Hey Google, if Apple and Samsung can keep small phones alive, why can't you?
We're firmly in the midst of another busy techtember, that time of year when the biggest names in the game — including Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon — unveil their fancy new devices that will lead the industry forward over the next many months. Of course, one of the events that I'm most looking forward to is the upcoming Google Pixel 6 launch, as it promises to be one of, if not the most significant Pixel event ever.
Make no mistake. I'll be first among those lining up (virtually, anyway) to get my hands on one of these new phones (I adore that lemon/lime green one!), but I'm a little put off by their sizes. The "regular" Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display, while the Pixel 6 pro has a massive 6.71-inch display. These are sure to be fantastic for consuming content and productivity purposes, but they're also likely to be hard on the hands and plenty in the pockets for many people.
The Pixel 4a has been one of my favorite phones to use over the past year, and a lot of that comes down to its form factor. With its 5.81-inch display, this phone has been the perfect size for me. It's large enough to read and type on productively, but it's small enough not to cause hand fatigue. It also easily fits in my pockets. So of course I was heartbroken when the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5a came out in much larger sizes. But Google, it doesn't have to be this way. We can still have really great small Android phones!
Samsung and Apple are two of the biggest names in tech, and both companies have seen and addressed a demand for smaller phones over the past few years.
For Samsung, this has come in the form of its fast-developing foldable business. While the Galaxy Z Fold 3 gets most of the headlines (and deservedly so), it's the Galaxy Z Flip 3 that will likely outshine that larger device in terms of sales and widespread adoption.
Part of this is because the Z Flip 3 is basically half the price of the Z Fold 3, but it's also likely that the familiar and portable clamshell design is something consumers like and understand better. It looks and feels like those favorite phones from years gone by, and best of all, it fits in most hands, pockets, purses, etc. Indeed, it's likely that "small" phones will be foldable phones in the future.
At least to date, Apple has chosen to address this market with physically smaller devices. However, ever since it started making "large" phones back with the iPhone 6, a vocal minority of customers wanted it to bring back the small iPhone. The company's first attempt to address this took the form of the iPhone SE in 2016, following the launch of the 6S, and then it followed that formula with another small (albeit larger) iPhone SE in 2020.
Last year, Apple introduced the iPhone 12 mini, which, while it undoubtedly outsold many Android handsets, was a bit of a disappointment compared to the other iPhone 12 models. In fact, many prognosticators predicted that there wouldn't even be an iPhone 13 mini. However, it turned out that those analysts and leakers were wrong, and we actually did see another small iPhone.
So if these behemoths think it's worth addressing a vocal minority wanting smaller smartphones, shouldn't Google at least consider bringing back that Pixel 3a or 4a form factor?
We all know the troubles that Google has had getting any traction with Pixel sales, but it does appear that the company is redoubling efforts to succeed with the new high-end Pixel 6 models and its own Tensor SoC. I'd like to see a not-so-distant future where we see it succeeding with this strategy, and continuing to evolve the a-series lineup.
What I'm dreaming of is a Pixel 6a and Pixel 6a XL series in 2022, similar to what we got back with the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. The differences would probably come down to screen size, battery capacity, and camera offerings, but I think those are tradeoffs that value-conscious Pixel owners could accept.
There have been many rumors about the Pixel Fold, but those seem to point to a larger device like the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If that device were to come to life and succeed, I know I'd be all for a future Pixel Flip-style phone as well.
What about you? Do you think Google should bring back a smaller Pixel in the future? Why or why not?
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Jeramy is the Editor-in-Chief of Android Central. He is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.