The summer of 2023 should be more exciting than usual, at least if you keep track of smartphone releases. While early spring and autumn are usually the hotspots for major phone launches, there’s one device we’re likely to see in the middle of the year that has my interest piqued.
You might think it’s a bit premature to get hyped over a phone that is probably eight or so months away and hasn’t even been announced yet. But part of my job is to look ahead to think about what’s next. And the follow-up to the Pixel 6a looks pretty intriguing from my perspective.
As I consider what we’ll see in 2023 — from the Galaxy S23 to the OnePlus 11, iPhone 15, and Pixel 8 — nothing excites me quite like the Pixel A-series. Frankly, I think other phones will have a steep hill to climb to beat the Pixel 7a if I’m right about the handset.
It all depends on the Pixel 7a’s price
In 2021, Google bumped up the price for the Pixel 5a to $449, which raised a few eyebrows. Luckily, the phone proved to be a solid option as a more affordable (and larger) Pixel 5. Before the Pixel 6a’s release, many worried that Google would raise the price, much like Apple had done with the iPhone SE (2022). After all, the Pixel 6a was going to use the same Tensor G1 chip found in the Pixel 6.
In the end, the Pixel 6a launched at $449, and it proved to be a killer deal. Besides, that Tensor silicon, dual cameras and a fresh design made the new budget phone incredibly appealing. In fact, I think it was one of the best phones of the year, right up there with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro.
Google would lose some potential interest if it raises the Pixel 7a’s price, though such a move is certainly possible at a time of rising costs. Still, as long as the phone maker keeps the price below $500, the Pixel 7a figures to be as great a deal as the Pixel 6a has been.
Fortunately, I don’t expect a price increase to happen. Part of the appeal for the Pixel A-series is the value proposition offered by those budget phones, and the Pixel 7a will need the same advantage to succeed.
Pixel 7a and Tensor G2
Google made several improvements to its new in-house Tensor G2 chipset introduced in the Pixel 7 series. Not only is the G2 more powerful — much more in line with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that powers many leading Android phones — but it’s smarter than the first generation of Google’s silicon. Tensor allows the Pixel 7 to do crazy things like Photo Unblur, Active Stabilization, and faster Night Sight.
I think it’s a safe bet that Google will use Tensor G2 for the Pixel 7a while the Pixel 8 gets Tensor G3 chipset later in the year. Assuming the price remains the same, that would make the Pixel 7a the most powerful Android phone at this price by a long margin. Sure, the iPhone SE (2022) with its A15 Bionic will remain more powerful at its $429 starting price, but it has significant shortcomings compared to what the Pixel 7a might offer, such as the lack of an ultrawide lens or a dedicated night mode.
I doubt that any similarly-priced phone from Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme, or any other phone maker will have as much power as a Tensor G2-powered Pixel 7a. That chip in a sub-$500 phone could be a major win for Google.
Cameras to match a flagship
Another big appeal of the Pixel A-series is the photography prowess you get for the price. Google did a great job providing the Pixel A-series camera performance that can rival some flagship smartphones.
The Pixel 6a proved to be no different with its 12.2MP main and 12MP ultrawide sensors, providing some beautiful photos on par with phones that cost hundreds more. Thanks to Tensor G1, the Pixel 6a could crunch a lot of numbers to provide pictures with startlingly accurate colors, solid nighttime performance, and software tricks like Magic Eraser.
I fully expect the Pixel 7a to wow us like its predecessor did. The addition of Tensor G2 should give the new phone access to the Pixel 7’s Photo Unblur feature. And we know how much Google can squeeze out of the 12.2MP main camera, like it did right up to the Pixel 5a in 2021. (The Pixel 6 got an upgrade to 50MP.)
I anticipate that the Pixel 7a’s cameras will challenge the Galaxy S23, iPhone 14, and every other mid-range to lower-end flagship in 2023.
Pixel 7a outlook
So yes, I think that the Pixel 7a will be a big deal. Google could announce the new version at Google I/O, its annual developers conference — that’s when we saw the Pixel 6a for the first time. That event should take place in May 2023, so we may only have a few months to wait to learn about the next budget Pixel.
The Pixel 7a just needs to nail the price, chipset, and battery life and it’ll be a slam dunk in my book. (Even if the latter item is a bit of a stretch given Google’s track record.) I don’t want to count my chickens before they come home to roost, but I have high expectations for the 7a.