Last year, Google launched the Pixel 3a with very little warning and even less hype. In doing so, they took us all by surprise with a powerful budget Android phone that was, in the opinion of at least a few respected media commentators, one of the highlights of 2019 in terms of new mobile phone handsets.
It was popular, it sold well, and it’s a highly-sought-after model on the second-hand market. All of those factors are incentives to a phone manufacturer to carry on building new phones, so it’s, therefore, quite a significant surprise to hear that the company has decided it’s not going to make any more of them.
The news is doubly surprising because, until very recently, it appeared that the company intended to carry on supporting the Pixel 3a as part of its range into the future. Not all of Google’s Pixel phones were originally made compatible with Stadia – the company’s online slots website inspired gaming platform – but the Pixel 3a was, and some customers even bought a 3a specifically for that purpose.
Stadia offers services in a similar way to online slots websites rather than replicating them completely, but if it were a Blueprint casino, you’d have felt more confident betting that the phone would still be around next year than you would when spending money on any online slots game. The sudden withdrawal of the model has caught the whole industry by surprise, and it has fueled rumors that its successor must be imminent.
By this point, the fact that Google is working on a Pixel 4a is one of the worst-kept secrets in the mobile phone industry. The company is yet to officially confirm the news, but thanks to the frequent leaks of the development process of the new phone, we all know it’s on its way.
We even know a few details about the range of colors on offer, and what the price might be. A few days ago, the final few stages of the necessary paperwork and licensing were believed to have been completed, which would allow Google to announce the phone any day it chooses it.
When that announcement comes, we expect to be told that it comes as either a 128GB or 64GB model available in either black or blue, with a 3,140 mAh battery. If the leaked documents regarding pricing are accurate, it should cost a shade less than five hundred dollars, and it might even be announced on the same day as the company’s long-awaited television dongle “Sabrina.”
Even with a new phone seemingly on the horizon, the decision to pull the plug on the Pixel 3a is an eyebrow-raising one. Developing a new phone – even if it’s a modification or alteration of an existing model – is a complicated and expensive process.
Phone handsets don’t last forever, but the majority of new models are expected to remain available for at least two years, thus coinciding with the average length of a customer’s provider contract. The Pixel 3a launched in Spring 2019. As it’s now officially canceled in Summer 2020, it barely made it past the one year mark.
Unless there’s a significant flaw with the handset that never became public or a forthcoming Android update that the 3a would for some reason be unable to process, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Google has uncharacteristically decided to leave money on the table by ceasing production and taking the phone off sale.
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Determined buyers will, of course, still be able to pick the phone up on the secondary sales market, but the value of those phones will almost certainly now jump up because of their impending rarity.
Rumors that Google had stepped away from the 3a first began to circulate at the end of last week when customers reported seeing an ‘out of stock’ notice on the company’s website when trying to purchase the phone. Usually, when such notice appears, it’s accompanied by further information that lets the customer know when a stock may become available again.
A few days later, though, Google confirmed that it had sold its entire stock of the handset and had no intention of making any more, and so the phone would now disappear from their website permanently. In the same statement, they directed would-be buyers to Google’s partner firms, who still have their own stock to sell-off.
That marks the end of a brief life-cycle for a phone that was named as being among the best in the world by Business Insider as recently as November last year. Even right now, it’s still the biggest-selling unlocked phone unit on Amazon.
Many insiders feel that Google has acted prematurely in taking this decision, even with the Pixel 4a around the corner. Having responded so quickly to the suggestion that the phone would no longer be sold, it’s unclear why the company hasn’t officially confirmed the existence of the 4a even with so much information available online.
Fans of the Pixel series are understandably excited about the prospect of a budget Android phone with features like a 12.2-megapixel camera and a restored fingerprint reader and headphone jack – all of which are features that appear to have been confirmed by the leaks – but it would be reassuring to hear direct confirmation of those features from the company itself. It would be even more reassuring if they’d provide us with a date for its launch.
The only people who will ever know whether they’ve acted too quickly in pulling the 3a from the sale are those that work for Google, who will presumably be studying sales figures and market metrics for the next several months and seeing if their other handsets pick up some of the slack created by the sudden loss of the 3a.
With the option to purchase a brand-new unit of the exceptionally high-quality handset now permanently off the table, though, we offer our congratulations to those of you who acted swiftly enough to buy one while it was still on sale.
Most phones lose the bulk of their value once they become twelve months old. In the short term at least, your Pixel 3a might turn out to be worth more on the open market than it cost you to acquire it in the first place!