Google has claimed that its Pixel 3a phones are a hit, with sales almost doubling in the last quarter. “With the launch of Pixel 3A in May, overall Pixel unit sales in Q2 grew more than two times year over year,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in the earnings call. But that leads to the question, how many Pixel 3a units were sold? As Google does not reveal its numbers separately, that might be a little complicated.
Pixel 3a vs Pixel 3
To be clear, Google’s Pixel phone sales are clubbed in the “Other revenues” segment of the company’s earnings. While Google’s ad business continues to drive profits ($32.6 billion in the second quarter), the ‘Other Revenues’ segment stood at $6.2 billion with a jump of 40 per cent from a year ago. This segment also includes revenue from other hardware products like Google’s Pixel 3 phones, Home speakers, Chromecast, and cloud computing division. So calculating the revenue that Pixel 3a brought in for Google is impossible.
But this is only the second time the company has given an indication of how its prized Pixel phones are performing. The fact that Pixel 3a doubled sales is in sharp contrast to what the company had to say in the first quarter of 2019 when the premium Pixel 3 phone did not perform well. The Pixel 3a phones launched on May 7 at Google I/O.
In April 2019, Google admitted it took a hit in hardware sales, particularly in the Pixel phones department. “The company sold fewer Pixel phones due to industry-wide pressure on high-end phones,” is what Google’s CFO Ruth Porat had to say last quarter. Once again there were no numbers on how many units of Pixel 3 phones were sold.
Pixel 3a: The right price, but only in dollars
So what worked with the Pixel 3a? I would argue the one thing that did work in Pixel 3a’s favour would be the US price. In the US, where Pixel 3a started at $399 (or Rs 27,000 on conversion), certainly made it a lot more appealing to customers looking for an affordable phone with an excellent camera.
This is a market where Apple and Samsung dominate with their high-end phones, but both also have a more extensive portfolio than just the latest flagships, which means it is possible to get the older variants of their flagships at reduced prices.
Google was limiting itself to just one new device each year with Pixel phones, which would naturally limit volumes. When it finally expanded by offering customers something a little more affordable in the form of Pixel 3a, it appears to have worked.
Pixel and India
But the ‘success’ of the Pixel 3a is hardly going to solve the perception problems for the ‘Made by Google’ phones. In India, which is the second biggest smartphone market in the world, Google Pixel continues to play in a price range that makes it out of reach for so many potential consumers.
For smartphone enthusiasts in India, the price of the Google Pixel 3a at Rs 39,999 was certainly not affordable or even mid-range. More importantly, Google pitted itself against OnePlus with the Pixel 3a, which tends to sport the top-of-the-line specifications, at a fraction of the price. For context, OnePlus 7 which launched in May starts at Rs 32,999 with the latest Snapdragon 855 processor.
The Pixel 3a with its Snapdragon 675 and 4GB RAM launching in May 2019 was clearly overpriced compared to the OnePlus 7 in a market where specifications are discussed ad nauseum. In simple terms, to the Indian consumer, the Pixel 3a certainly did not look like a phone worth buying, never mind the excellent camera experience or the appeal of stock Android.
What will Pixel 4 bring?
All eyes will be on Pixel 4 and we already know a lot about the Pixel 4 and some of it is thanks to Google’s own leak. It looks like the company is finally going to ditch the single camera at the back for a dual or triple camera, which could help to compete better against flagships like Huawei’s P and Mate series, and Samsung’s S10 and Note 10.
The Pixel 4 is also expected to get 6GB RAM, a much needed upgrade considering ‘flagship premium’ phones now have 12GB RAM, while Pixel 3 came with 4GB RAM. But don’t expect that premium price tag to go anywhere once the Pixel 4 phones are revealed, even for India. After all that’s how the Pixel phones were positioned when they first launched in 2016.