We didn’t see the Pixel 8 at Google’s I/O conference in May. But the company has released the Pixel 7A, its more affordable alternative to the Pixel 7. It’s a win for Pixel fans, as the 7A offers many of the same benefits as the Pixel 7 — including a great camera and the new Tensor G2 processor — for $100 less .
But it also makes me wonder if Google’s A-series phones are starting to overshadow the flagship Pixels.
Now that Google has narrowed the gap between the Pixel 7 and 7A, it needs to think more carefully about its target audience for the Pixel 8. If the Pixel 7A is for those who want a basic Pixel experience without compromising on performance and camera quality, the Pixel The 7 Pro is for photography enthusiasts, so who is the Pixel 7 for? That’s the question I hope Google answers with the Pixel 8, along with some other routine improvements to software support and battery life.
Google usually releases new Pixel phones in the fall, so we expect to know more about the Pixel 8 in a few months.
The Pixel 8 should stand out from Google’s next A-series phone
With the Pixel 8, Google needs to do more to make its upcoming flagship Pixel phone stand out. The $499 Pixel 7A already has many of the features most people look for in a new phone, like a great camera, smooth operation, easy-to-use software, and decent battery life.
The main differences between the Pixel 7 and 7A come down to the slightly more durable design of the former, the larger screen and the battery compartment. The latter feature allows you to charge compatible accessories by placing them on the back of the phone, essentially turning it into a wireless charger. The Pixel 7 also has a larger camera sensor that’s more sensitive to light, according to Google, but I didn’t notice much of an improvement when comparing photos from the two phones.
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7A seem like they’re aimed at the same audience: Android fans who want a general purpose phone with a great camera and a reasonably sized screen. The Pixel 7 Pro features a larger screen, an additional telephoto camera, and macro photography. It also comes with a 512GB storage option, unlike the Pixel 7, and has a screen with a higher 120Hz refresh rate for even smoother scrolling. Case in point: There are a lot of factors that differentiate the Pixel 7 Pro from the Pixel 7, but not as many that differentiate the Pixel 7 from the 7A.
Moving forward, there are a few changes Google can make to fix this. Perhaps it could slightly increase the Pixel 8’s display size to 6.4 inches instead of 6.3 inches. This would put more distance between the Pixel 8’s screen and the upcoming Pixel 8A, assuming Google keeps the same 6.1-inch display size for the upcoming A-series phones.
Google could also speed up the Pixel 8 when it comes to charging, as the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7A offer similar charging speeds (up to 18W on the Pixel 7A vs up to 21W on the Pixel 7). Increasing the charging speed to create a bigger gap between the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8A could make the case for buying the Pixel 8 a little stronger. The improvement in wired charging speeds could be especially important given that it looks like the Pixel 8 won’t see an improvement in wireless charging compared to last year’s model. That’s according to 9to5Google, which says it spotted a listing for the Pixel 8 on the Wireless Power Consortium website, which has since been removed.
Increasing the Pixel 8’s base storage to 256GB, similar to what Samsung did with the Galaxy S23 Plus, along with offering an additional 512GB storage option, could further differentiate the Pixel 8 from a future Pixel 8A.
These changes, combined with the existing differences between the Pixel 7 and 7A, could certainly make the Pixel 8 feel like a compelling choice over the upcoming budget Pixel phones. Of course, this assumes Google maintains its current strategy of releasing new flagship and Pro phones in the fall and a cheaper A-series phone in the spring or summer.
Extended Android version support
Software is a big part of what makes Pixel phones so appealing, from the call assist features in the Phone app to Google’s seamless version of Android. The problem, however, is that Google usually offers Android version updates only three years after the Pixel phone is released.
Although it provides security support and other updates after this point, Google lags behind Samsung and Apple when it comes to operating system version support. Samsung typically offers up to four generations of Android platform updates to new phones, while Apple’s latest software is compatible with iPhones as old as the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 generation that launched in 2017.
If Google can match Samsung’s four years or surpass five years, it will make the Pixel line even more competitive.
Longer battery life
Battery life can never seem long enough, which is why I’m hoping to see some improvements in the Pixel 8. In my experience, the Pixel 7’s battery life was long enough to last a full day of work and then some. But I’d like to pack a charger if I’m expecting a particularly long day.
The Pixel 7A also outperformed the Pixel 7 in CNET’s three-hour battery test, during which I streamed a YouTube video at full brightness and tracked the battery percentage every hour. It would be great to see Google make some improvements in this regard on the Pixel 8.
Pixel 7A vs Pixel 7 battery test
|Pixel 7A||Pixel 7|
We won’t know what to expect from the Pixel 8 until Google announces its new phones, which will likely happen in the fall. The camera is a focal point for Google’s Pixel series, so I expect to see some progress in that area, along with a new version of the Tensor processor in the Pixel 8. If Google makes these changes while offering longer battery life, additional support for Android and more exclusive features that set the Pixel 8 apart from its A-series phones, Google’s next $600 phone could be a hit.