If the Google Pixel 7a is the last budget Pixel, here's what Google should do instead

The rumored Google Pixel 7a in orange
(Image credit: Evan Blass)

The Google Pixel 7a isn't here yet, but its arrival may have a bittersweet note if the rumor of this being Google's last Pixel a-series phone (from Yogesh Brar) is true.

Pointing to the big spec bump rumored for the new cheaper Pixel, Brar says there won't be any Pixel 8a coming next year to update it. Instead, he claims Google will stick to its regular and Pro flagship models, like the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, plus the Pixel Fold once that heavily-rumored device launches.

There'd be some logic to this. With the Pixel 7 costing $600, and the Pixel 7a apparently due to sell for $500, these phones likely wouldn't be that far enough apart in price and specs. Without enough meaningful differences, having these two models next to each other would just confuse buyers and cost Google extra without much benefit.

Google's options 

The problem is we really like the Pixel 6a, as we did with previous Pixel a-series models. We'd hate to see such a good-value phone disappear. So the initial solution would seem to be that Google's better off upping the specs price of the standard flagship Pixel to compensate for the improved Pixel a model. 

However, doing so would likely cause the same issue between the standard and Pro flagship Pixels, and we wouldn't want the pro Pixels to get more expensive that much since they've such excellent value while still competing with the best phones around.

With that in mind, maybe Google is better off getting rid of the Pixel a-series. That way, its regular phone line-up each year would consist of two models with an easy-to-understand price/feature gap that both get renewed at the same time. But if that did happen, Google would need to find a new way to appeal to users unable or unwilling to pay for flagship phones. Fortunately, its rivals may have pointed the way here.

New old phones

Google Pixel 7 vs PIxel 6a cameras

(Image credit: Future)

Apple, and more recently Samsung, sell older flagship phone models alongside their latest models. The Apple Store offers the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 mini from 2021, and the iPhone 12 from 2020, alongside its latest iPhone 14 handsets, while Samsung has kept the Galaxy S22 as a cheaper counterpart to the Galaxy S23 family. Google is already rumored to be doing this with the Pixel 6a (seemingly to make up for the Pixel 7a's alleged price increase), so in future years perhaps we'll see vanilla flagship Pixels take up the mantle of The Cheap Google Phone.

Buying older phones can feel a bit riskier than just buying a fresh model. But with big spec changes only happening every few years, and update schedules for phone OSes stretching longer into the future than ever before (three years guaranteed in Google's case), smartphone shoppers can often get a discount by selecting a 12-month-old model without missing out on any meaningful features that the new version has. 

Google's more generous than most Android phone makers with software updates too thanks to its quarterly Feature Drop updates, which help even older Pixels continue to feel fresh.

This rumor is going to take a while to play out, since the Google Pixel 7a is only rumored to launch on May 11 at Google I/O 2023, and it could be up to another year until it would become obvious there's no replacement coming. But while we'd miss getting a Pixel 8a next year, as long as Google still does something to cater to users with tight budgets, the end of the Pixel a-series wouldn't be worth worrying about.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.