Technology

Google Pixel roadmap leak lays out the next few years of hardware shake-ups

The smartphone industry is in a weird spot these days. Throughout 2022, we’ve seen bad news for manufacturers. Even as some great Android phones hit the market, shipments continued to decline amid economic turbulence and consumers holding onto older devices for longer. These rough waters are bound to shake up plans for future devices, as we’ve recently seen with Samsung’s plan to emulate Apple’s success in the high-end. It looks like Samsung isn’t alone in this race to beat the iPhone, though. A leaked potential roadmap for Pixels through 2025 suggests Google has some big ideas in store for its future phones.

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The folks at Android Authority published a leaked version of Google’s plans for the next three years of hardware, starting with two new devices for early spring and leading all the way into the fall of 2025. As with any leak — especially one as far out as this — it’s important to take all of this with a massive grain of salt. This roadmap shows the company looking to expand its Pixel lineup dramatically, all while diminishing its focus on lower-end, more affordable models. It’s certainly a gamble for Google, but if this report is correct, we could be looking at a complete reinvention of its smartphones.

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2023: Pixel 7a, Pixel Fold, and the Pixel 8 series

Let’s start with 2023, though, which only contains a couple of surprises. Android Authority’s report begins with a Google I/O-timed launch for the Pixel 7a and the Pixel Fold. This is in line with recent rumors for the company’s first-gen foldable, all while fitting the usual timeframe for the A-series. Both phones have seen substantial leaks in recent months, with the Pixel 7a sounding like a great replacement for its predecessor. Despite the rumored addition of wireless charging and a 90Hz display, expect the 7a to stick at its $449 price tag for yet another year.

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As for the Fold, it sounds like those reports of an $1,800 price tag were indeed true. Expect to shell out for Google’s futuristic foldable — especially if you want to see further refinements down the road.

The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro will hit shelves next fall, and although we don’t know many specifics, it sounds like another generation of small changes for Google’s flagship series. Perhaps the one surprise element is a smaller form factor for the Pixel 8; we’ve already seen the Pixel 7 slim down from its predecessor, and this would be another step in that small flagship direction. The Pixel 8 Pro would retain its larger size.

2024: Pixel 8a and the Pixel 9 series

Still with us? Great, because it’s in 2024 where things start to get complicated — and, in this writer’s opinion, a little fuzzy. First, Google is unsure whether it plans to launch a Pixel 8a (codenamed “akita”), or if it would move the lineup to a biannual release schedule. It’s our first sign of the company trying to mirror Apple’s strategy with the iPhone SE, and frankly, it’s a terrible plan.

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By all accounts, the A-series has been a massive success for Google — in fact, it was the Pixel 3a that really got the ball rolling for the company. Pulling back on this series to focus on more expensive flagships is sure to frustrate a dedicated fan base of A-series buyers. Reportedly, a Pixel 8a launch all comes down to how the Pixel 7a sells, but if it does make an appearance in 2024, be ready for a price hike. Although this roadmap details nothing about the phone’s specs, it’d see a price hike up to $500.

Meanwhile, the Pixel 9 series is set to expand. In addition to a regular Pixel 9 (no codename on this) and the Pixel 9 Pro (“komodo”), Google wants to launch a small version of the Pixel 9 Pro. At 6.3″ this model (codenamed “caiman”) would effectively be the size of the current Pixel 7, but with all of the extras that often leave users opting for the larger model. It’s yet another Apple-inspired move, as Google looks to chase the success of phones like the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.

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Oh, and as for a potential Fold successor? Google has a second-gen model in the pipeline — no surprise there — but depending on how the Pixel Fold does in 2023, it could get scrapped altogether. Considering how rough the company’s first-gen hardware usually arrives and the $1,800 price tag, it’s hard to see how the Pixel Fold ends up a sales success, but you never know. That’s a question for when hardware finally lands on store shelves.

2025: A clamshell Pixel Fold and the Pixel 10 series

Finally, a peek into what 2025 could look like. Of all the elements in this report, it’s important to approach this lineup with the most skepticism. It’s nearly three years away and offers two diverging paths for the company to take, which means anything is possible.

In both scenarios, Google wants to launch four flagship phones, but what the lineup looks like depends on yet another foldable. This time, it’s a Galaxy Z Flip-esque Pixel Fold, set to launch in the fall of 2025. That’s nearly six years after Samsung’s original clamshell device, giving one of Google’s rivals the chance to iterate on the concept for seven generations by the time this arrives.

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It’s also up in the air. If Google does launch its Pixel Flip (for lack of a better codename), it would arrive buoyed by a standard Pixel 10 and two Pixel 10 Pros available in larger and smaller sizes. If the clamshell device gets scrapped, it’d be replaced with a larger standard Pixel 10 — think the iPhone 14 Plus. It’s an odd move, considering recent noise surrounding how poorly Apple’s Mini replacement has sold. It’s rare to see anyone online clamoring for a Pixel 7 Pro-sized model without the telephoto lens and other Pro-exclusive features, but perhaps its stance in the Android market could lead to a different outcome.

2025 could also hold yet another Pixel Fold successor, though again, this depends on how well the first-gen unit performs.

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Personally, I think the focus on competing head-to-head with Apple using its rival’s strategy is bound to be a messy move. Google ranks far behind Apple and Samsung in sales — a recent report suggested the company had sold less than 30 million Pixels since the original launched in 2016. It’s hard to see how flooding the market with more (and more expensive) devices would boost figures, though with less Android competition than ever before, anything’s possible.

At the end of the day, the phone industry can change on a dime. We’re still in an economic downturn, one plenty of analysts expect to evolve into an out-and-out recession next year. A focus on releasing more high-end phones could be risky — especially as consumers continue to hold onto their devices for longer periods of time. Ultimately, only time will tell how much of this report is accurate, but one thing’s for sure. Either way, Google has big plans for the Pixel series; don’t expect to see it show up in the graveyard any time soon.



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