The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are both top-tier flagships with top-tier price points to match. But if you want the Google experience without the cutting-edge tech or cost, you might be in luck.
Leaks point to the impending reveal of Google Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL handsets, both of which trim down the specs and material quality to deliver what should be more modestly-priced smartphones that still hit some of the biggest high points of the Pixel line.
When are these mid-rangers set to debut and what should we expect? Here's what the leaks and rumours are telling us so far.
When will the Google Pixel 3 Lite be out?
It shouldn't be too much longer. Android Police reports that Google has signed an exclusive deal with U.S. carrier Verizon to launch the phones there this spring.
Also, Mobile World Congress 2019 takes place in Barcelona at the end of February, so that might be an ideal opportunity to launch the phones internationally. Even if not, we suspect a debut will happen sooner than later, given the rush of bigger-deal flagships on the horizon.
We definitely believe that Verizon is in on the new Pixels and that a launch is impending.
How much will the Google Pixel 3 Lite cost?
In a very Apple-like fashion, Google's Pixel phones have routinely been on the higher end of the price scale for flagship phones… and maybe a bit too high in some cases.
But considering the leaked specs expected for the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL, not to mention the supposed change in materials, we definitely expect more modest pricing here. Nikkei Asian Review reports that the phones will be less expensive than Apple's iPhone XR, at £749/US$749. We think something in the ballpark of £500-600 makes sense, but then again, Google has been on the higher end with its pricing thus far.
Google's flagship phones aren't cheap, but will Google's mid-rangers seem like more of a bargain? We certainly hope so.
What will the Google Pixel 3 Lite look like?
Leaks and concept renders so far show a pair of handsets that are nearly identical to the standard Pixel 3 – but not the Pixel 3 XL with its rather deep, kinda-awkward notch.
Just as the earlier Pixel 3 phones were widely leaked ahead of their debut, the standard Pixel 3 Lite has been leaked in hands-on photos and even video (below) – and it's very much a smaller Pixel 3, albeit with thicker plastic instead of glass and aluminium. Yes, the huge top and bottom bezel chunks remain intact, although there's no front speaker now.
We haven't seen proper Pixel 3 Lite XL photos yet, but reliable leaker OnLeaks has shared concept renders (up top) based on leaked CAD data (via 91Mobiles), and it… just looks like a Pixel 3. Again, expect lower-end materials in the mix, but stylistically it's a plastic Pixel 3.
Makes sense: keep the Pixel look but shed some of the high-end Pixel gloss and cost.
What about the Google Pixel 3 Lite's screen?
Both current Pixel 3 handsets have OLED displays, at 5.5in and 1080p on the Pixel 3 and 6.3in and Quad HD on the Pixel 3 XL. Both Lite models will reportedly drop down to LCD panels.
LCDs can look very nice, but lack the punchy contrast and deep black levels that define OLED panels – which are mostly found on flagships these days. Leaks suggest the same 5.5in size on the Pixel 3 Lite and a slightly trimmed-down 6in for the Lite XL edition, surely both at 1080p.
This all sounds right to us. It's more about cutting back on the premium allure and added expense rather than making the phones smaller.
How much power will the Google Pixel 3 pack?
You'll find a now-year-old flagship-level Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip in both current Pixel phones, but Google will step down to the maker's mid-range chips for the Lite editions.
A purported leaked Geekbench benchmark for the Pixel 3 Lite XL points to a Snapdragon 710 chip inside, along with 6GB RAM, while the Pixel 3 Lite is reported to dip down to a Snapdragon 670 with 4GB RAM. The 6GB RAM stat on the Lite XL is odd, given that the standard Pixel 3 XL only has 4GB RAM, but maybe Google will have multiple configurations on offer.
In any case, both chips are plenty powerful for everyday usage and should work well with Android 9 Pie, but won't pack quite the same punch or game performance as the top-end tech.
We fully expect to see a dip in top-tier performance, but those are still very capable chips.
What kind of cameras will Google Pixel 3 Lite have?
Camera prowess has always been the defining feature of the Pixel line, and while we think the Pixel 3 was outclassed by Huawei's triple-camera setups of the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, it still impressed – especially as a single shooter.
Luckily, leaks show the same spec for the Lite models: a 12-megapixel sensor with 1.4-micron pixels and a f/1.8 aperture. If so, that's an incredible benefit for a mid-range phone: a flagship-level camera, despite lesser components elsewhere.
That might comfortably put the Pixel 3 Lite phones atop the mid-range stack, although the image processing might not be 100% at the same level. We'll have to see how it compares, if true. On the front, it looks like there's just a single 8MP selfie camera.
Seems like a smart move for Google to help set its handset apart from the mid-range pack.
Is there anything else I should know about the Google Pixel 3 Lite?
Interestingly, leaks point to the return of the 3.5mm headphone port, which is missing on both higher-end Pixel 3 models. Just look at the leaked photo below. Guess not having a useful port is a flagship luxury these days.
Elsewhere, Google will apparently continue its also Apple-esque trend of blocking external storage, as the Pixel 3 Lite doesn't appear to have a microSD slot. We assume much the same for the Pixel 3 Lite XL, as well.
Given how both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL leaked extensively and accurately before their official reveal, we believe what we're seeing here. A couple details might be off at this point, but the bulk of it is likely correct. We're definitely curious to see how a lower-end Pixel stacks up – and how much Google wants for it, too.