Google Pixel 8a price — why I’m worried about Google’s new phone

Google Pixel 8 shown held in hand
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One of the best recent developments in the world of smartphones has been the greater care that device makers have put into midrange models, and there's been no better no example of this than Google's Pixel A Series phones. Grab one of the best cheap phones like the Pixel 7a, and you're getting an affordable device that still manages to deliver premium features in key areas.

In the Pixel 7a's case, we're talking about the phone's cameras, which produce shots that rival what you get from more expensive camera phones. Throw in the fact that Google's discount phone features the same chipset as its flagships and thus delivers the same slate of AI-enhanced features found on the more expensive Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

With that track record, you can imagine I'm excited about the Pixel 8a, the next entry into the Pixel A Series that we're expecting to see at Google I/O 2024 in May. As always, we're anticipating some top-performing cameras and an upgrade to the Tensor G3 found in the newer Pixel 8 flagships. On paper, it sounds like another phone that gets the mix of features and price just right for those of us who shrink away at the thought for $1,000 smartphones.

Or at least, that's what I would normally be thinking in the build-up to the release of a Pixel A series phone. But a couple Pixel 8a rumors have emerged to make me worried that Google might be losing the plot over what makes these phones so great.

Pixel 8a rumors — what they claim

Google Pixel 8a leaked render from @OnLeaks

(Image credit: OnLeaks/SmartPrix)

Before we talk about the specific reports that have my smartphone Spidey sense tingling, let's throw in an important caveat. Smartphone rumors are exactly that — rumors, and not faits accomplis No matter how well-sourced a claim is, it remains at best a possibility right up until the moment when a phone maker affirms it as fact. Any worries I express below could be over features and developments that never see the light of day.

Which brings us to an Android Authority report that the Pixel 8a may be getting more from the Pixel 8 than just a system-on-chip. The upcoming budget phone may also see the refresh rate of its display bumped up from the 90Hz offered by the Pixel 7a all the way to 120Hz. What's more, the brightness of the Pixel 8a display could be raised to 1,400 nits.

Both the refresh rate and brightness specs would match what the Pixel 8 already offers, raising the question of why you'd want to pay more for Google's flagship when there's a lower-priced alternative promising the same features. That's Google's concern, not yours or mine, so we'll leave it to the company to sweat over those rumored Pixel 8a specs would allow the midrange phone to eat into Pixel 8 sales.

No, my concern with the claim of improved refresh rates and better brightness is that neither feature comes cheaply. The more Google pumps up the Pixel 8a specs, the greater the chances for a price hike.

And another rumor claims that's precisely what's going to happen with the Pixel 8a, at least in some parts of the world. Winfuture claims to have gotten a hold of the Pixel 8a's pricing in Europe, where the phone will allegedly sell for €569, a €60 increase over what the Pixel 7a cost. Now price hikes in one part of the world don't necessarily translate to price hikes all around, but it's worth remembering that the Pixel 7a's price increased from what Google charged or the Pixel 6a in both the U.S. and Europe — by $50 and €50, respectively. No wonder we're hearing some rumblings of a $549 Pixel 8a.

The right balance for the Pixel 8a

I've ranted about potential Pixel 8a price hikes previously, so I'll try to avoid turning this into an encore. But there's something psychological about certain price points, and $500 is one of the big ones. People might be willing to pay more than that amount for a phone with the right kind of feature set — but they're going to feel far better about it if they get to pay less.

This rumored price hike would also come at a time when plenty of Pixel 8a rivals are managing to keep costs under $500. The OnePlus 12R sells for $499, even though it runs on a very powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chispet and offers astounding battery life. Samsung hasn't set pricing for the Galaxy A35, but it's likely to come in for less than last year's $449 Galaxy A54.

That's good news for budget-minded shoppers, I suppose, in that if the price on the Pixel 8a does go up, there are plenty of lower-cost alternatives that deliver their own kind of value. Then again, none of them have cameras that match up to what Google's Pixel A phones have managed to offer, and we'd expect that to continue with the Pixel 8a's cameras.

I'm reluctant to warn phone makers about adding more and better features to their handsets, but if it means pushing the price of a phone ever higher, maybe that's something you need to think twice about. Recent Pixel A series phones have so skillfully navigated the demands of features and price — we can only hope the Pixel 8a does likewise.

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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.