When Google launched its Pixel smartphones back in 2016, it wanted to create a standard for top-of-the-line Android handsets. Yet Google could now be broadening the scope of its Pixel efforts if rumors of a Pixel Lite mid-level phone turn out to be true.
Credit: Andro News/YouTubeRumors of lower-cost versions of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL began circulating shortly after Google released its new flagship phones last fall. More recent reports indicated that Google hopes less expensive phones will bring more users into its ecosystem of products.
What can you expect from the Pixel 3 Lite and Lite XL — or the Pixel 3a and 3a Lite, as multiple reports have essentially confirmed — should Google release these two phones? Here’s everything we’ve heard about Google’s smartphone plans. (And if you’re on the lookout for Pixel 4 rumors, we’ve got you covered there, too.)
News & Updates (Updated April 18)
- Renders of the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL have leaked, and they showcase phones with noticeable bezels, as well as headphone jacks.
- Google teased a potential launch date for the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, with an Avengers-themed video teaser that invites you to "Meet a new hero" on May 7. That also happens to be the first day of Google's annual developers conference.
What will Google call its new phones?
Rumors about the new phones had settled on Pixel 3 Lite and 3 Lite XL as the likely names. But that's apparently not the going to be case. The recently released Android Q beta refers to the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, and 9to5Google says it's confirmed those will be the names of the new devices. WinFuture also reports that the phones will be called the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, citing European online retail sources.
Because multiple sources are now confirming the Pixel 3a and 3a XL as the new phones' names, that's how we'll refer to the upcoming phones, even though some of the rumors in this round-up refer to the earlier rumored names.
When will the Pixel 3a get released?
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, apparently code-named Sargo and Bonita, are expected some time this spring. Android Police first reported that timing last December, and a supposed pre-production Pixel 3 Lite hands-on video by Andro News in January included indications that April was the most likely date. (That video has since been removed from YouTube.)
CAD renderings of Google's rumored phones (Credit: @OnLeaks/91MobilesA February report from Nikkei Asian Review outlining Google’s plans to release several pieces of hardware throughout 2019 concurred that a “non-premium” Pixel phone would be part of that lineup. There was no mention in the report, however, on when we should expect a Lite version of Google’s phones.
Another clue comes from regulatory filings with the FCC, which point to devices from Google coming out in the spring. And a Reddit post spotted by 9to5Google found that the Pixel 3a and 3a XL have shown up on the Google Play Developer Console, which app makers use to manage software they upload to Google's app store. The console gives developers a heads up on what devices can be used with their apps. What's more, the two new phones briefly popped up on the Google Store before they were removed, confirming many of the specs we've got listed below.
Our best hint on when the Pixel 3a might arrive comes from Google itself, which now has teasers on its Google Store promising that "something big is coming to the Pixel universe" on May 7. That also happens to be the first day of Google's annual I/O conference for developers in Mountain View, Calif.
Like the previous Pixel handsets, the Lite and Lite XL would seem likely to launch in partnership with Verizon in the US, though unlocked versions sold directly by Google will still be available. And, of course, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL would almost certainly be offered as part of the Google Fi wireless service, broadening that carrier’s range of supported handsets. A new rumor suggests another carrier might be part of the mix: 9to5Google reports that T-Mobile may soon offer the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, and that it's testing Google's lower-cost phones for compatibility with its network as well.
What will the Pixel 3a cost?
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL debuted at $799 and $899 when they launched last fall. While Pixel 3 deals can knock down those prices a little, the lite versions are expected to be a lot less expensive.
Google's Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3 (Credit: Tom's Guide)
Russian blog Rozetked.me posted alleged pictures and info on the Pixel 3a last November, claiming the smaller of the two possible budget Pixel 3 phones would cost between $400 and $500. WinFuture's report says the Pixel 3a will cost $500.
There have been no reports about the price of the upcoming Pixel 3a XL, but Google handset history tells us that the larger-screen phone would likely start at $100 more than its smaller counterpart.
What kind of specs will the Pixel 3a offer?
