While Google would not definitively state whether a standalone XL model was ever in development, Brian Rakowski, VP of product management for the Pixel, confirmed that the decision to skip an XL release helped the company trim costs for its smaller phone. "We're limiting the number of different configurations we're doing," he told Engadget. "We focused all our resources on black.
That might not sound like a huge difference, but it's enough to undercut the device’s most obvious rival, the iPhone SE. (While the iPhone 11 remains Apple’s most popular model , CEO Tim Cook said during the company’s earnings call last week that the $400 SE has been useful in luring customers away from Android devices. ) Fifty dollars isn't nothing to the kind of cost-conscious consumer Google is targeting with the 4a, either.
In a bid to reduce costs, Google's designers and engineers worked to build the device in a way that reduced the need for extraneous materials and labor. "[The Pixel 4a] is easier to manufacture, so it takes less people to put it together," Rakowski said. "There are fewer parts, and a lot of the things that add cost — it's just pennies, but they add up.
Google plans to release a 5G version later this year, and that may have been the source of the few Pixel 4a XL leaks we saw in the months leading up to today's announcement. (Rumors suggest the 4a 5G will be bigger than the regular 4a, so it could fill the same niche a Pixel XL traditionally would.
When Google released the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, they were pretty good deals — you could pay as little as $399 for a phone with the same clean software and excellent camera performance as the company’s earlier, more premium devices.