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Opinion: Google Pixel 3a is a major misfire outside US, here’s why.

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Updated on
16 May 2020

Google Pixel, the ambitious lineup of smartphones by Google which is intended to provide the vanilla Android experience, seems like have never been able to draw the attention of an Android purist, except for the camera. The Pixel brand was introduced way back in February 2013 with the Chromebook Pixel but got some attention after the launch of the first generation Pixel phones in 2016. Since then, Google has launched three generations of Pixel phones, a laptop, a tablet and a few other accessories of which neither have been able to capture any significant market share.

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Let us discuss why is the hardware department of Google such lack lustered whereas the software department still reigns supreme.

Whom are the Pixel phones targeted to?

Way before Google launched phones under the Pixel brand, it used to launch phones under the brand called Nexus which was quite popular with a significant amount of market share. With the Nexus brand, Google managed the design, development, marketing, and support of these devices, but some of the development and all of the manufacturing were carried out by partnering with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Huawei, HTC. They used to pack in some decent hardware and were priced at a reasonable price. The last Nexus phone came at 2015 after which was then replaced by the Pixel brand of phones.

The Nexus phones were mainly targeted to customers who wanted stock Android experience and near flagship specs at a price which was cheaper than most of the flagships of that time. After the brand was replaced by the Pixel brand, Google followed most of the ideologies of the yester brand but their phones are no longer cheap as it used to be with the Nexus brand.

What went wrong with the Pixels?

Since its inception in 2016, Pixel phones have always featured the top of the line processors, market leading cameras and even received the updates much ahead of any other phone in the Android side of things. But these were never enough to justify the hefty price tag which they came with. They were always priced at a premium but when compared to other phones at that price range from the likes of Samsung, Huawei, and Apple; Pixel devices seemed out of proportion. OnePlus provided almost everything what Google provides with their Pixel phones at almost half of the price.

How Google tried to rectify the wrong?

Earlier this year, Google’s CFO Ruth Porat quoted

Hardware results reflect lower year-on-year sales of Pixel, reflecting in part heavy promotional activity industry-wide given some of the recent pressures in the premium smartphone market.

This means Google acknowledges the fact that they are somewhere at wrong when it comes to their hardware division. In fact like a wise man, Google tried to rectify the wrong. After a plethora of leaks, Google announced its arrival into the upper midrange market after near three years of hiatus. A week back at Google IO 2019, the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL were launched with toned down specs and prices. The Pixel 3a and the 3a XL packed in a 5.6 inch and a 6-inch gOLED displays respectively with a Full HD+ resolution and Dragontrail glass protection 67 top. Both are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 and 4 GB LPPDR4x RAM. The camera department is very similar to the bigger siblings with 12.2 MP sensors and f/1.8 aperture lens with the GCam algorithm.

The Pixel 3a starts at a price tag of 399 USD (28,000 INR). Sounds reasonable right? Keep reading!

Why Pixel devices will still be a flop show in India and other non-US markets?

Its been three years since Pixel phones debuted but I hardly see any of those in the palms of Indians. And I believe Pixel 3a will suffer the same fate as other Pixel phones in the Indian market. For starters, the Pixel 3a is priced at 39,999 INR which roughly translates into 600 USD and that places it directly into the territory of OnePlus 6T and most probably the upcoming OnePlus 7. While OnePlus 6T packs in flagship grade processor, build quality and a very capable camera; the Pixel 3a just cannot match its price to performance ratio except for the camera by a small margin. The Snapdragon 670 in the Pixel 3a is a no show against the Snapdragon 845 found in the OnePlus 6T. For instance, the Realme 3 Pro priced at just 14,000 INR (200 USD) is powered by the Snapdragon 710 which is quite better than Pixel 3a’s Snapdragon 670.

Coming to the build quality, nobody in India expects a polycarbonate (plastic in simple words) build for a phone priced at 39,999 INR where all other OEMs are making glass and metal build phones.

In a price sensitive market like India, the consumers spend their money justifiably. The Pixel 3a is no match to other phones likes the OnePlus 6T (38,000 INR), the Poco F1 (20,000 INR) and the Asus Zenfone 5Z (25,000 INR). I hardly doubt that if anyone will buy this phone in India. If Google would have priced it somewhere around 25,000 INR, it could have been recommendable.

We have observed that the pricing of phones are similar to India in other non-US markets.

I hope this article works the way it is intended to beLet us know your thoughts on the Pixel 3a. In case I missed mentioning anything or if there is some topic which you want me to cover, please let me know in the comments section down below.

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