Google left quite a few Pixel fans in India disappointed yesterday by deciding not to bring its latest flagship to India. But the question to be asked is whether Google even sees India as a potential market for Pixel smartphones?
Google did release a press statement clearing the air on the Pixel 4’s India launch. But it failed to reveal the exact reason for not bringing its flagship smartphone to India. Experts believe the tiny Soli radar chip, which uses the restricted 60Ghz ISM band, in the phone “doesn’t comply with local laws” and this could be the reason.
But most probably Google never wanted to launch the Pixel 4 in India in the first place. It would be foolish to assume that a company as big as Google had no knowledge about local laws and policies in a market as large and important as India while designing a phone like the Pixel 4 meant to compete against the iPhone 11 Pro and Galaxy S10. This when companies like Samsung have India-specific models of its flagships.
The fact is, even if Pixel 4 was coming to India, it would soon be forgotten like Google’s previous smartphones. Google’s struggles with the Pixel series stemmed from the fact that there was a lack of connect with the potential buyer. Also, it never tried to expand its retail footprint. Then, OnePlus took way the geekiness of the Pixel brand and has since been the Pixel rival, not the iPhone as Google would have wanted.
Google over-emphasized the power of its camera. It offered regular software updates, but ignoring basics like battery life and specifications which matter more to the regular user in India. For what was an expensive phone in India, the first three versions of the Pixel were all overly expensive, dull, and boring.
OnePlus established its brand by selling premium Android smartphones at half the cost of a Pixel phone and getting good reviews. Despite its good online game, there was a gradual expansion of retail presence too. Soon, it became the top premium brand in India, ahead of Apple and Samsung.
The story could have been very different if the Pixel was priced lower. That would have opened up the device to a broader set of users and beyond the geeks, who anyway had a new option now.
Also, there seemed to be some confusion even within Google on how to position the Pixel brand. Apple, for instance, makes a clear distinction between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro on the basis of cameras. With the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, there are fewer differences except for the size. Google’s doubling down on the camera could have translated into “marketing fatigue” too with potential buyers not getting a new peg to latch on to.
Now, we need to ponder on whether this is the end of the road for Google’s high-end smartphone in India? It might be too early to answer that.