Google Sold Fewer Pixels at the Start of 2019 Than the Year Before, Despite Launch of Pixel 3 Line

Pixel 3 phones.
Pixel 3 phones.
Photo: Richard Drew (AP)

Google doesn’t sound like it’s had a great time trying to sell consumers on its Pixel line of phones lately, in part because there’s too much competition for high-end devices—at least according to remarks made during an earnings call with Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

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Per the Verge, Porat said that Pixel sales were lower in Q1 2019 compared to the year before, specifically citing “some of the recent pressures in the premium smartphone market.” As 9to5Google noted, Google “does not break out hardware results in earnings,” but combines them into an “Other revenues” section that includes the Play Store and Cloud—this number did climb upwards to $5.4 billion from $4.3 billion the prior year.

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According to 9to5Google, Porat and Google CEO Sundar Pichai were upbeat about the Google Home line of products, with the Home Hub and Home Mini touted as best sellers. But in general, it seems like the last quarter was rough for Google’s smartphone business—probably because the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL debuted in late 2018 at starting prices of $800 and $900 respectively in a market that is already crowded by expensive options from Samsung and Apple. Per the Verge, one analyst noted that hardware does not appear to be doing much to impact Google’s overall revenue and asked if Pixel was heading the same dreaded direction as Microsoft’s defunct Windows Phones.

That’s a shame, because the Pixel 3 and its larger cousin are really good phones with standout software and photography abilities. But there are other more encouraging signs: A recent report by Counterpoint Research found that Google broke into the #3 premium smartphone OEM in the U.S. in Q4 2018, beating out LG, indicating the Pixel line was making some headway even if the overall premium segment has suffered. What’s more, the Pixels are getting cheaper: Google is currently selling off units at $200 off until May 6, and there have been various other deals at times via Verizon.

Of course, there’s also the upcoming Pixel 3a and 3a XL, mid-range, lower-priced versions of the Pixel 3 line that are expected to be announced at Google’s I/O 2019 keynote on May 7. Those phones are planned to be downgrades from their predecessors except in camera power, one of the Pixel 3's biggest selling points—perhaps an opportunity for Google to succeed outside the flailing premium market.

[The Verge/9to5Google]

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DISCUSSION

Maybe because there’s hardly any reason to buy one.
Here are the advantages I can think of, and the general consumer will be less knowledgable about its advantage(s):

1) New features first, though it’s kind of stupid that Google doesn’t update the apps/software across all compatible phones sooner. I know companies putting skins and carrier approvals stall the process, but still. The OS fragmentation is already ridiculous.
2) Stock Android? I know some people like stock, but I think it’s ugly and some skins make Android more usable.
3) Google Fi? It’s hard to tell if that would work well for you in terms of usage/pricing and coverage.
4) Photography, at the time of release. Lots of smartphone cameras are great. If I’m picking any flagship, and possibly any midrange phone, there’s a good chance the cameras onboard will do the job. I’m sort of (no rush to acquire one) shopping for a new phone right now and I’ve seen the specs for all the cameras. I just skim it now because unless the specs or a review shows that the quality is lacking, I don’t really care about the minute details. I’d like great photos, but I just want them not to suck. From what I’ve seen, Huawei’s P30 is the one to beat now. Optical zoom on a smartphone is something that makes phones stand out more.

Disadvantages:
1) They’re way overpriced. You’d think that with Google’s value, they can offer them at a price that doesn’t seem like a cash grab.
2) Design. They’re ugly. I don’t know who they hired to design it, but what the hell? Both have huge bezels and the notch on the XL is ugly. I would’ve considered buying the Pixel 3, but that screen-to-body ratio is so 2015 and they only put the notch and the too-big phone. The iPhone and iPhone Max have parity, except for in the back.
4) Hardware in some areas - 4GB RAM for that price. No headphone jack.
3) Nothing really stands out. I listed the advantages, but none of them is a must-have feature. It’s just another phone.

For phone shopping, I write down the specs that matter in terms of disadvantages and (most) advantages. I can’t access that file right now. Hopefully, I included everything.