So how does Google keep the price down on the Lite versions of its Pixels? The answer, based on rumors, applies to lie in new materials and lesser specs.
|Phone||Pixel 3a (Rumored)||Pixel 3|
|Screen (Resolution)||5.6 inches (2220 x 1080)||5.5 inches (2160 x 1080)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 670||Snapdragon 845|
|Rear Camera||12-MP (f/1.8)||12-MP (f/1.8)|
|Front Camera||8-MP||8MP wide-angle (f/2.2) and 8MP (f/1.8)|
|Battery||2,915 mAh||2,915 mAh|
The Andro News video suggests the Lite phone will trade the Pixel 3’s metal-and-glass body with a plastic one, a claim backed up by other sources. The Pixel 3a looks to have a slightly larger screen than the 5.5-inch Pixel 3, at least according to info appearing on the Google Play Developer Console, but otherwise, it will look like a polycarbonate clone of its premium counterpart. The Pixel 3a XL will have a slightly smaller 6-inch screen compared to the Pixel 3 XL’s 6.3-inch panel. (WinFuture's report suggests the smaller of the Lite phones will have a 5.6-inch screen, for what it's worth.) There’s no notch on the 3a XL as there is on the 3 XL, according to 91Mobiles and tipster OnLeaks, so expect to see more bezel on the newer phones.
One rumor suggested that Google might opt for LCD instead of OLED screens. That’s the same trade-off Apple made for its lower-cost iPhone XR, which doesn’t have the OLED screen found on more expensive iPhones. However, in its report confirming the Pixel 3a and 3a XL names, 9to5Google says that the 3a will retain an OLED panel; it didn't say what kind of screen the 3a XL would have, but it seems unlikely Google would use different display types.
Credit: RozetkedThe general consensus of the rumor mill is that the Snapdragon 670 chipset will power at least one of the Lite phones. (9to5Google says the Pixel 3a will feature a Snapdragon 670.) Leaked benchmarks showed a unnamed Google phone running on a Snapdragon 710, sparking some speculation that the slightly faster processor might be slated for the larger Lite XL. If so, that’d be a departure for Google, which uses the same chipset — a Snapdragon 845 — across both the Pixel 3 and 3 XL.
The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are expected to sport 4GB. An initial rumor suggested the 3a XL might have 6GB of RAM, but that would be more memory found in either premium Pixel 3. The info on the Google Play Developer Console shows both phones with matching RAM.
The flagship Pixels only feature one rear camera, so expect the lite versions to follow suit — in fact, the Andro News video suggests it will be the same 12.2-megapixel shooter found on Google’s premium phones. It’s a different story for the selfie cam, as the dual lenses on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will reportedly make way for a single 8-MP camera on the Lite versions.
Russian blog Rozetked shared some photos reportedly shot by the Pixel 3a. It’s hard to draw conclusions without comparative images from a standard Pixel 3, but the photos do provide an idea of what to expect from the new phones.
The cameras on the Pixel 3 remain the best you can buy. As long as the Pixel 3a can mostly match them, quality-wise, as reports and leaks seem to show they can, they could instantly become a fan favorite for smartphone photographers with entry-level budgets.
iPhone XR (left), Pixel 3 XL Lite (right) (Credit: Wysla)One leg-up the Pixel 3a phones have over the premium models is a headphone jack. Every render and hands-on video of the 3a shows the 3.5mm port at the top of the phones, while the USB Type-C port for charging remains at the bottom next to a couple of new cutouts for bottom-firing speakers.
The battery in the Pixel 3a will reportedly be the same 2,915-mAh pack found in the premium Pixel 3. Though there’s no indication yet on whether the Pixel 3a XL might match the 3,430-mAh battery from the Pixel 3 XL, it wouldn’t be a wild guess to figure it might.
The rumored release date for the Lite phones means they’ll arrive before Android Q does in the fall, so we’d expect Android 9 Pie to be the OS of choice. That’s not much of a concern since Google phones get Android updates before any other brand, so we’d expect the Pixel Lite to feature Android Q as soon as it becomes available.
What will the Pixel 3a look like?
We've gotten an early glance at the upcoming Pixel phones thanks to Rozetked and that Andro News video. But Android Headlines has what it says is an official render of the phone, and it showcases both the Pixel 3a and 3a XL in a way that reflects a lot of the rumored features to be found in these two phones.Credit: Android Headlines
Smartphone prices are creeping upward — even for the Pixel. Apple and Samsung have addressed that price creep by coming out with lower-cost versions of their flagship phones that sacrifice a few premium features in the name of a lower price tag. It would certainly make sense for Google to follow suit.
Based on the rumored specs for the Pixel 3a, it sounds like you’d make tradeoffs on performance and design while still maintaining the great photography features that have made Google’s handsets stand out. Of course, that’s just based on rumored specs. We won’t know for sure just how the Pixel 3a fits into the smartphone market until Google finally reveals its smartphone plans in the coming months.