I cover smartphone launches, and Google's Pixel 9 event is the one that has me excited

Made by Google hardware event with Google executive Rick Osterloh on stage
(Image credit: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

In the phone business, there's always the danger of falling into a rut. iPhones always come out in September. Samsung foldable phones always come out in the summer. And Pixel flagships, without fail, always come out in October.

Strike that last one from your sense of how the universe is ordered. Because this year, Google plans to hold its Made by Google hardware event in August, and it's a near-certainty we're going to see the Pixel 9 phones at that time — and perhaps a few more devices. And frankly, I couldn't be more excited.

You used to be able to carve Pixel launches in stone. Apart from the Pixel 5 in 2020, Google had held every Pixel flagship launch event during October. (And even that Pixel 5 launch, disrupted as it was by the COVID-19 pandemic, took place on September 30, which is about as a close to October as you can get.) Frankly, we went into the latter half of 2024 fully expecting Google to follow suit with a Pixel 9 launch this October.

Well, surprise — Google announced last week that August is the new October. Specifically, Google plans to hold its event on August 13 where it's promising to "showcase the best of Google AI, Android software, and the Pixel portfolio of devices." 

That's exciting, not just because of the change of pace, but also because it promises to give the phone market a jolt, getting new features and devices into our hands earlier than we're used to. Here's why I'm counting down the days to August 13.

For once, Google's not bringing up the rear

Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max next to one another.

The Pixel 8 Pro (left) arrived a month after the iPhone 15 Pro Max (right) last year. (Image credit: Future)

Launching its flagship phones in October has meant that the latest Pixels were appearing long after new iPhones and Samsung devices had already arrived on retail shelves. This made some Pixels feel like afterthoughts, though Google's move to its own Tensor chips to deliver more unique AI-driven experiences with recent models has addressed that problem to a certain extent.

This year, the Pixel 9 and both potential Pixel 9 Pro models — yes, there's a Pixel 9 Pro XL allegedly in the works — should already be in place once Apple shows off the latest iPhone 16 models. Our best guess as to the likely iPhone 16 release date is on or around September 10, meaning just about a month will pass between the August 13 Google event and the potential iPhone launch. That's good news for Google in its battle for more mind share.

It also means Google will be able to tell its AI story earlier than usual, which is especially key this year. Samsung first introduced its Galaxy AI features in January, and the Google Unpacked event on July 10 figures to introduce more AI-driven capabilities to Samsung devices. Apple gave us a sneak peak of its AI efforts — dubbed Apple Intelligence — at WWDC in June. An August event for Google gives the company a platform for following up on its own AI announcements from Google I/O while the topic is still fresh in everyone's minds.

A new camera champ gets crowned early

Google Pixel 8 Pro held in hand.

(Image credit: Future)

With apologies to Samsung and the Galaxy S24 Ultra, the title of best camera phone will likely come down to a face-off between the top-of-the-line Pixel and iPhone models. Both Google and Apple excel not only at packing their smartphones with top-of-the-line camera hardware, but they usually set the pace when it comes to photo-processing features, too.

Rumors suggest the iPhone 16 Pro will certainly raise the stakes when it arrives in the fall, with an upgraded telephoto lens and potential a 48MP ultrawide lens among its hardware improvements. Pixel 9 Pro rumors don't point to many changes to the camera setup, apart from maybe the addition of variable aperture, but we imagine the Tensor G4 chipset in the new phone could mean new processing and editing capabilities that will make your photos look their best.

Normally, we'd have to wait until late in October to do side-by-side photo comparisons. An earlier launch date for the Pixel 9 means we'll be able to stack its cameras up against the best phones out there — including the iPhone 16 models — by the end of September.

More competition on the foldable phone front

Google Pixel Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 5 on a marble bench

The Google Pixel Fold (left) took on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 (left) last year. New models of both foldables could face off this year. (Image credit: Future)

It's not just regular flagships that will be affected by an earlier-than-usual Pixel launch. Reportedly, Google plans to bring its Pixel Fold device into the Pixel 9 lineup, rebranding a new models as the Pixel 9 Pro Fold. If that is the case, we'd likely see the updated foldable during the Made by Google event in August.

That timing's just as interesting as the Pixel 9-iPhone 16 tango, given that Galaxy Unpacked takes place on July 10. That Samsung event likely means new foldables, like the Galaxy Z Fold 6, and Samsung has already hinted that the updated device will come with AI features that take advantage of its foldable format. Even better, rumors suggest the new Galaxy Z Fold will have a cover display with a wider aspect ratio, matching one of the best features of the Pixel Fold.

When it debuted last year, the Pixel Fold briefly surpassed the Galaxy Z Fold 4 as the best foldable phone with a screen that opened up like a book. (Flip phone-style foldables like the upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 6 and the newly unveiled Motorola Razr Plus 2024 are another fight altogether.) Samsung fought back with the Galaxy Z Fold 5, which arrived after the Pixel Fold's release. Now we'll see if a new Google foldable can leap-frog over the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 6. It figures to be a very exciting comparison.

Android 15's arrival

Android 15

(Image credit: Future)

As an iPhone user, I admit to being baffled by the stuttered nature of Android software updates. When Apple has a new version of iOS to release — say like this year's iOS 18 update — it sets a release date and then the software appears immediately to every iPhone capabile of supporting the update. Android updates... do not work that way. Instead, the software arrives, and just current Pixel phones can use it. Then, the newly released Pixel models arrive with that version of Android pre-installed. And only then does the Android update start rolling out to other devices... eventually... at a pace to be determined by phone makers and wireless carriers.

I honestly don't know how people live with that.

An August hardware event lines up with Google's timeline for releasing Android 15. Unless I miss my guess, I figure the August 13 event will mark a coming-out party for the Android update, as it appears on all the Pixel 9 models while also arriving for already-available Pixels. Will that speed things up for other Android phones getting their hands on Android 15? I have no idea, but it certainly won't hurt.

Other surprises await

Made by Google 2024 invite

(Image credit: Google)

We're focusing on phones here, because that's my area of interest. But Google makes a lot of different types of hardware, and we could see other devices joining the Pixel 9 phones on August 13. After all, that "the Pixel portfolio of devices" Google referred to in its event announcement doesn't begin and end with smartphones.

The Pixel Watch 3 is a likely candidate to appear on August 13, and its the features on the updated watch that are likely to garner the most attention. Rumored additions include better fitness tracking capabilities, more watch face customizations and longer battery life for the device itself.

Google Chromebooks have been known to appear at Made by Google hardware events, as have Pixel Buds, smart speakers and various other devices infused with Google's particular brand of smarts. There's also the possibility of something appearing on August 13 that's flown under the radar thus far, adding to the anticipation surrounding this surprising early product event.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • ZeroChill
    No significant camera hardware updates, mediocre chip iteration, likely the same old crap optical fingerprint sensor and a kind of fugly change to the camera bar. Why is this the most exciting thing? The OnePlus 13 will probably be trying way harder than this to impress.
    Reply
  • jimv71883
    ZeroChill said:
    No significant camera hardware updates, mediocre chip iteration, likely the same old crap optical fingerprint sensor and a kind of fugly change to the camera bar. Why is this the most exciting thing? The OnePlus 13 will probably be trying way harder than this to impress.
    I have a Pixel 8 Pro and I never upgraded after just one year but a "Pro" model that is smaller would be great. One of my complaints about the Pixel 8 Pro is how big it is. The battery degradation has also been pretty bad so I don't think it would last an entire two years.
    Reply