We’re just weeks away from the Pixel 6a, Google’s mid-range smartphone of 2022, that will arrive in our hands. Unlike previous iterations, the Pixel 6a is no longer an easy recommendation for budget-conscious buyers. Priced above $449 this year, there’s no denying that the Pixel 6a isn’t a great value nor terribly overpriced. This is especially true when compared to some of its predecessors like the Pixel 4a.
According to data from nationThe average consumer spends about $300 on a new smartphone, with some markets like India registering an average selling price of less than $200. However, Google now has nothing to offer in the sub-$400 price range. With that in mind then, is it time for Google to consider launching a smartphone that is more targeted towards the masses?
See also: The best budget phones you can buy right now
Why the affordable Google Pixel makes sense in 2022
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority
For years, Google . has been tracking The next billion smartphone users, with a focus on emerging markets such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Mexico. While the company’s software development philosophy is clearly in line with this goal of introducing technology inclusion, its hardware efforts have not kept pace.
The company has slowly moved away from making affordable and feature-rich smartphones, although it once defended this category. The Pixel 4a debuted at just $349 — a much more acceptable price than the $449 and $499 price tags we’ve come to expect these days. And lest we forget, the original Moto G launched at a very convincing $179 under Google’s ownership of Motorola Mobility.
The Moto G was an instant hit in 2013 – not only in North America and Europe, but also in developing countries like India and Brazil where savvy shoppers were starving for a simple, fast, and affordable Android experience.
From the original Moto G to the Pixel 4a, Google has had a lot of success in the budget smartphone market.
Admittedly, budget smartphones in the $200 to $300 price range have made huge leaps since then – just look at the Redmi Note 11 as an example. However, I would still argue that there is still a lot of potential to get an entry-level Google smartphone. Even in this price bracket, many shoppers demand a no-frills software experience and powerful photography. And while it was previously serviced by Android One, it hasn’t seen any new releases in over two years now.
See also: What happened to Android One?
In the meantime, we’ve seen Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Realme escaping the entry and mid-range markets. However, these smartphones often fall short in terms of camera performance, software experience, update commitment, or a combination of all three.
On the other hand, Google has been able to craft a personalized Pixel experience centered around these very aspects. The company has also proven that its prowess in computer photography can produce top-notch results even with relatively modest hardware. Combined with a long update commitment similar to those offered on existing Google devices, it makes sense that the company could easily disrupt the entry market with the budget Pixel.
What would the budget Pixel look like?
Scott Brown / Android Authority
Let’s say for a second that Google is willing to launch a cheaper entry-level Pixel. What would such a device look like? That’s a rather tricky question – the Pixel 6a has actually lost some features compared to the Pixel 6. Having said that, the former still offers a lot of high-end specs that you shouldn’t have on a device under $300.
Consider Google Tensor, the first dedicated, high-quality SoC. Its inclusion in the Pixel 6 enabled unique software features such as real-time translation, instant text-to-speech, and offline image recognition. However, it is also a bit more powerful than most users need from their smartphone.
The entry-level Pixel could ditch the Tensor chip in favor of a more modest mid-range SoC, similar to the Snapdragon 670 Pixel 3a at $349. There is no doubt that this reduction alone would significantly reduce the manufacturing costs per unit and, in turn, the retail price of the smartphone. Not to mention, there are plenty of other places Google can cut it too, without affecting the overall user experience.
The budget Pixel will have to ditch the top-tier Google Tensor in favor of a more modest SoC.
Google could also choose to reuse the design from the Pixel 4a and 5a. This step will eliminate tooling costs and extend the tried and tested form factor a few years longer. This design will also retain the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a smaller screen, and the previous generation Pixel camera system. It is possible that many of these old, mass-produced parts have depreciated due to their age. After all, Apple has had good success following a similar strategy with the iPhone SE.
Of course, not everything is smooth. Google hasn’t been able to secure global distribution for its flagship Pixel devices yet. And while the Pixel 6a will be more widely available, the list is still long in just 13 countries. However, budget smartphones are usually sold unlocked, which makes distribution less dependent on carriers and a bit easier in most regions. However, only Google can determine the feasibility of a truly global launch.
For more than a decade, Google’s smartphone strategy has straddled the line between premium and mid-range. With the Pixel 6 series, the company has finally found itself firmly planted in both markets. Is it finally time to round up the wallet with a budget Pixel built for the masses?