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The Pixel 3 Lite will be Google's most important phone in 2022

Google Pixel 3 XL
Google Pixel 3 XL (Image credit: Android Central)

For the past three years, Google's released a new Pixel phone in October. In 2016 we got the original Pixel, 2017 saw the release of the Pixel 2, and last year in 2018, we had the Pixel 3. The Pixel 3 is (unsurprisingly) the best of the bunch so far and remains as one of our absolute favorite Android phones you can buy.

Google's made considerable progress with its Pixel phones year after year, leaving us quite excited to see what we get with the Pixel 4 series in a few months. However, even with that being the case, it's not the Pixel phone that will matter the most to Google in 2019.

No, that title goes to the Pixel 3 Lite.

Rumors of a mid-range Pixel device first popped up all the way back in April 2018, and at the time, it was expected that the phone would be released in July or August of that year. That obviously never happened, but now according to the latest rumors and reports, Google's getting ready to finally launch its mid-range handset in the form of the Pixel 3 Lite this Spring.

As the name suggests, we're anticipating the Pixel 3 Lite to be a lower-spec'd and lower-priced version of the existing Pixel 3. That means a plastic design instead of a metal and glass one, less powerful Qualcomm processor, less storage, and a lower-quality display.

Those are all compromises we'd expect with a gadget of this caliber, but one spec that really has the Pixel 3 Lite on our radar is its camera package. If the rumor mill is true, the Pixel 3 Lite will have the exact same camera as the regular Pixel 3. That means jaw-dropping photos and videos on a phone that should cost hundreds of dollars less than its more expensive sibling.

Here's why this all matters.

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For most consumers, they won't care about one Qualcomm processor being used over another. Plastic is more durable than glass, so that's a win right there for a lot of folks. Add that together with Google's name backing the phone and it shipping with the same phenomenal camera, and you have yourself a phone that we think a lot of potential buyers will readily choose in a heartbeat.

Oh, and did I mention that it has a 3.5mm headphone jack when the regular Pixel 3 doesn't?

When you start thinking about all of that, it doesn't take long to see how the Pixel 3 Lite could actually be a more enticing purchase over the fully-fledged Pixel 3. If it costs around $300 less and people can get the same camera experience — one of the biggest reasons to buy a Pixel in the first place — that's an easy decision right there.

At first, this didn't make a lot of sense to me. Why would Google risk cannibalizing sales of its own phone? However, after thinking about it a bit more and talking this over with AC's Daniel Bader, it started to come together.

Google will always have a dedicated fan base that buys its latest and greatest flagships. It may not be huge compared to fans of companies like Samsung and Apple, but it exists and isn't going anywhere. The Pixel 3 Lite is not for them. Those people will buy the Pixel 4 when it comes out without blinking an eye. The Pixel 3 Lite is for everyone else. For the people that may have considered Google's Pixel phones in the past, but passed on them for a more affordable Samsung or LG phone.

The Pixel 3 Lite will make Google's phones accessible to a whole new market of consumers.

With the Pixel 3 Lite, Google will soon have a device for those people to turn to. If they want a Pixel but can't justify the cost of Google's flagship offerings, they'll now have a lower-cost option to turn to. It may not be as flashy or powerful as the Pixel 3 or Pixel 4, but it's still a customer buying a Google phone. That rule also applies to people that may choose to buy the Pixel 3 Lite over more expensive Pixels even if they have the means to afford them.

No matter how you look at it, Google wins in both scenarios.

Some people have commented that the Pixel 3 Lite doesn't make sense for Google, but if you ask me, it has potential to be one of the smartest moves to come out of the company's hardware division. Sure, the Pixel line has typically be reserved for premium gadgets, but Google's hardware can't survive in the premium space alone.

Google needs a phone that can compete in the mid-range flagship market, and with the Pixel 3 Lite, that's exactly what it looks like it's aiming to do.

Google Pixel 3 Lite: News, Rumors, Release Date, Specs, and More!

