Google needs to make a budget Pixel phone

The back of the Charcoal Google Pixel 7a
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The Pixel A series is the best way to get Google's custom software features and terrific cameras for less, and the Pixel 8a takes things to a new level. It has considerable upgrades, including a 120Hz OLED panel, larger battery, Tensor G3, and it will get the same seven years of software updates as the regular Pixel 8 models.


Android Central's LLoyd with a bionic eye

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

In Hardwired, AC Senior Editor Harish Jonnalagadda delves into all things hardware, including phones, storage servers, and routers.

But there's a problem. All the new features come with an inflated price tag, with the Pixel 8a retailing at $499 — $50 more than the Pixel 7a and $100 more than the Pixel 3a. The Pixel 8a is still a good bargain considering you get most of the same features as the $699 Pixel 8, and if you need a mid-range phone, it is the best overall choice.

While Google is doing the right things with the Pixel A series, I think it needs to shift its attention to the budget segment. There aren't as many choices in this category as previous years; other than the Moto G 5G, OnePlus Nord N30, and a few TCL options, you don't get much if you're interested in a sub-$350 phone. Even the Galaxy A35 starts off at $399.

This isn't limited to North America either. I've always recommended Xiaomi's Redmi Note series in the past, but the brand decided to move up a segment with recent launches, and the result is that the Redmi Note 13 Pro+ now costs the equivalent of $495, a truly ridiculous state of affairs. The only budget-focused model in the series is the standard Redmi Note 13, and that just doesn't have the same caliber of hardware.

Nothing Phone 2a review

(Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

The only budget phone that I'd recommend is the Nothing Phone 2a; it has a great design, good internal hardware, and clean software with unique extras. The cameras aren't as good as the Pixel 7a, but you get two usable lenses — which isn't the case with most budget options.

Google is seeing a lot of momentum with the Pixel A series, but the only way to truly scale its hardware ambitions is by focusing on the budget segment. That's the only feasible area where Google can meaningfully grow its business in countries like India. While Google sells its phones in the region, they're significantly costlier than their rivals — the Pixel 8a starts off at an absurd ₹52,999 ($634), and that effectively kills the phone before it even goes on sale.

Ideally, Google needs to introduce a model in the sub-$350 segment to be able to challenge Samsung and Xiaomi. But it is unlikely the search giant will ever do that; in an interview with Austrian publication Der Standard, Google's Pixel division Nanda Ramachandran confirmed that the brand will not release a budget device, stating "we would have to make too many compromises for that."

A budget Pixel makes sense in a lot of ways. Google's camera wizardry combined with its unique software features would make a budget Pixel device stand out considerably, but it's clear that Google has no intention of taking that route. Google says it wants to be a major hardware player, but it doesn't have a strategy in place that allows the brand to get there. While Pixels are still terrific devices they continue to be out of reach of buyers interested in affordable phones.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • Daniel Gomes
    The 8a should have been that but the pricing outside the US is nuts.

    You can't buy it everywhere either, which is another issue. Here in Cyprus the average income if very low. Most people keep the phone for at least 5 years and when they replace it they get something in the €300 ballpark.

    Were the Pixel available here and for the equivalent of $400 it would be €372 and by the fast the best in that segment. If marketed properly could become a huge seller. But they ignore the poorer markets and just target the US ....
  • mustang7757
    A sub- 350.00 device in my opinion not worth it there would be too many cuts to bring the phone to that price.