Pixel 7a, Pixel 8, and Pixel Fold: Something strange is happening with Google’s new Android phones

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Pixel 7a, Pixel 8, and Pixel Fold: Something strange is happening with Google’s new Android phones
When you think of a smartphone brand and the way their phones look, you can generally pinpoint what makes them stand out, but also what makes them look like they belong to the same phone-maker and/or to the same lineup.

Take the iPhone, for example - you have the notch, the square camera housing, and the Apple logo - that’s exactly what every iPhone released in 2022 looks like, of course, with the exception of the iPhone SE (for self-explanatory reasons).

Another example is the Galaxy “S” and Galaxy “A” series of phones by Samsung (these are the most popular ones), which, especially starting this year, have a very distinct front and rear look that makes it clear they are Samsung Galaxy phones - it’s the centred hole-punch selfie camera and individual camera holes on the back.

But not Google...

If you looked at the Pixel lineup from 2021, you’d see a clear design disparity between the flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and the mid-range Pixel 5a launched two months prior. Now, you’d say: “Hold on, the Pixel 6a is the one that belongs to the Pixel 6 family”, which is… correct (at least technically). But that’s not the case for those users looking for a new phone in October, trying to decide which one to buy then and there.

Moving forward, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro form a lineup with the Pixel 6a (announced May 2022), which at this point makes it clear that Google (for whatever reason) has decided to release its mid-range phone (from the same lineup) 8-10 months later, and have the previous model fill in the spot…

And if that didn’t look a bit bizarre until now, wait until you see Google’s 2023 Pixel lineup…

Pixel 7a, Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel Fold: Google’s brand new Pixel lineup bringing four different designs from four different phones, indicating lack of consistency

Google is set to hold its next annual developer conference, called “Google I/O”, in Mountain View, California on May 10 (just over a month from now! There, the company is expected to unveil/announce/show off (with Google, you never know) a bunch of new products, including the long-awaited Pixel 7a, the new Pixel 8 series, and (finally!), the Pixel Fold.

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But since "I/O" stands for Input/Output, I think I might have some input about Google’s upcoming hardware output (which we’ve already seen in numerous leaks). Google, your new lineup is slightly… confusing.

  • The new Pixel 7a is expected to bring a design similar to the vanilla Pixel 7, which seems… consistent (the thing here is that the Pixel 7a is launching closer to the Pixel 8 lineup)

  • The new Pixel 8 is to bring an updated design, reminiscent of the Pixel 7 (with a similar camera cutout) but also similar to the Pixel 8 Pro (from the front)

  • The Pixel 8 Pro is expected to bring a bigger visual change compared to the vanilla Pixel 8 thanks to a flat display (a first for Google’s Pro model) and an… interesting camera cutout

  • The new Pixel Fold (according to renders) is to arrive with a design that appears to be (sort of) inspired by the Pixel 7 Pro, but… more square

So, just to reiterate, the Pixel 7a is to look like it belongs to the Pixel 7 series; the Pixel 8 is to look like a mix between the Pixel 7 and Pixel 8 Pro; the Pixel 8 Pro is set to have a rather unique look; and the Pixel Fold takes after the Pixel 7 Pro’s rear design but with some noticeable changes. And all of these new phones are supposed to belong to the same 2023 Pixel lineup, at least if we judge according to when they might come out.

Google Pixel phones in 2023: Does Google take making phones seriously or is the Pixel Android’s jungle gym playground?

Now, is the design inconsistency between Google’s phone the end of the world? Of course not. However, it’s the feel I’m getting from Google’s overall attitude towards making Pixel phones that makes me question how seriously Sundar Pichai & Co take the smartphone business, which accounts for a tiny fraction of Alphabet’s massive earnings.

Ironically, Google’s Pixel lineup had a surprisingly strong 2022, as according to Pichai and this report, “2022's Pixel 6a, 7, and 7 Pro are the best-selling generation of (Pixel) phones” ever…

But does the rather messy looking 2023 Pixel lineup say the same thing, or is Google having… fun here? It’s a question without a “right” answer, since what matters to users is whether Google makes good Pixel phones, or not (right now, the answer is “yes, it does”).

For instance, Apple, a company that makes the vast majority of its profits by selling iPhones, takes a far more pragmatic approach to the “science” of phone-making. No feature found on new iPhones has made its way there by chance, and whatever Tim Cook & Co do with the aesthetic design of the iPhone, the company’s carefully calculated choices seem to pay off (iPhones take 8/10 spots in the best-selling phones of 2022 ranking).

But who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong here?

For now, Google is focusing on what matters but what’s the future of the Pixel lineup; is Google becoming Android's Apple?

I’m not going to lie… it’s sort of refreshing to see a phone-maker that’s trying to shake up the market by focusing on bringing incredible value instead of a carefully calculated flagship series where each cheaper phone exists to help upsell the more expensive model. Try out different designs? Sure! Keep the phones looking fresh without changing their look completely? Alright…

I’ve mentioned this before, but Google is in a very unique position where it has little to lose, which allows it to play by its fun rules in what’s a very competitive business game. That being said, with a business of this magnitude, there’s also a lot to be gained, which makes the Pixel’s future very interesting to look at.

See, as a Pixel user (I also use the iPhone), and someone who likes recommending Pixel phones to friends and family as they are the best value phones on the market right now, I’m sure about one thing… Google should clean up its launch strategy and start releasing all (at least the non-foldable) Pixel phones at the same time, or in the case of the mid-range model, let’s say… six months apart. Yes, like Apple.

Google expected to copy-paste Apple's iPhone strategy for future Pixel phones (2023-2025 Pixel lineup leak)

Well, the good news (or bad - depending on your POV) is that not too long ago, a massive 2023-2025 Google roadmap leak revealed that Google is considering a bunch of different moves as far as the Pixel lineup is concerned. Apparently, depending on the commercial success of the Pixel 7a, Google could move to a biennial “A” series launch (which sounds good to me - have it go up against Apple’s iPhone SE). We also expect to see two Pixel 9 Pro models in 2024 (in two different sizes - yes, like the Pro iPhone).

In fact, the same leak suggests that by 2025 we could see a new clamshell foldable, a vanilla model in small and large sizes, and a pro model in small and large sizes, lining up with Apple’s iPhone series.

So, is Google becoming Android’s Apple or not? We’ll have to wait and see… Until now, I still feel like Google's design team just throws stuff against the wall to see what sticks. But hey... the phones don't half bad, right?

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