The Pixel 9 Pro could be the premium compact Android phone we’ve been waiting for

We’re still months away from the launch of the Pixel 9 series, but you know how it goes with Google: it’s never too early for leaks. Unsurprisingly, we already know a great deal about the company’s next flagship smartphone — including the fact that we are likely to see three models this year in the lineup instead of the usual two. And that new third Pixel 9 device has the potential to be the premium compact Android smartphone of our dreams.

A few days back, notable leaker OnLeaks revealed that there will be three Google flagships coming this fall. It’s not just a new addition, but an entire shake-up of how the lineup will be positioned and laddered. According to him, there will be a regular, relatively small, Pixel 9, a larger and beefed-up Pixel 9 Pro XL, and another premium offering in the Pixel 9 Pro, bringing the best of both worlds in a powerful yet compact design that will sit between the two. And it’s this last one that is particularly exciting as it has the potential to meet an unmet need in the smartphone market: an uncompromised, high-end, relatively compact Android phone.

Take flagships and make them small

It’s as simple as that

This shift is particularly interesting, even if it’s one we had hints of happening more than a year ago. We find this surprising because compact Android phones are an endangered species. High-end ones, even more so. In fact, if you look at the current crop of smartphones sold in North America, the only real remaining small smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S24. While it is a part of Samsung’s latest flagship series, it pales in comparison to the likes of the S24 Ultra or even the Pixel 8 Pro.


New Pixel 9 renders point to 3 Google flagships coming this fall

Pixel 9, Pixel 9 Pro, and Pixel 9 Pro XL

Basically, if you want a high-end compact phone, the iPhone 15 Pro is probably your only option. Until last year, we had the Zenfone series lifting the load on behalf of all Android devices, but even Asus moved away from the one-handed experience with the Zenfone 11 Ultra. It’s just another reminder of how difficult it is to make compact phones that are not only great but also profitable as a business. If Apple — the company with one of the most efficient supply chains — had to abandon small phones, I have little hope from other OEMs.

The Google Pixel 9 Pro could pick up where the Asus Zenfone 10 dropped off.

Enter Google Pixel 9 Pro. Yes, it might not be as tiny as some of the adorable phones of yesterday, but it seems like it will still pack quite a punch while being significantly smaller than the Ultras and the Pro Maxes of the world.

What the Google Pixel 9 Pro has in its favor is the existence of better camera hardware, including a dedicated telephoto shooter for the first time in a small form factor in a Pixel. Combined with a competent battery, a (hopefully) better-performing Tensor G4 processor, and a slew of AI capabilities, and this could be the pocketable 6.1-inch Android device of your dreams.

But there’s still plenty of room for error

Let’s hope Google knows it


We’re sure Google knows what it’s getting itself into. On one hand, it will finally bring some competition to the iPhone 16 Pro when it launches. On the other hand, it is almost certain to use this differentiation to sell its 2024 lineup at a higher price than before. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pixel 9 Pro is more expensive than the Pixel 8 Pro, and if the Pixel 9 Pro XL goes even higher up — even though it is practically the successor to the $1,000 Pixel 8 Pro.

Google will hope that this unique mix of ergonomics and features will be enough for the Pixel 9 Pro to stand out and command a higher selling price. Nothing wrong with that in today’s competitive landscape, but the Pixel series has always been a notch cheaper than the rest. If Google wants to compete with the ultra-premium smartphones, it needs to deliver a near-perfect experience. As we pointed out over the weekend, issues such as heating, selective and slow updates, poor network reception, inconsistent battery life, and other screen problems will not be as easy to forgive once Google crosses the $1,000 mark.


Google’s premium Pixel 9 plans feel too big, too soon

Google is headed out of the budget flagship game, but at what cost?

A move to a triple-flagship strategy also raises further questions about how Google will manage to distinguish the affordable A series going forward. The upcoming Google Pixel 8A is shaping up to be very similar to the existing Pixel 8 — not just in terms of features and specifications, but also in terms of pricing. It is unlikely to be the easy-to-recommend affordable smartphone that its predecessors were. And with one more model to fit in the lineup while everything is getting more expensive, it’s easy to expect Google to entirely abandon the A-series next year and simply drop prices on existing models to occupy that space.

Of course, with more than a year to go until that’s even an option for Google to pursue, it’s not entirely worth considering just yet. In the meantime, I am excited to see what the small Google Pixel 9 Pro brings to the table and if it can bring back glory to compact Android flagships. If we can’t get down to sub-6-inch displays, this might just be the next-best thing.


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