Google’s Pixels have always been an interesting line to follow, but the company has treated them as an experiment up until 2021. That’s when Google launched the revolutionary Pixel 6 paired with its Tensor chip. This year saw Google iterate upon that with the Pixel 7, along with the launch of the much-anticipated Pixel Watch. Now, according to rumors, next year might be set up to be the best year for Pixels so far.
Reports from reliable sources paint a picture of a Google Pixel Fold, while the Pixel Tablet has already been announced, with the regular Pixels bringing up the rear. If Google plays its cards right with Pixel Watch and Bud sequels, it may go a long way in strengthening faith in the so-called Pixel ecosystem.
The Pixel Fold is a device that’s all but guaranteed to debut as the best Pixel device of 2023. Also dubbed the “Pixel Notepad” in some reporting, it’s rumored to be Google’s first foray into the world of foldables. If true, this will see Google not only beat Apple to the folding punch, but also take the envious position of being one of the only Western phone makers selling foldables.
Say what you think about folding phones, and I certainly have, but there’s no denying they have an elegant allure. In conversation with my mom on the phone, I heard her enthuse about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 her friend had. It’s not worth giving up the Apple ecosystem for, mind you, but you could see her head turning.
Google has rarely been one to innovate with hardware. The company has almost always labored on the trail first carved out by others. Whether it came to Soli and face unlock or even something as out there as building its own chipset — someone else did it first. As with Apple, it doesn’t matter. Google creating a premium foldable experience while the American and European markets are still solely defined by Samsung could see the company’s hardware brand shine more brightly than it already has.
Of course, foldables remain a risky investment for companies and buyers alike. Even as Samsung goes all-in with them and pushes inviting trade-in deals to get customers started on the foldable treadmill, it’s still eclipsed by the S-Series in terms of sales. Despite it being years since their debut, foldables are still at the point where they could go the way of the MacBook and define an entire era of mobile computing. Or they could go the way of the Surface Pro and remain a niche form factor defined by one manufacturer and a handful of dabblers. For Google, the former would be ideal with the Pixel Fold (and Galaxy Z-series) at the helm. The risk of the latter remains high.
The Pixel Fold isn’t the only risky launch Google has planned. Google is coming back to tablets with its third Pixel-branded tablet — the creatively named Pixel Tablet. With a design as dull as dishwater and Google’s penchant for killing products almost as soon as they launch, the Pixel Tablet has a lot stacked against it. That’s not all, Android has cultivated a reputation for being vastly inferior to iOS when it comes to tablets. Samsung has fought to change that over the years, and Google certainly will need to do so in the future if it wants the Pixel Tablet to succeed.
It’ll need to have a strong pitch for the Pixel Tablet. Pixel phones offer helpfulness and powerful cameras over other Android phones. A Pixel Tablet leaning into Android 13’s tablet accouterments would find itself easily handled by other tablet makers who would have it beat in both hardware and software. Remember, the Android tablet gaps that Android 12L and 13 aim to fix remain something that third-party Android tablet makers have worked through to resolve over the past few years.
That may be beside the point, though. Former PC Mag analyst Sascha Segan believes the Pixel Tablet exists primarily to spur software development for the Pixel Fold. Success here would be a small but dedicated fan base of developers, with the fruits of Google’s labor trickling down to the wider Android ecosystem. Naturally, Google would still love to sell these at scale and have the Tablet push iPad numbers, but it’s important to have realistic expectations.
Other than these — shall we say — moonshots, Google is also expected to launch the Pixel 7a, Pixel 8, and 8 Pro through 2023. These are known quantities that can be predicted without even the aid of leaks. The Pixel 7a would slot somewhere between the Pixel 6 and the 7 in terms of hardware, and the company will certainly put a Tensor 2 chip in there. As for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, the Tensor experiment will continue with Tensor 3. Whatever changes Google will bring to the camera, display, and so on, they’re not likely to be a drastic departure from what we’ve got today. We could also see the Pixel Watch and Pixel Buds receiving new models. Google didn’t pay billions for Fitbit just to release one Pixel Watch and call it a day. As for the Buds, Google has released one every year for the past three years. It remains a safe bet we see another pair in 2023.
While these devices aren’t anything special for Google, they are important. The Pixel 7a is the phone that’ll appeal to the masses, and it’ll also help bring Pixels back into public consciousness in the middle of the year. The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro likewise remain important for those who don’t want to adopt foldables. The Buds and Watch will tie the whole thing together, completing the ecosystem for those who want it Apple-style.
The Pixel line has grown from one device a year, to three devices a year, to this year’s five. And 2023 may see it balloon to as many as seven. Google has had many Pixel lineups before. The company would have a very powerful sales pitch. These Pixels have had over eight years to get good at making your lives better. Now, they’re there.