Canceled Pixel 8a and iPhone SE 4 rumors show that no one wants a mid-range phone

Last week we saw a major leak that unveiled Google’s plans for the next three years of Pixel devices. The leak revealed everything from the expected, such as the long-rumored Pixel foldable that should launch in a few months to, surprisingly, two Pixel Pro phones in 2024 and a possible clamshell foldable.

But perhaps the most notable takeaway from the leak, in my opinion, is that Google will narrow down the scope of its mid-tier “A series” after the upcoming Pixel 7a. The leak claims that Google will either switch to biweekly launches or scrap the line altogether. This means there are no plans for a Pixel 8a in 2024 or ever.

If the rumor is true, Google would not be the first major phone brand to scale down or completely cancel the production of its mid-range phone series. According to very reliable industry analyst Kuo Ming-Chi, Apple may stop mass production of the fourth generation iPhone SE after the poor sales of the third generation SE. Samsung also didn’t release a Fan Edition Galaxy phone this year.

Looking at these decisions, I think it’s clear that the demand for an “affordable, but compromised” version of a flagship isn’t as high as companies, and some of us tech writers, originally believed. I group us tech writers because tech sites including XDA have generally supported these Pixel A/iPhone SE/Galaxy FE type devices. But increasingly, critical acclaim did not result in these albums becoming a commercial success. But what gives? Given today’s economy, wouldn’t people want an almost flagship phone for less money? I have a few educated theories as to why the Pixel 6as and iPhone SE of the world haven’t sold well.

The phones are a “good value” only in North America

iphone se 2022

The first thing we need to address is that phones like the Google Pixel 6a and the third-generation iPhone SE can only be considered good value in North America (and the Galaxy S21 FE, of course not) where phone viewing is limited. Limited is the absence of many Chinese brands. And to be fair, Chinese brands consistently offer more bang for their buck than Western or Korean rivals. For example, to get the price under $500, Google gave the Pixel 6a a 60Hz display and a plastic body. Meanwhile, Apple’s third-gen iPhone SE uses a design with components taken directly from the five-year-old iPhone 8 – its display resolution isn’t even 720p. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 FE? It launched for $700 with one-year-old hardware—almost every review, including XDA’s, warned consumers “don’t buy it at full price.”

pixel 6a in hand
The Pixel 6a’s display is clearly inferior to the Pixel 6 or Pixel 7’s screen.

In contrast, in other markets across Asia and Europe, including India, the UK, Spain, or Singapore, consumers can buy something like the Poco F4 for the equivalent of $380. It offers a 120Hz OLED display with thin bezels, Snapdragon 870 SoC, large image sensor, latest memory and storage standards, and fast charging with a charger.

This means that these A/SE/FE phones lose their main selling point – price – outside the North American market. But here’s the thing, even these Google/Apple/Samsung mid-rangers aren’t winning over North American consumers, despite the value proposition. And I think this has to do with my next point.

In North America, there are enough carrier subsidies, trade-in offers and installment plans to entice consumers to buy the flagship

With the current economy, one would imagine that the average American consumer is on a tight budget and would thus prefer to save $200-$300 on a phone. But apparently not because these mid-rangers are clearly not selling.

iPhone SE 3, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini
The iPhone SE (right) feels so old compared to flagship iPhones.

I think the problem is that these devices are in what I would call a North American price limitation: at between $450 to $700, they’re not cheap enough for people who are really struggling financially, But the phones also cut enough corners that they’re clearly inferior to their flagship counterparts, meaning consumers with more disposable income may be convinced to spend a little more.

Who else is explaining? Phone carriers that provide major subsidies and trade-in offers for flagship phones. Right now on the homepages of all three major US carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon), prominent promo materials are advertising a “free” iPhone 14 Pro if you trade in an eligible device and sign up for a two-year contract. Sign up for , Samsung has some of the most generous trade-in offers out there. Just two months ago, it had a better trade-in deal that effectively brought down the price of the normally $999 Galaxy Z Flip 4 to $309.

AT&T homepage
AT&T’s homepage is telling consumers that they can get the iPhone 14 Pro for free.

And if you struggle to even pay the $309? Samsung, Best Buy, or your credit card likely offer installment plans. The reality is that America is very much driven by consumerism, and there’s never a shortage of deals to entice you to spend. As mobile analyst Avi Greengart said on Twitter, why would someone choose an obviously substandard phone when they’re not really paying much out of pocket anyway?

Is going down another level in pricing an option? I’m not so sure

Since consumers with their wallets have said they don’t really care for the $450 Pixel 6a or iPhone SE, if its flagship siblings are just $200-$300 more, maybe the next step is for these devices. Pricing has to go down one more level, into the budget zone. Maybe a $250 phone with Pixel, iPhone, or Galaxy S branding will finally create enough of a price difference to make a difference? I don’t believe it will for a few reasons.

First, lowering prices into the $200-$300 range would mean even more compromises in hardware. Google, Apple and Samsung are not yet ready to sacrifice profit margins in the name of value, the way some Chinese brands do. How are these companies able to make a $250 phone that doesn’t use horribly outdated components?

There is also the matter of brand image. Selling a budget product may drive some quick sales, but may take away from the perceived premium positioning of the overall brand. This is the reason why many companies from different industries including Chinese phone brands launch a sub-brand for affordable products.

I highly doubt that neither Google, Samsung nor Apple would want to tarnish their brand image by associating with budget products. I’d even go so far as to say that hell will freeze over before we’ll see an Apple product fall into the “budget” segment of its category. This is the company that sells the $19 piece of clothing.

It’s okay to ditch the A series as Google aims to compete with Apple

Google is slowly building its ecosystem to compete with Apple.

Let’s go back to the Pixel leak to end this opinion piece. I don’t think Google will suffer much if the A series is retired. Google has always envisioned its Pixel phones to be Android’s direct answer to the iPhone, and get there; Google needs to go more premium, not budget more.

The good news is that Google has made significant progress over the years after a slow start. The Pixel 6 series was a success for the company, and the Pixel 7 series are premium and polished enough to have a strong case for being better than this year’s iPhones (I certainly think so). Google still has a lot of work to do to catch up to Apple, including expanding its retail presence around the world and building a large ecosystem of products (including those Google is actively working on). But Google’s plan to add a third flagship phone apart from the A phone seems like the right plan.

The Google Pixel 7 is a refinement of the already excellent Pixel 6, making for a very refined flagship phone without the exorbitant prices.
google pixel 7

google pixel 7 series

Google’s new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro bring a lot of improvements over last year’s models. Both the phones feature upgraded internals and a slightly different design among other things.

The mid-range iPhone SE 3 (2022) features Apple's A15 Bionic chip, 5G support, and a classic design.  It is available in three finishes to choose from.
Apple iPhone SE 3

Apple iPhone SE 3 (2022)

The iPhone SE (2022) is the most affordable iPhone you can buy in the market right now. One of the standout features of this particular iPhone is that it is powered by the powerful A15 Bionic chip. The iPhone SE 3 (2022) might not be the most powerful iPhone in the market, but it definitely offers great value for money.

Pixel 6a in black, white and green

google pixel 6a

The Google Pixel 6a doesn’t make much sense with the better Pixel 7, but if you’re looking to save a bit, you may want to consider this phone.

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