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

58 Comments
  • Grammer police...
    Sure, the Pixel line has typically *be* reserved for premium gadgets
  • Actual English language police...
    Grammar is sentence structure, which in the article is perfectly fine. What you pointed out is called a typo; a spelling mistake.
  • I like how you misspelled grammar while pointing out a typo. That’s classic.
  • Lol "grammer"... oh Dear you've made a mess of yourself :)
  • Really! Would Mr. Spock use the example of an expression, "oh Dear."? I think not.
  • If it has the same camera and is priced in the three hundred range it has the potential of selling like hotcakes. Plus the return of the headphone jack. Consumers will love that! Plastic instead of glass, reminds of the Nexus 5X!
  • It'll also make the standard pixel 3 completely pointless.
  • It's advantages are: Snapdragon 845, dual stero speakers, OLED display, probably wireless charging (hopefully not), so the point still seems to be that it was a flagship and a mid-range phone.
  • Maybe for people on here, but I'm using about for normal folk. They don't know, let alone care, what SoC is in their phone, wireless charging sucks and if stereo speakers were something people actually cared about HTC would still sell phones.
  • The vast majority of people won't ever buy a pixel. They will by an iPhone or a Samsung device. The only people who really care about Pixels are people who monitor forums/websites like this one. So the vast majority of those people (a.k.a - all of us) do care about having a snapdragon 845, dual stereo speakers (I can't stand just one speaker myself), OLED display, wireless charging, IP water resistance, etc. I agree that people like my parents won't give one thought to any of those features; but they also won't even look at a pixel. They will go straight to the iPhones or Samsungs. My wife's entire family is iPhone centric so they won't care less. Pixel phones are nice but highly overrated (this is coming from someone with a Pixel 2XL).
  • Interestingly, the people that I've known over the years that have bought Pixels have been the exact opposite to the people that you describe. They just wanted a good phone and liked Google.
  • It was a bit unclear in the article but I think talk has always been about a phone that is about $300 *less* than the regular Pixel. Yep, I think that it is probably still way too much still for most average people but I guess we shall see what they think when the phone is announced.
  • What I'm concerned about is the 32GB of storage that I heard it's coming with. That's a little on the skimpy side for me.
  • I don't use a lot of storage myself, but if 32GB is the only option I'll pass on it. Hopefully there's a 64GB version
  • Agreed. 64 is the minimum for me.
  • 32 GB is a perfectly reasonable amount of storage. In 2014.
  • I think it's more reasonable now in 2019 than back then because of the decrease in app sizes and increase in availability of cloud storage over the years. The Pixels come with unlimited photo and video storage, and the OS takes up less than 8gb. Still, it would never hurt to also have a 64gb model.
  • "Add that together with Google's name backing the phone and it shipping with the same phenomenal camera, and you have yourself a phone that we think a lot of potential buyers will readily choose in a heartbeat." LOL
    Consumers already said loud and clear that they are NOT interested in Google's iPixels. Which is why all the phones were sale flops and even Google doesn't talk about their sales anymore. But sure, do continue to desperately try to make these flops happen. Just a piece of advice: the American IRS has made it clear tech blogs should clearly display sponsorships. And given the amount of desperate ad-rticles AC does for the iPixels, you're either failing to disclose that or just went completely off the rails.
  • I'm not a yank myself, so I could be wrong. But i don't think that's part of the IRSs remit... Pretty sure it's the territory of the FTC. Also, have you considered purchasing an Instant Pot?
  • I don't know if you realize this, but your tastes are not everyone's. Just a price of advice: your slanderous unwarranted claim about Android Central being paid by Google to say good things is about as likely as you being paid by a rival company to say bad things.
  • I understand this will be a budget mid-ranger. But if it only comes as a 32gb model in 2019 why? Without a micro s/d card will it hurt sales? I definitely don't think this is a good decision. Bare bones it should have at least 64gb's!
  • The microSD slot is used for photos and videos, the Pixels come with unlimited photo and video storage, so that problem is solved. But they should still definitely have a 64gb option.
  • If Pixel 3 Lite was offered in 64 GB, it would cannibalize too many sales of the regular P3/XL.
