Updated: August 10, 2020 11:20:11 am
Google’s new Pixel 4a smartphone will have a US price of $349, at least $50 cheaper than what has been its cheapest smartphone so far. Also, this phone is cheaper than Apple’s $399 iPhone SE, which went on sale in April.
So Google is slowly shedding its reputation as a premium smartphone maker by pushing down the entry point for its pixel series with the latest offering — the base model of the Pixel 4 XL had cost $899.
“Just like Apple’s iPhone SE, the Pixel A-series phones are important for expanding the audience of customers that are comfortable splurging for a premium brand smartphone, but at a mid-range price,” explained Frank Gillet, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester research. “So it’s important to ship a Pixel 4a before the fall launch of the Pixel 5.”
The Pixel 4a is not affordable enough to take on the Redmi Note 9 Pro or Realme 6 in markets like India. But with features like its 5.8-inch OLED screen, Snapdragon 730G processor, 128GB storage and promise of all-day battery life, it will offer an alternative to mid-range favourites like the iPhone SE and the latest OnePlus Nord across markets.
Because it is a Pixel phone, the single 12.1 MP camera supports features like portrait mode, HDR Plus and the unique Night Sight mode that lets you capture great shots in low light. In addition, you can also photograph stars in the skies, thanks to the astrophotography mode which is also present in the expensive Pixel 4. These are features exclusive to the Pixel series now.
Gillet is right in saying that Google is chasing those customers who don’t buy full price flagship phones, but want something nearly as good at half the price. Google, one of the richest tech companies in the world, sees the Pixel 4a as a device most people would want to use, regardless of the demographics of users. It is a compact smartphone that easily fits in the pocket and promises three years of software updates.
These are features that could help Google catch-up to Apple and Samsung in the mainstream smartphone markets of the US and Western Europe. Even though Google is not a mass smartphone player like Apple, the Pixel 4a could change that, but maybe at the cost of its own high-end phones like the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
“Google isn’t trying to outsell Samsung,” says Gillet. “This is like Microsoft’s Surface devices – they are leadership devices, showing the complete vision of Google to challenge and inspire their device partners to elevate their offerings.”
Google’s entry into hardware was the biggest story a few years ago, but the Pixel smartphones – despite the game-changing camera tech and better software experience – just couldn’t manage to make an impact in the Android space, let alone the overall smartphone segment. Over the past year, Google has shifted its pricing strategy and added the new A-series of affordable phones in the portfolio.
The Pixel 4a, the new entry-level phone, will drive the story forward from the Pixel 3a. For Google, Pixel 4a might be the most important product— both in terms of sales and its impact on the brand Pixel. Industry insiders feel the Pixel 4a comes at the right time when consumers are finding it difficult to justify the high price of smartphones. As a result, many people are holding on to their phones for a longer period.
The launch of Pixel 4a also signals how companies like Google are responding to the weak consumer spending in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Apple, too, in recent days made an attempt at launching a phone aimed at the budget buyers. Its iPhone SE, which retails for $399, has the same A13 Bionic chip used in the iPhone 11 lineup. Even OnePlus is reimagining how mid-range phones should be made with the OnePlus Nord, a departure from its previous business strategy of selling only flagship smartphones.
There’s no telling how the Pixel 4a will be received in the market, but it clearly falls between high-end flagship and cheap budget phones, a new crop of smartphones that are premium but costs half the price of flagships. That could be the new volume segment across geographies.
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