Google’s business strategy with the Pixel lineup was highly confusing when the first Pixel came out. The lineup kicked off in 2016 with the first Google Pixel. This was the first time Google entered the smartphone hardware business. Before this, phones from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, etc., were technically Google phones.
To understand Google’s plans, we must first explore its past and agenda with Google phones. Most of the time, Google phones were rebranded products from contract manufacturers. But Google put their software skin on top. They were famously called “Nexus” phones. They were a major hit among the tech community, but there weren’t many sales.
After this, Google began to outsource their hardware and piece together their phones. They no longer relied on contract manufacturers. They still have to depend on others for parts, but Google themselves now does all the calibration, tuning, arrangement, schematics etc.
Pixel 1 and the confusing business strategy
Pixel 1 was a confusing business move because Google has never been a hardware company. They make great software, and they have cross-platform software services. They open-source android and run a great search engine, the best one in the world.
Primarily, Google is a company that gives you services in exchange for your data and information. They collect your data to serve personalised ads and develop Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Since most of Google’s focus primarily rests on software, their ambition with the Pixel lineup was unclear at the time.
The Pixel could cause conflict with other OEMs and anger their hardware partners. Most companies except Samsung and Apple struggle to make significant hardware profits and sales margins, so it’s not the best business idea.
Google isn’t making any significant hardware profits here. Eventually, we saw Google take their hardware business seriously in 2021. Their plans look pretty ambitious as well.
Pixel 6 series and the mainstream break
It felt like Google knew Qualcomm’s SOCs limited them in price/ royalty and AI capabilities. Primarily for the price advantages, Google jumped ship to the Samsung foundry. They changed up some cores and clock speeds of existing Exynos chips, added their ISPs and excellent AI/ ML algorithms, and now you have the Google Tensor chip.
The Pixel 6 and 7 lineups use Google’s Tensor and Tensor G2, respectively. This makes their price a few hundred dollars lower than the competition. Some of their AI advantages come from the Tensor too.
The Pixel 6 lineup was well received since there were a lot of hardware upgrades this time, and the phones were some of the best you could get at that price, minus the quality control problems and software bugs.
The Pixel 7 lineup that followed had incremental changes, but they were compelling overall packages with little to complain about for their prices. Most importantly, the Pixel 7 and 6 series received critical praise, commercial acclaim, and much better sales volumes than their predecessors.
Google Pixel Phones Roadmap for 2023, 2024 and 2025
Pixel Portfolio in 2023
An anonymous source has leaked to Android Authority the complete roadmap for Pixel phones in 2023, 2024, and 2025. This roadmap is not final, and there could be changes along the way, so it’s not a one hundred per cent guarantee. However, we can still predict Google’s plans from these leaks.
Google’s annual I/O conference will take place on May 10, 2023. The company will host the event in Mountain View, California, at Googleplex. At I/O 2023 event. we might see new Pixel phones announced along with the Android 14 announcement.
This time, two Pixel phones codenamed Lynx and Felix are supposed to come out during Google IO. Lynx is mostly the midrange Pixel 7A, and the Felix probably refers to Google’s much anticipated foldable phone.
Pixel 7A and Pixel Fold
We can assume that the price of the Pixel 7A will stick to 449$. The Pixel 7A might have slight upgrades, like an improved primary sensor or a higher 90Hz refresh rate, but with the apparent compromises like a plastic build. Some rumours point to wireless charging, but this isn’t confirmed.
The Felix phone, or the Pixel Fold, is expected to be priced around the 1799$ mark, which is right alongside the popular Z Fold 4.
Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro
The Pixel 8 (Codename: Shiba) and 8 Pro (Codename: Husky) are the slab phones for next year that will probably have some slight software refinements, and the vanilla Pixel 8 is said to get smaller in dimensions. The 8 Pro will mostly stick to the existing dimensions, but they’ll be powered by the Tensor G3 SOC (Codename: Zuma).
We hope the G3 brings efficiency gains and also thermal improvements. However, the Samsung foundry is known for neither of those, so we can only hope they improve. Google will probably stick to the Samsung fab since they can price their phones more competitively due to cheaper chips.
Predicted Pixel roadmap for 2024
Things get a bit rocky in the 2024 roadmap since it depends on the success and reception of the phones they launch in 2023. There are still plans to continue their midrange A lineup with the Pixel 8A (Codename: Akita). However, it might not be made if the 7A has relatively low sales volumes.