  • My original Pixel only came with 32GB of storage and I've used it as my daily driver until October, when I purchased my Pixel 3 XL (with 64GBs storage). I had a considerable number of apps installed and an extensive number of songs on the phone and I still had over 18GBs storage remaining. All my photos and videos are stored on Google Photos in the cloud and I regularly delete the device copies after they are backed up to the cloud to keep my phone storage free. All my photos and videos are accessible from the cloud via WiFi or Cellular and I have never had an incident where I could not access them. So, in what way would 32GBs NOT be sufficient in 2019? Granted, 64GBs would be nicer to have if you want to store more photos and videos on your device, but it's definitely not a "necessity" with Google giving you free cloud storage. It seems people keep forgetting these are Google Pixel devices that come with free cloud storage, not Apple iPhones that charge for that service.
  • Not everyone wants to use the cloud. Some people may want to save files locally for offline access or to limit mobile data usage. Also games and some apps (like offline maps) can take up lots of storage. 32GB is pitifully sad when you consider you cannot expand the storage with a MicroSD card.
  • As long as there is a 64gb option and it's below $400, it should be a very reasonable device. The Pixel's main selling point is the camera, and it's main drawback is the price; the Pixel 3 lite seems to have solved the problem.
  • Pixel 3 Lite will definitely be the cheapest model, but $300 is nonsense.
    Don't be surprised if it launches for $499.
  • If it launches at $499 with 64 gigs of storage and 4 gig of ram, I think that would be alright if the camera is just as good. But I will shake my head if Google tries to launch this thing over $500 and honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if they do. BTW, $499 is $300 less than the Pixel 3...
  • It comes with 32gb storage btw. I also believe it will be 500$ (sadly). It being 300$ it would short-circuit the entire mobile industry, so highly I doubt it could happen.
  • Completely agree, a $300 pixel would short-circuit the market. It won't happen that cheap. Though if it did, regardless of the storage, I'd jump on one.
  • If the standard storage is going to be 32Gb they should consider an SD card slot
  • Google will never offer another phone with removable storage because they want users to depend on their cloud services.
  • Yeah, let's see what they think they can charge for it before we get too excited. This is a company that thinks the Pixel 3 is worth $800 and the Pixel 3 XL $900.
  • So this is the Pixel XR.
  • If it's a lower quality SOC, won't that effect photo quality though? I know a big part of it, is the camera hardware and Google's software, but it seems Qualcomm always brags about photo processing capability with each new chip set.
  • Not as long as has the PVC. Or the Edge TPU. Also needed for the real time voice recognition with the better user experience. Why slower on the OG pixel.
  • Snapdragon 660 or 710 is perfectly fine for stock android, but the 32GB of storage is a non-starter for me. I keep a lot of movies and music on my phone, I have already used up 2/3 of my 64 GB on my Pixel 2.
  • keep in mind many people don't store much on their phones. With cloud storage, they don't really
    need more than 32gb.
    32gb is pushing the envelope, but I'd rather see 32gb of storage and it have an AMOLED screen than an lcd screen and 64gb of storage, but I'm a geek too. If the phone has wireless charging, it needs to be AMOLED. That way when you dock it and it goes into clock mode at night, the gray sceen doesn't light up the room.
  • When though? October is a long time away and this is taking too long already to be announced and available.
  • One thing to keep in mind about the cloud storage is that cloud storage isn't always available, whereas onboard storage (built-in or SD card) is. So while the storage may be unlimited, unless Google's giving folks on tiered data plans sponsored data, having it eat data while on the go can be a problem. So I think Google should at least offer a 64 GB version or add an SD slot. As far as the mid-range devices - I think it has a place. For years, people have been buying the latest and greatest, but we're to a point where most advances aren't that great. They're evolutionary, but not necessarily enough to justify purchasing a new phone. Along with that, phone prices have gone up dramatically, and there's talk of Samsung's highest end S10 costing upwards of $1500. That's getting ridiculous IMO. $1500 gets me a decent gaming laptop, but what does it buy on the phone? A slightly bigger display? Maybe more storage? Not worth the price, IMO. I think the $650-750 range is ok for a high end phone, but I'm not willing to pay more than that. Truth be told, there's nothing I'm doing now that my HTC One M8 couldn't handle. Phones have gotten a little snappier but there isn't much value added to justify a huge price increase for me. The biggest value add has been the additional frequency band support. So midrange phones interest me. Until something comes out that demands better hardware, and isn't just a gimmick, a high end phone is going to be a hard sell for me. YMMV.
