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Pixel 3a, Pixel 3 Lite: Rumors, release dates, price, specs and everything else

Google may be launching a cheaper Pixel 3 and 3 XL. Here's what we know so far (and what we don't).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Six months after their launch in October, Google's marquee phones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are two of the best phones you can buy. To that effect, Google may be wanting to extend the success of these phones with a more affordable model. Two names have been floated so far: the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3 Lite. Like the Apple iPhone XR or the Samsung Galaxy S10E, the Pixel 3a or Lite versions would offer some of the same key features as the Pixel 3 at a lower price.

The original Pixel 3 phones take exceptional photos (especially in low light), have unique software features from Google like Call Screen and are equipped with top-tier hardware. But starting at $799, £739 and AU$1,199 for the Pixel 3 and $899, £869 and AU$1,349 for the Pixel 3 XL, they also have steep price tags. That's why a less expensive, midrange Pixel 3 would be such a compelling option for many. 

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The Pixel 3 and 3 XL serve as Google's ultimate expression of its mobile operating system Android, which is the most popular OS in the world. In Feb. 2018, research firm IDC estimated that Google shipped 3.9 million original Pixels and Pixel 2 phones in 2017. Though that figure pales in comparison with the total overall smartphone market (1.5 billion), the number of Pixel owners is growing. Given that Pixel 3 Lites would be more affordable than past models, Google has a chance of increasing its sales by attracting buyers with tighter budgets.

To learn about what has been rumored so far, read CNET's roundup below. And if you're curious about Google's upcoming marquee phones, read the Pixel 4 and 4 XL rumor roundup here. Check back often; we'll update both pieces whenever interesting rumors emerge.

Originally published March 12. 
Update, April 4: Confirms discontinuation of the Pixel 2; April 15: Adds Google Store Pixel 3a news.; April 18: Adds Google's May 7 teaser.

Confirmed: Google discontinues the Pixel 2

On April 1, Google removed the Pixel 2 and 2 XL from its online store. Though this doesn't mean the Pixel 3 Lite is official, it may mean that Google is making room for newer devices. Note, however, that the company stopped selling the first Pixel and Pixel XL in its store around the same time last year, but didn't release any unexpected new phones afterward. 

Confirmed: Google teases 'something big' coming to Pixel on May 7

Earlier this week, Google and Marvel partnered together to offer new AR stickers of the Marvel superhero cast. Marvel's latest movie, Avengers: Endgame, will premiere on April 26. But on Google's splash page that promoted the AR stickers, the company also hints that "something big" will happen to the Pixel universe on May 7. That date coincides with the first day of Google's annual developers conference, Google I/O. We're not sure what exactly this surprise will be, but some are speculating that this could mean the launch date of the Pixel 3a, 

Rumored: Pixel 3 Lite could be called Pixel 3a

On April 6, Google's online store referenced a "Pixel 3a" phone case under its navigation bar. The listing was first spotted by 9to5Google, and soon removed afterward. Google didn't comment on the matter, but the incident implies that there may be another variant of the Pixel 3 in the works. And while we don't know for sure, this mysterious Pixel 3a could be the same as the Pixel 3 Lite.

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Is another Pixel 3 model on its way?

Angela Lang/CNET

Rumored: The Pixel 3 Lite could also launch in August instead

In February, new filings from Google popped up on the FCC's site. Before then, it was suspected that the Pixel 3 Lite and 3 XL Lite phones were listed under the model numbers G020B and G020F respectively. But then six additional listings popped up under Google's name that could point to three different variants for each phone (possibly for different storage options), according to 9to5Google. SAR levels and radiation reports, which the FCC requires for phones, were also included in the filings.

Aside from the different storage options, the filings were also interesting in that the confidentiality agreement with the FCC is supposed to end in August. Google usually debuts Pixel phones in October, which could mean that the Lite phones will roll out before the successors to the more high-end Pixel 3 and 3 XL are announced.

Rumored: Google might release it with a Pixel smartwatch

Having acquired technology from the watch company Fossil for $40 million in January, it's not surprising if Google has some wearable plans in the works. And according to an unconfirmed report from Asian blog site Nikkei, Google may launch its Lite 3 phone along with a Nest Cam, an updated Google Home and a Pixel-branded smartwatch.

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Though there are many Android smartwatches, there has yet to be a Pixel-branded watch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Rumored: We could see the Pixel 3 this year on Verizon

Citing a "source familiar with the company's plan," Android Police reported that the Pixel 3 XL Lite could come to Verizon in the spring of 2019. That wouldn't be too surprising because Google has tapped Verizon as its exclusive carrier partner for its Pixel phones since its launch in 2016. (Though the phone still works on other carriers and Google sells the phone unlocked or on its Wi-Fi-first network, Google Fi.)

Rumored: It allegedly has a headphone jack

In one of the earliest alleged leaks of the Pixel 3 Lite, a Russian blog called Rozetked posted photos of the supposed phone. The device looked similar to the Pixel 3 in design, including the signature glass shade on the back and a brightly colored power button. However, the variant had larger bezels and a headphone jack (the Pixel 3/3 XL do not have the audio port).

But it's important to take the images with a grain of salt. Though the device itself looked convincing, there appeared to be an odd C-shaped logo on the back where the typical Google logo would be.

Rozetked Pixel 3 Lite

A purported image of the PIxel 3 XL.

Rozetked

Rumored: The phone might have a plastic body

Wysla, another Russian blog, also posted more purported images of the Pixel 3 Lite. In this batch of photos, the phone is set side by side with other popular handsets, including the iPhone XS and Pixel 3. According to the site the Pixel 3 Lite will have a plastic body (instead of glass like the Pixel 3), a Snapdragon 670 chipset, no microSD slot and 4GB RAM/32GB of storage.