Pixel 3a: the return of the Nexus?

You can’t move for constant leaks and news about Google’s upcoming mid-range smartphones, apparently named Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL.

Most of these leaks point towards two devices that will effectively be scaled down (with one important exception) mid-range versions of Google’s current flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

The intriguing part about these new phones is their price. The smart money seems to be on a retail price of £399 for the Pixel 3a and £479 for the 3a XL. But it also seems as if both devices will have a similar camera setup to their flagship stable-mates.

What are Google really trying to achieve here?

Possible explanations for the Pixel 3a are:

1) Giving customers a wider range of choice

2) Copying Apple and their iPhone SE phone gambit

3) Throwing more mud at walls to see what sticks (never rule that one out)

or a mixture of all three. However, is there a secret-hope 4th option?

The new Nexus?

What if Google have decided the time is right to take their wildly popular cameras and AI software and put them front and centre on a much more affordable, Nexus-like device in the hope they sell by the bucketload?

OK, but what would that mean for Pixel flagship devices?

What if the Pixel 3a phones are a runaway success? What might it mean for Google’s flagship Pixel phones? Sales figures for the Pixel 3 devices have been poor and almost not worth mentioning compared to sales of Samsung and Huawei devices. What might Google do in the scenario where Pixel 3a devices are vastly outselling Pixel 3 devices? Perhaps pull the plug on its flagship line?

Let’s not forget, Google are a data company first and foremost. They don’t really need to sell premium phones. Besides, that experiment is clearly failing anyway. But let’s say they sell loads of cheaper 3a devices using the camera as a hook. It’ll mean an influx of new customers into the Google ecosystem and lots more juicy data, carefully crafted by Android.

Return of the jed…, erm, Nexus

So with the Pixel 3a phones, it looks like we’re getting a great value phone, with all the soft Google benefits (quick updates, several OS version updates, being first in line for new features) at a price that won’t make you gulp – just like the Nexus phones of old BUT with one big difference: it’ll also have a top-tier camera of which to be proud.

Are Google effectively giving us back the Nexus programme of old, changing its name to save face, but banking on success as a result of that outstanding camera setup? If the gamble pays off, the ‘new Nexus’ could certainly provide Google with an escape route from their currently underwhelming flagship strategy. If not, the Pixel 4 devices will really have to blow the competition away this year.