Regarding their midrange lineup, Google might stop updating the A lineup yearly. They might shift to a new A series phone every two years or when necessary. This is a similar strategy to what Apple does with their entry model, the iPhone SE.
Plenty of the plans for the A series will be determined by the critical response and sales figures of the 7A. The 6A mainly received positive reviews, but the Indian price at launch was so bad; people found no point in buying it over their own Pixel 6 and the competition. So, they caved, and the price dropped by nearly 200$. It’s now a compelling option.
The Pixel 8A might finally have a 120Hz panel with hardware updates and wireless charging, and there are chances of a price hike to 499$.
Pixel 9 Series
Around October 2024, the Pixel 9 lineup will officially be announced. Instead of just a 9 and a 9 Pro, there might be a third device. The vanilla Pixel 9 is expected to retain the size and dimensions of the Pixel 8 and will mostly have a chip bump.
The Pixel 9 Pro (Codename: Komodo) will be the successor to the Pixel 7 Pro. The mysterious third model is said to retain most of the specifications of the Pro phone but shrunk down into a smaller form factor. This phone might have a ~6.3″ compact display size. It’s currently codenamed Caiman.
This isn’t a brand-new strategy that we haven’t seen already. Samsung currently does it with the S23 and S23+. Apple does it with the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. The Pixel 8 lineup will debut with the new Tensor G4 SOC, codenamed Redondo. We sincerely hope it ‘redoes’ the Tensor SOC and makes it genuinely competitive.
Nothing has been confirmed yet about the launch of a foldable Pixel phone in 2024. We might see a successor depending on how well their Pixel Fold is received in 2023. Google is probably waiting to see how many people are interested in a foldable Pixel phone.
If the reviews are poor and the Pixel Fold does not sell well, there’s a chance it might not get a follow-up in 2024. The phone, codenamed Felix, is the alleged Pixel Fold that might be announced on May 10, 2023, at Google I/O.
Plans for the portfolio in 2025
Many of Google’s plans in 2025 rest on the reception of their 2024 models, and the 2024 models depend on the success of the 2023 models. So, it’s hard to predict what might happen in 2025, but Google does have a roadmap.
Google’s exciting idea for 2025 is a Flip-style foldable phone similar to the Galaxy Z Flip 4 or the Oppo Find N2 Flip. Plans for their open-book style foldable remain uncertain.
Pixel 10 Series
The Pixel 10 series will probably hit markets in the fall of 2025. Google is expected to launch a Pixel 10 and a Pixel 10 Pro, with the 10 Pro available in two size options; one compact and one relatively large.
Another big rumour claims the Pixel 10 will have two size options for the Vanilla model. We might see a ~6.7″ vanilla Pixel 10 and a regular ~6-6.2″ Pixel 10. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is precisely what Apple did with the iPhone 14 lineup.
Potential hurdles to Google’s plans
Currently, Google sells around 3 to 5 million pixels per year. It might have hit 10 Million sales per year after the combined success of the Pixel 7 and 6 lineups. While way behind the other tech giants, it’s still decent for Google.
The only major hurdle they face now is Samsung’s foundry and their global availability. The fewer regions their phones launch in, the lower sales they’ll get. Without sales, they won’t have the ambition or resources to continue pushing out phones.
Samsung foundry’s inefficient chips are also bad with thermals and sustained performance. They’re another major con of buying a Pixel today. Provided their chips improve in 2023, it’s a significant hurdle that they will have overcome.
While Google’s business model and ambition with the Pixels were initially confusing, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they want to take the hardware business seriously.
Since they already made exceptional software and services, the only way to utilise those to the maximum potential is to make their hardware. They’ll hit roadblocks, but they seem to be doing well with the Pixel portfolio.
They’re trying to replicate the success of Apple’s iPhones by making software that is tuned and optimised beautifully to run very well with the software.
They also want some of Samsung’s market share since they seem interested in competing on the foldable landscape. They seem to be following Samsung’s strategy of a compact all-rounder too. It’s interesting to note Google is focusing on flagship experiences in a compact form factor in the future.
We only can hope Google has fewer Quality Control issues and that they expand to more regions. Their international reputation and sales might improve as a result. Google might genuinely compete with Apple and Samsung in terms of sales figures. Hopefully, Google’s enormous plans for the smartphone market will succeed.