Google’s Pixel line has been subject to numerous leaks over the past few days: the Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel 7a and even the Pixel Fold have all made the news rounds at once. This will take a while.
We’ll start with the Pixel 8 Pro, which includes a range of renders from OnLeaks and Smartprix. It feels like these are being leaked earlier and earlier every year, but this phone should be out sometime in Q4. The biggest change in last year’s new renderers: a flat display! The smartphone industry could finally do without the pointless gimmick of curved smartphone displays.
We’ve been railing against curved smartphone displays for nine years. Samsung, the world’s leading smartphone display maker, found years ago that it could flex an OLED panel, causing the left and right sides of the display to curve down and wrap around the phone’s body. However, Samsung never really considered whether this was a good idea, and curved displays only bring a multitude of negatives to your phone design. A curved display distorts the image of your apps, videos, and photos, all of which should be viewed on a flat surface. In many lighting conditions, the curve captures a lot of glare, making it difficult to see anything actually in that range. The curvature also makes it much easier to accidentally touch the curved parts of the screen, which generally stops the touchscreen from working.
While this was being introduced by Samsung, Android OEM groupthink meant every manufacturer was quick to adopt these warped displays for their flagship phones. Most Android apps solve the problem by only having really large margins so they can stay away from the distorted area of the screen. The only smartphone holdout was Apple.
But after nine years, Android users finally have hope: the Google Pixel 8 Pro. The new renders show a nicely flat display with no distortion. It looks incredible. The curved display was one of our biggest (if still small) criticisms of the Pixel 7 Pro in our test, especially since Google also showed what the cheaper Pixel 7 could have become. The final bullet point in the verdict is “Google’s best-designed phone is actually the cheaper Pixel 7, which has a flat screen and a matte aluminum finish,” and Google dismisses one of those major complaints. (As for the slightly scratched glossy finish of the “Pro” version concerns, you don’t get that kind of detail from a pre-release render.)
Other changes include a new layout on the aluminum camera bar. The Pixel 7 Pro had two separate pieces of camera glass – a large oval covered the first two cameras, and then a separate individual circle covered the zoom lens. The Pixel 8 Pro has a large oval covering all three lenses. Interestingly, there’s a new sensor cutout below the LED flash, and Smartprix’s review doesn’t know what the cutout is for. These renderings typically come from CAD drawings provided to accessory manufacturers. So while you get the shape and location of the major components, function is usually left to guesswork.
We can guess though, and we’ll take the conservative route and say the cutout is probably nothing new. Android manufacturers feel compelled to change the camera block design every year for marketing purposes, so it would be pretty normal for Google to move the sensors for no reason. The Pixel 7 Pro currently has two sensors in the main camera block: a color sensor and a laser autofocus sensor. Google always likes to have the color sensor right next to the main camera lens. So if I had to guess, I’d say the laser autofocus assembly just moved under the LED flash.
If you want to go wild with speculation, the other options are endless. The iPhone has a damn LiDAR sensor for AR use, and no Android phone has ever matched that. That’s odd given that we’re well past the usual two-year period it takes Android OEMs to copy whatever Apple does, but I have a feeling there’s a viable vendor out there, one of the faster-moving Chinese OEMs like Oppo or Xiaomi would have jumped on it first. Less dramatic options are a macro camera – although Google is already using the wide-angle lens for that – or a depth sensor, but Google likes to use AI for depth perception. It’s probably just the autofocus.
The Smartprix report says the phone measures 162.6 × 76.5 × 8.7mm – those numbers are all within 0.3mm of last year’s – and the screen is the usual 6.7-inches. The corners of the display are supposedly all rounder.
In other news, OnLeaks also has a set of renders for the cheaper Pixel 8. This phone also has a rounder corner design and a display that’s 6.2 inches, or 0.1 inch smaller than last year. (The display was originally reported as a very small 5.8-inch, but OnLeaks later corrected that to a more normal 6.2 in.) The body measures “150.5 × 70.8 × 8.9mm” versus last year’s 155.6 × 73.2 × 8.7mm.
We are not finished yet. Would you believe someone snagged the unreleased Pixel 7a yesterday? A Vietnamese site called Zing News (some Pixel phones are made in Vietnam) has live images of Google’s upcoming unreleased mid-ranger. It looks exactly like OnLeaks’ renders from four months ago, which is why we’ll continue to cover those – OnLeaks is super accurate! It also looks the same as the Pixel 6a, but with the Pixel 7’s monochrome camera bar. We’re working through a layer of Google Translate here, but the website describes the camera bar as “metal” with a matte finish, just like the Pixel 7. The back of the Pixel 6a was plastic, so a material downgrade in the camera bar wouldn’t be a huge surprise, but it sounds like Google is sticking with aluminum.
One more thing before we go: I hesitate to say the “F” word, but WinFuture claims that the Pixel Fold – Google’s legendary, constantly delayed foldable smartphone – could launch as early as June. The site cites a retail listing where the phone costs €1,700, or about $1,794. Google has been trying to build a foldable device for several years but never makes it to market, so we’ll see. The Pixel 7a leak is a good example of how this usually plays out: it was supposed to have a similar release date and prototypes of the phone are already fully leaked and out in the wild – that’s what we’d expect from the imminent launch of a foldable device – but it is not really happened yet. There Is That one dubious Reddit post with Bigfoot-quality images of what the poster claims is a pixel fold on the New York City subway, but we’re hoping for something more concrete than it being left in a bar or something .
Anyway, Google I/O 2023 is officially May 10th, so expect plenty of hardware announcements there. Last year, Google really went all out, announcing the entire holiday list after the anticipated Pixel 6a announcement And The tablet will be released in 2023. So who knows how far in advance the company will be sharing its hardware plans this year.