  • I have to register to post this comment. The Pixel 3 lite is definitely for people like myself. I have been using an old android for a few years and happy with it except outdated camera and dying battery. I almost purchased the pixel 3 last thanks giving but got scared away by the price even with around 150$ off deal. The only reason I will upgrade is because of the camera. Without pixel 3 lite, I will never buy a google phone after surviving the temptation last black friday. But if pixel 3 lite come out, I may buy one right away and a second one for my spouse. My spouse is using an iphone 5 and doesn't want to spend a dime on upgrading to later iphone. So I believe there are plenty of people like me out there who don't care about spec if basic functions are good enough. If google doesn't limit themselves to weight limit and put a giant battery on it, I will like it even more. I will put phone case on it anyway, so I don't mind plastic.
  • Well said, you are right that there is a market for folks such as yourselves. I had a hard time getting my wife to upgrade from her iphone 6 to a 7 but she finally did. I personally don't care about having the latest flagship but I do enjoy having it. I usually buy the previous years' flagship and have zero issues with doing so. But the Pixel 3 lite does look intriguing. I wish it had an OLED display (and maybe wireless charging) but I can live without the other things. And like you, I'm putting a case on the phone so I don't care about plastic. If anything, it makes it tougher.
  • You had me at "3.5mm headphone jack". I'm in. Where and when can I buy? I love my Pixel 2, but I thought I was done with Google and about to move on to LG because of the headphone jack issue.
  • The "same camera" argument is not valid. A smart phone camera, especially one that heavily rely on computational photography, heavily depends on the SoC. The whole reason the HDR can be calculated in real time is because the fast cache and CPU and GPU power.
  • Pixels have a second dedicated SOC that fits most of the computational work.
  • No. It depends on the PVC or will need an Edge TPU.
  • Makes a lot of sense... I was looking for a succesor to my Nexus 5X. Up to now I was entertaining the idea of buying a OnePlus6 or something similar, but I might have finally got a replacement from Google. I would never buy a 1000$+ phone. It is not worth that much! I only care about good enough hardware and staying as close as possible to stock Android. I hate bloated phones from most manufacturers. I was one of those really sad when the Nexus line ended. Sounds like a revival of sort to me. -- From my Nexus 5X.
  • It makes no sense when there are great deals on a Pixel 2 right now.
  • Lite is gonna cost pretty heavy
  • There is no way this phone will be in the 300 hundred dollar range. More like 499.00. For that price you can buy a flagship. Google phones after the Nexus line have always been pricey!
  • Yeah it'll most certainly be closer to the 500 range. You can easily find a used/refurbished Pixel 2/XL (the 128 gb versions) for less than $500 (I got my 2XL for $360). Not a good deal at $500, but would be excellent at $300 or not bad at $350 (if it came with at least 64gb of storage that is).
  • Where are people getting the $300 price for this? It was said it would be $300 less, not the actual price. As for $499 you can buy a flagship...what are you talking about? There is no flagship that launches at a price of $499.
  • I'd get one for my wife. She's phone camera happy, so that would be right up her alley.
  • $400-500 is still too much money for a good camera attached to a barebones phone. Buys a midrange phone for $200-300 that will outperform this one. There are lots of them. Then spend the rest of the money you save on a dedicated digital camera that wipes the floor with any smartphone, including the $1000 ones. Those kind of cameras are easy to find too.
  • Would you consider a One Plus phone to be a bare bones phone? I am curious what you consider to be "barebones"?
  • Carrying a dedicated camera defeats the point
  • Ya seems DOA
  • Pixel 4 more important. Google has the fastest US growing smartphone brand in 2018. They need to do it again . Should happen with another good phone. The Verizon exclusive has ended so should be able to achieve.