The Google Pixel 4 has reasons stronger than its Soli chip to give the crucial India market a skip this time. In fact, the company was not able to rake in any significant numbers despite these iterations of the phone so far.
“Google Pixel had less than 1 per cent share in India. The challenge for them lies in the distribution,” Tarun Pathak, Associate Director with Counterpoint Technology Market Research told indianexpress.com in an email. He, however, added that Google will likely continue to keep an on India’s premium market.
No official reason has been given for why the Pixel 4 is not coming to India, though unofficially the reason is believed to be the Project Soli radar chip which operates on 60 GHz spectrum. This band is not commercially licensed in India.
The Pixel series has had an uphill journey so far in India. “Google has not invested in distribution and marketing in India. In offline, where 60 per cent of the market is, it depends on whatever the retailer wants to push. Obviously, it is a cost intensive business,” explained Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India over the phone.
In his view, it was a lose-lose game for Google over the past two-three years and even the Pixel 3A, which launched at Rs 39,999, did not help pull in the numbers. “It (Pixel 3A) might be the best camera at the price, but then Indian consumers don’t care about the kind of sharpness in the camera, and even if they do know, they are okay to compromise in terms of good design languages, and more RAM and other higher specifications that other Chinese brands are able to bring at much lower prices,” he added.
Singh thinks skipping India, a tough market to crack, even for the bigger players, was a conscious decision. “In India, the fastest growing segment is $200 to $300 and not the $500 to $700. People are upgrading, but they are not upgrading to the flagships. This was a very conscious decision on Google’s part,” he said.
Will there be a (cheaper) Pixel 4A?
While Pixel 4 might not be coming to India, there’s the question of whether Google could explore a more budget-friendly Pixel 4A without Soli radar chip on the front. Google’s statement does indicate that future Pixel devices will come to the market, but does not offer anything more on the subject.
“For a market like India, a mid-range Pixel 4A makes sense. It can give them decent volumes, but then the design and the product has to be very compelling for the Indian market,” Singh said. The analyst gave the example of Japan where the Pixel 3A was a big hit, ‘flying off the shelves’, unlike India where it did not fare so well in terms of volumes.
The Pixel 3A was hardly budget friendly. At Rs 39,999, the phone was more expensive than the OnePlus 7 which offered the latest high-end flagship Snapdragon 855 processor, now seen on the new Pixel 4. OnePlus 7 had a starting price of Rs 32,999, while the Pixel 3A was using a mid-range Snapdragon 675 chipset. The chipset was also powering the Redmi Note 7 Pro, a phone that cost just Rs 13,999 in India.
If one were to do a spec-by-spec comparison, the Pixel 3A became a very expensive proposition in a price sensitive market like India. Unless the Pixel 4A — if at all it is in the pipeline — can drastically change the price strategy, the future of Pixel phones in India will remain bleak.