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.
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.
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