Earlier today Google pushed out a teaser for its upcoming Pixel 4, finally showing off the phone we all knew existed in an official capacity. But however much we might see of the phone now, we still have a long wait ahead of us. Google's Pixels have always been launched in October. And frankly, sticking to that schedule again this year is a terrible idea.
The cycle of smartphone "generations" here in the US is dictated by Qualcomm. Whatever the company might argue to US regulators and judges, its monopoly here is total, and it releases its flagship chipsets on a yearly cycle with new hardware landing near the start of each calendar year. That means every winter we get to see Qualcomm's latest flagship SoC land in Samsung's new Galaxy S phone. It also means that every fall we get to see Google's Pixel land merely three months before its hardware is outdated.
Pushing a flagship just before its chipset is about to be supplanted isn't the best move, and $1,000 phones are getting harder and harder to sell. That's not to mention the usual issues Google's phones land with, and the compromises they always seem to face compared to the competition when it comes to design and features. One could argue that such a late release gives Google more time to polish its software to match the hardware, but the laundry list of Pixel-specific issues we cover for months after release would imply that doesn't make a whole lot of difference.
Like my buddy Ben Schoon over at 9to5Google said last year, between the launch problems and immediate discounts, Google has made a pretty clear case that no one should be buying its phones at launch. If we consider the only acceptable window for picking up a Pixel phone is a month or two after it comes out, and if the next Pixel adheres to the October release schedule, you've got mere weeks before Samsung's S11 renders its hardware outdated.
Yeah, okay, there's always some other phone on the horizon, but Google is clearly making a clear and conscious decision to be absolutely last to the party when it comes to Qualcomm's chips, and I think that's a poor decision. Given the company's issues selling Pixels, consumers seem to agree. Paying a premium for last year's hardware is a bad idea and a bad value — especially competing with all the Black Friday phone sales which inevitably happen just a few weeks later.
I'd argue that Google should release its Pixels at the same time it releases major Android updates, which are usually in the last weeks of August. I think the Pixel 4, if possible, should be moved to an August release to compete with Samsung's Note series and better head off Apple's iPhones. Better — but less likely, at least this year — would be to move to a late spring/early summer release and either bring Android releases forward to match, return to the X.1 increments for Pixel release versions, or just accept releasing the Pixel on the "last" version while betas are still out.
Push the Pixel release schedule forward, Google, and not just this year. Besides, summer suits your Pixel's colors better.