Google could launch a Pixel 9 Pro XL — and there’s only one way it can be a success

 Google Pixel 8 Pro held in hand.
Google Pixel 8 Pro held in hand.

According to the latest rumors we may get to see three Google Pixel 9 models go on sale this year. A standard 6-inch Pixel 9, a 6.1-inch Pixel 9 Pro and a larger 6.7-inch Pixel 9 Pro XL. Obviously, that is a big change compared to what Google normally does, but it could work out rather well. Assuming that Google handles this correctly.

Judging from the renders from OnLeaks, it looks like the Pixel 9 Pro will be the new phone — on account of its small stature. It's more than half an inch smaller than other Pro Pixels, including the Pixel 9 Pro, but the rumor claims that this model should still offer the higher-end hardware that people expect from a Pro Pixel.

That’s undoubtedly a good thing, but it’s all going to hinge on how Google prices the Pixel 9 Pro to account for this change.

The Pixel 9 Pro can fill a gap in the Pixel lineup

If you’re buying a flagship from Google you’re essentially left with the choice between a big phone and a little phone. It just so happens that the little phone isn’t nearly as good as its sibling. There’s no telephoto lens for starters, and the rest of the camera hardware often isn’t as good — as exemplified by the Pixel 8’s 12MP ultrawide lens vs the 8 Pro’s 48MP ultrawide shooter.

Then there are things like a smaller amount of RAM, a smaller battery, a lower maximum charging speed, fewer storage options and a screen that’s not quite as good. Whether you’re talking refresh rate, resolution or brightness, the Pixel 8 Pro has the Pixel 8 beat in every category.

More often than not, the Pro Pixel is overall a better phone than the base model, which should make it a more appealing purchase. Of course, the key downsides are that the Pixel 8 Pro is a lot more expensive and you’re forced into using a much larger screen. All those extra benefits may sound good on paper, but it all hinges on whether someone is willing to pay an extra $300 and if they’re happy using a much larger phone.

Compressing the Pixel 9 Pro into a much smaller phone, with all the same premium hardware, could fill that void in the Google Pixel line-up. That way people can still experience the premium features of a Pro-tier Pixel phone, without necessarily having to opt for a bigger device.

Admittedly, the battery will have to be smaller for the regular Pixel 9 Pro. That was always the case in the days when you had a Pixel and a Pixel XL, rather than a Pro model, just because the smaller phone doesn’t have nearly as much space for a larger battery. But the upside is that there’s a much smaller screen to power, so it should all balance out pretty well.

Pixel 9 Pro XL: Success all hinges on the price

There’s definitely demand for a premium smartphone that isn’t enormous. While phone makers never seem to stick with compact phones, the high-end 6-ish inch phone does seem to sell pretty well. Apple’s iPhone Pro is a good example of that.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max may have been declared the best-selling iPhone 15, but there’s plenty of evidence that people love the smaller Pro model iPhones as well. The fact that there were stock shortages in the latter months of 2023 is evidence enough that there’s a demand for premium smartphones that aren’t glorified tablets.

Then again, it helps that historically the iPhone Pro hasn’t been all that different from the Pro Max despite costing noticeably less. The difference is $200 between the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, while in previous years it was just $100. The biggest difference is that the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a more powerful 5x optical zoom, compared to 3x for the iPhone 15 Pro.

A smaller Pixel 9 Pro is going to have to hit that sweet spot between the $699 Pixel 9 and $999 Pixel 9 Pro XL — assuming prices stay the same as last year. A Pixel 9 Pro is going to be more expensive than a Pixel 9 — that’s guaranteed — but it needs to be noticeably cheaper than the XL so that people think they’re getting a good deal out of it.

As much as I’d love it to be $100 more than the Pixel 9, I’m guessing that Google will end up charging somewhere around $899 instead. A price gap of $200 isn’t ideal, but it ultimately depends on what exclusive hardware and software features the Pixel 9 Pro has to offer. And from there an extra $100 to upgrade to a larger screen model isn’t that unreasonable an ask.

Of course, the absolute worst thing Google could do is sell the 6.1-inch Pro for $999 and then increase the price of the XL by another $100-$200. That’ll destroy just about all the goodwill it’s earned by being slightly cheaper than the likes of Apple and Samsung over the years.

Bottom Line

While Google has been doing reasonably well sticking to a pair of flagship phones each year, the idea of throwing a third one into the mix doesn’t sound that crazy. I like the idea that premium phone features can be available on smaller handsets.

I don’t personally have an issue with large screen phones, but I also have pretty large hands. Not everyone is in the same boat as me, and I have no doubt there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance to get Pixel 9 Pro features in a smaller package.

But it all hinges on Google being sensible with the pricing. Cheaper phones are more appealing to people who can’t justify spending a thousand dollars on a new smartphone every few years. So a balancing act means Google may be able to entice some people into spending a little bit more, and enjoying everything the Pixel 9 Pro will have to offer without having to spend Pixel 9 Pro XL prices.

Now it's up to Google to prove that it can stick the landing for a trio of Pixel 9 phones.

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