Google did something un-Googley last week: It , the next version of its flagship phone. This is a phone we all expected to appear, based not just on rumors, but also on Google's pattern of an annual October release. Teasing a photo of an unannounced phone is a move we expect from LG and OnePlus, but Google's move threw us for a loop. We have -- from wanting to get out first with a design decision to taking back the power from leakers -- but I'd like to propose one more. In confirming a , Google is telling the world that it's and even sleeper hit OnePlus 7 Pro.
Pixel phones represent an opportunity for Google to showcase the best of its Android OS. Pixels are the first to receive updates and typically appeal to Android purists. But despite Google's brand appeal, the Pixel line has failed to capture the attention of buyers at the same level of Samsung and Apple's phones. . And while felt by phone brands across the board, the , leaving casual observers under the impression that the Pixels were available only through Verizon and not for every carrier when ordered from Google's online store.
What's especially shocking about Pixel's struggle is Google's inability so far to turn its massive influence in search and software services, from Gmail and Google Maps to Google Photos, to Google Assistant on every device and Google Drive, into a growing Pixel following. The success of, the brand's smart speakers, against , demonstrates that Google can successfully make hardware work. So what went wrong with Pixel?
Google and Apple didn't respond to a request for comment.
Go big or go home
Google's Pixel problem so far is one of boldness. Or rather its flipside, timidity. Relying on Verizon as its carrier partner and word of mouth among Android enthusiasts, has been a tepid approach that can't stand up to the advertising weaponry so deftly wielded by Apple and Samsung.
But the Sprint and T-Mobile, and you can use it with AT&T and Google Fi when you buy the phone through Google's website. This added carrier exposure already boosts awareness of the Pixel as a brand worth considering., announced in May at Google's annual I/O conference, turns the tide. The cheap Pixel we always needed sells in-store with Verizon,
But even more important is Google's advertising strategy that pits the Pixel 3A against last year's iPhone X in a clean, assertive style reminiscent of Apple's own billboard ads.
Google brilliantly touts its software prowess compared to the iPhone X, suggesting that the budget Pixel 3A takes brighter low-light photos and has better essential features, such as maps, than Apple's product.
A bolder Pixel 4?
It will take more than clever marketing and broader carrier support to sell the Pixel 4 in numbers that matter. Google will also need to shore up product gaps if the future phone is to effectively compete on the high end.
With Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus and Apple's selling for , the Pixel 4 will need to bring not just the same screen, camera and battery features as those pricier phones, but also extras like wireless charging and an arresting design.
On the looks front, Google has played it safe, bordering on boring, with a cookie-cutter design that barely strays from the previous year and colors so bland the company can't commit to a hue. The Pixel 3 isn't called pink, it's Not Pink. The 3A is Purplish.
Pixel phones typically sell for less than the iPhone and Galaxy S, but Google's price advantage isn't a sure thing either. Although the Pixel 3 cost $800 when it launched last year, less than 2018's iPhone XS and Galaxy S9, are still more expensive than the OnePlus 6 and of the same year, which started at $530 and $550, respectively.
The OnePlus 7 Pro, starting at $650, its highest price OnePlus phone yet, might it could still look like a good deal to buyers seeking the best-value Android phone. If the Pixel 4 comes out at over $800, T-Mobile buyers (where the OnePlus 7 Pro sells, but an unlocked model will work for AT&T, too) could still gravitate to it over the Pixel 4. $200 extra dollars in the pocket is $200 in the pocket, and it's likely that the Pixel's price will rise, especially with a fancier rear camera in play.
Google's Pixel price has steadily climbed year over year -- the.
Ever since the Nexus days when Google first experimented with phones of its "own" (made by other manufacturers), Google-branded handsets have taken a curious backseat to the tech giant's other hardware and software products. Pixel phones have all the ingredients to sell millions, and yet, so far, they haven't. Around 85% of the world's phones run Android. Google owns search, maps and voice assistant, areas where the iPhone struggles. It is a known and trusted brand.
When you factor in its enormous software foundation, no name in tech holds more smartphone sway or brand recognition than Google. Perhaps with the right combination of features and advertising, the Pixel 4 will come closer to being a household name, too.
Published June 17, 2019. Update, June 18 at 10:03 a.m. PT: Edited for clarity.