NEW DELHI: Pixels are not adding up to make a perfect picture for global technology giant Google. Certainly not in India, the world’s fastest growing and second largest mobile phone market after China.
Google’s Pixel smartphone was launched in India with an advertising blitz in October 2016. And given its super premium positioning, November 2016’s demonetisation wasn’t an inhibiting factor. But sales have been tepid at best, say retailers and analysts. Comparisons with the failure of Google’s low-end smartphone project, Android One, are beginning to be made.
Retailers and industry insiders say Pixel sales have not taken off mainly thanks to very high prices – Rs 57,000 upwards – and the greater brand pull of Apple’s iPhones and Samsung Galaxy variants in the super premium category.
Sales data are not shared by Google or retailers. But shipments are an indication. Google has shipped around 30,000 Pixel phone units during the initial launch period and around 10,000 more subsequently, industry insiders said.
They added that Apple and Samsung shipments over the same period came to lakhs of units. Analysts said Pixel had captured the No. 3 spot, behind Apple and Samsung, in the first two months after launch, in the Rs 40,000-plus category, getting a 5% share. But since then Pixel has lost substantial ground, they told EToff the record.
But a Google spokesperson said Pixel sales were as per the company’s expectations. “Over the last few months, we have received very positive feedback from consumers. Excitement continues to be high for the Google Assistant, camera and the overall speed and responsiveness of Pixel phones, and sales have been in line with our expectations,” the spokesperson said, in response to queries from ET .
Pixel is lagging globally too. The smartphone has sold around 2.5 million units since its October 2016 launch, Counterpoint Research says. Analysts say Apple would have sold over 70 million phones while Samsung’s numbers would be over 80 million in the October-December period despite the latter’s trouble with flagship Galaxy Note 7, several units of which exploded or caught fire. Apple and Samsung are yet to report the numbers for the period.
“Because Google was coming for the first time on its own, there was a hype initially, but there hasn’t been happening much since. Sales have not been good,” said Subhash Chandra, managing director of Bengaluru-based Sangeetha Mobiles.
The retailer, one of the large-format chains including Croma, Reliance Digital, Spice Mobility and Jumbo that Google has partnered with, also said that since Pixel was priced high it had stocked relatively fewer units. But even after increasing stocks and presence across more stores, sales did not improve.
Another top retail chain that was supposed to sell Pixel and Pixel XL put the decision on hold after seeing the tepid market response to the devices, a senior executive at the company told ET. He did not wish to be.
Analysts expect a price correction. “Sales for Google tapered off after initial shipments pre-diwali. pricing correction should be on cards in the first half of this year to drive up the sales before Samsung’s next flagship rolls out,” said Neil Shah, Research Director at Counterpoint Research.
Earlier this week, Google began selling Pixel through Snapdeal and offered Rs 10,000 instant cashback from Yes Bank, Rs 10,000 ecash from Yatra, and a free mobile protection plan from Allianz worth Rs 5,999.
These discount schemes came after Google offered no-cost EMIs starting at Rs 3,167 per month for all online and offline purchases in October last year. It was then offering cashback of Rs 7,000 for HDFC Bank card holders, and exchange schemes via Flipkart, which was giving an additional discount of Rs 5,000.
There are some analysts who feel Pixel wasn’t aimed at capturing market share but at adding to the Google brand.
“It was more of a brand building exercise, to showcase that Google can make a good premium smartphone… they never expected volumes from Pixel,” said Navkendar Singh, senior research manager at IDC India.