A budget Pixel phone is an oxymoron in 2024

Google Pixel 8a v Pixel 7a

Paul Jones / Android Authority

Google has made its bed and must now lie in it: There is no such thing as a budget Pixel anymore.

Looking at the new Pixel 8a, a few things regarding Google’s strategy and priorities became abundantly clear to me. The definition of a “Pixel phone” has evolved, and with it, the feasibility of a budget phone that fits this new vision. Let me explain.

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At its inception, the Pixel series’ ethos revolved around its exceptional camera and stock-like Android experience. With time, many Pixel-only features joined the fray and expanded the definition of what made a Pixel a Pixel. It wasn’t just about the camera anymore but about a complete software package that gave us unique capabilities not found on other Android phones. Call Screen, Photo Unblur, Google Recorder, and more everyday utilities enhanced the experience, so even when other Android brands caught up to most of Google’s camera prowess, the Mountain View giant still had a joker under its sleeve that it could call its own.

It’s no longer about the camera. The definition of a ‘Pixel’ is evolving before our very eyes.

The definition of a “Pixel” is evolving once again before our very eyes, and with it, the definition of a “budget Pixel.”

Google Pixel 8A bay blue 3

Paul Jones / Android Authority

If an excellent camera could’ve been enough to distinguish Google’s hardware from the hundreds of budget Android phones, then the Pixel 8a would’ve upgraded the camera setup over the 7a. It didn’t. Instead, the upgrades came in other places.

Most importantly, we got the Tensor G3 processor, which lets Google tout two new highlight features: seven years of updates and on-device Gemini Nano and AI capabilities. And this, in my opinion, is the new definition of a Pixel.

Google no longer views its Pixels as camera powerhouses that show the way for the rest of the Android ecosystem but as long-lasting and AI-capable phones. And when this is the new definition, then the entire line-up must follow. This means that future Pixels, whether they fall in the budget or flagship category, must adhere to this philosophy and fit this mold.

A ‘budget Pixel’ can’t exist because a Pixel is now an AI-capable phone with long-term support.

The two tenants of the Pixel’s new ethos — AI features and long-term update support — require a powerful chip and lots of RAM, which brings me back full circle to my initial argument: There can no longer be a “budget Pixel” anymore because, in 2024, a Pixel is a capable phone, not an average mid-ranger.

The Pixel 8a exists to solidify this theory. And future Pixel A series phones will have to follow suit too. If you were hoping for a resurgence of $300-400 Pixel A phones at some point, you should dash those hopes straight away. I don’t see Google taking a step back and releasing any future phone under the Pixel brand if it doesn’t meet the seven-year-update pledge or offer a bunch of AI chops. And as I’ve said, meeting those requirements means more expensive hardware.

Realistically, the only way we’d ever get cheaper Pixels is when the discounts and deals start hitting the Pixel A series. And that isn’t such a bad strategy after all. Google still gets to tout high-end hardware, even at the midrange bracket, without compromising its requirements, but it still gets to appeal to the cheaper segment year-round with some interesting deals. A win-win overall.

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