pixel lineup more streamlined if it moved to a bi-annual upgrade cycle for the A-series — assuming it’s actually keeping the series around. They are good budget-friendly options, but we don’t need a new one every single year.

The Google Pixel 9 shakeup

A render of the Google Pixel 9 smartphone in black.
OnLeaks / 91Mobiles

What’s more interesting are the potential changes to the Google Pixel 9 lineup that we expect in the fall.

Previously, we saw leaked renders of what we thought were the Pixel 9 and Pixel 9 Pro, with a big camera upgrade for the standard Pixel 9. It turns out that wasn’t completely accurate.

Instead, what we thought was the Pixel 9 is actually the Pixel 9 Pro, and what we thought was the Pixel 9 Pro is allegedly the Pixel 9 Pro XL. We also got a look at what the base model Pixel 9 will look like, which has flat edges like its Pro siblings and a new pill-shaped camera island module. However, the base Pixel 9 looks like it will still only have a dual-camera system.

Okay, so let’s clarify what the Pixel 9 series is shaping up to be: the entry-level Pixel 9 with a dual camera system, the Pixel 9 Pro, which is a more compact Pro model, and the Pixel 9 Pro XL, which is the largest offering. Both Pro models have a triple-lens camera module.

Next, let’s talk screen size. The Pixel 9 will supposedly be 6.03 inches, the Pixel 9 Pro will be 6.1 inches, and the Pixel 9 Pro XL will be 6.5 inches. If that’s the case, then it looks like Google is actually shrinking the overall sizes this year, as the Pixel 8 has a 6.2-inch screen while the Pixel 8 Pro has a 6.7-inch one.

Fans of smaller phones, like myself, should be pleased with these changes. I also like the fact that Google will be offering a smaller Pro model. Though I like the simplicity of Google’s two-model offering, I’m not a big fan of having to have the largest phone just because I want the best features. If Google is going to be offering a smaller Pro model, I’m much more interested in that one, assuming the feature set is largely the same.

Leaked render of Google Pixel 9 Pro XL by OnLeaks and MySmartPrice.
Google Pixel 9 Pro XL OnLeaks x MySmartPrice

This change would again make Google’s lineup more similar to both Samsung and Apple’s offerings. The Samsung Galaxy S24 series includes the 6.2-inch Galaxy S24, the 6.7-inch Galaxy S24 Plus, and the 6.8-inch Galaxy S24 Ultra.

The iPhone 15 lineup includes the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro, as well as the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus and iPhone 15 Pro Max. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the absolute best iPhone you can get right now, I went with the smaller iPhone 15 Pro because I prefer something manageable with one hand if need be. The tradeoff here is that I don’t have the best camera system, plus a slightly worse battery life.

This would also be the first time in five years that Google will offer the XL size for the Pixel, as the last XL model was the Pixel 4 XL in 2019. Especially if Google can keep the camera systems on the Pixel 9 Pro and Pixel 9 Pro XL the same, allowing those who want a smaller phone without compromising on features, then this could be a huge move.

Pixel phones are about to change forever

A render of the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in a Mint color.

It’s normal for Google to release three total Pixel phones in a calendar year. However, assuming everything above is true, this would be the first time that Google released three new Pixels at the same time.

In short, the Google Pixel family is about to look a lot different in just a few short months. With a more focused strategy for its Pixel A-series phones, plus a wider offering for its mainline devices, the Pixel family will look a lot different than it does today. If Google plays its cards right, it could be one of the best changes we’ve seen in years.

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Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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