Google's Pixel 8 Needs These Features to Stand Out From the Pixel 7A

Commentary: Google's budget-friendly phone impressed me with its striking similarities to the Pixel 7, making me want more from the upcoming Pixel 8.

Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple | Samsung | Google | Smartphones | Smartwatches | Wearables | Fitness trackers
Lisa Eadicicco
5 min read
Google's Pixel 7A phone

The Pixel 7A makes me want more from Google's next flagship phone. 

James Martin/CNET

Google isn't sugarcoating things. Its website plainly states that the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are arriving on Oct. 4. What I want most from the Pixel 8 is a compelling reason to choose it over the budget-friendly Pixel 7A, which launched for $100 less than its flagship Pixel 7 sibling in May. 

With the same processor as the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro and a great camera, the Pixel 7A is a win for Pixel fans looking to save $100. But it also makes me expect more from the Pixel 8 and wonder whether Google's A-series phones are starting to overshadow its flagship Pixels. 

Now that Google has narrowed the gap between the Pixel 7 and 7A, it should think more carefully about its target audience for the Pixel 8. If the Pixel 7A is for those who want a basic Pixel experience without compromising on performance and camera quality, and the Pixel 7 Pro is for photography enthusiasts, then who's the Pixel 7 for? That's the question I'm hoping Google answers with the Pixel 8, along with some other routine improvements to software support and battery life. 

Changes that could make it a compelling choice 

With the Pixel 8, Google needs to do more to make its upcoming mainline Pixel phone stand out. The $499 Pixel 7A already has many of the features most people are looking for in a new phone, such as a great camera, smooth performance, easy-to-use software and decent battery life. 

The main differences between the Pixel 7 and 7A come down to the former's slightly more durable design, larger screen and battery share. That latter feature lets you charge compatible accessories by resting them on the back of the phone, essentially turning it into a wireless charger. The Pixel 7 also has a larger camera sensor that's more light sensitive according to Google, but I didn't notice much of an improvement when comparing photos from both phones.

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7A feel like they're targeting the same audience: Android fans who want a general-purpose phone with a great camera and a reasonably sized screen. The Pixel 7 Pro stands out for its larger screen, extra telephoto camera and macro photography. It also comes in a 512GB storage option, unlike the Pixel 7, and has a screen with a higher, 120Hz refresh rate for even smoother scrolling. Case in point: There are plenty of factors that distinguish the Pixel 7 Pro from the Pixel 7, but not as many that differentiate the Pixel 7 from the 7A. 

Moving forward, there are a few changes Google could make to fix that. Perhaps it could slightly increase the Pixel 8's display size to 6.4 inches instead of 6.3 inches. That would put more distance between the Pixel 8's screen and a future Pixel 8A, assuming Google keeps the same 6.1-inch display size for upcoming A-series phones. 

Google could also give the Pixel 8 a speed boost when it comes to charging, since the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7A offer similar charging speeds (up to 18W on the Pixel 7A versus up to 21W on the Pixel 7). Increasing the charging speed to create more of a gulf between the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8A could make the case for buying the Pixel 8 a little stronger. Improving wired charging speeds could be especially important considering it looks like the Pixel 8 won't see an improvement to wireless charging compared to last year's model. That's according to 9to5Google, which says it spotted a listing for the Pixel 8 on the Wireless Power Consortium's website that has since been removed.

Increasing the base storage of the Pixel 8 to 256GB, much like Samsung has done with the Galaxy S23 Plus, along with offering an additional 512GB storage option could further distinguish the Pixel 8 from a future Pixel 8A. 

These changes combined with the existing differences between the Pixel 7 and 7A could certainly make the Pixel 8 feel like a compelling choice over upcoming budget Pixel phones. Of course, this is assuming Google maintains its current strategy of releasing new flagship and Pro phones in the fall and a cheaper A-series phone in the spring or summer time frame. 

Extended Android version support

Software is a big part of what makes Pixel phones so appealing, from the call assist features in the phone app to Google's clutter-free version of Android. The problem, however, is that Google generally offers Android version updates for only three years following a Pixel phone's release. 

Though it does provide security support and other updates beyond that point, Google lags behind Samsung and Apple when it comes to operating system version support. Samsung typically offers up to four generations of Android platform updates on new phones, while Apple's most recent software is compatible with iPhones as old as the iPhone X and iPhone 8 generation, which launched in 2017. 

If Google could match Samsung's four years, or surpass five years, that would make the Pixel line even more competitive.

Longer battery life

Battery life can never feel long enough, which is why I'm hoping to see some improvements in the Pixel 8. The Pixel 7's battery life was long enough to get through a full work day and then some in my experience. But I'd want to pack a charger if I expected a particularly long day. 

The Pixel 7A also performed better than the Pixel 7 in CNET's three-hour battery test, during which I streamed a YouTube video at full brightness and tracked the battery percentage at each hour. It would be great to see Google make some improvements in this regard on the Pixel 8.

Pixel 7A vs. Pixel 7 battery test

Pixel 7APixel 7
1 hour 96%95%
2 hours 90%88%
3 hours 85%81%

We won't know what to expect from the Pixel 8 until Google announces its new phones. The camera has been a focal point for Google's Pixel series, so I'm expecting to see some advancements in that area, along with a new version of the Tensor processor in the Pixel 8. If Google makes those changes while offering longer battery life, additional Android support and more exclusive features that differentiate the Pixel 8 from its A-series phones, Google's next $600 phone could be a hit.