Can Pixel 4a change the fortunes of Google in the Indian smartphone market?
| New Delhi |
Published: August 3, 2020 9:17:46 pm
Google on Monday introduced the Pixel 4a, its entry-level smartphone, starting at $349, compared with $399 for the Pixel 3a last year. The Pixel 4a’s $349 price makes the mid-range phone $50 cheaper than the base model of Apple’s iPhone SE, which starts at $399. What’s missing, though, from an announcement was the lack of clarity on the India price of the Pixel 4a. While Google will start selling the Pixel 4a in the US in August, India will only get the mid-range phone sometime in October.
Obviously, this came as a big surprise to everyone who thought the Pixel 4a would launch in India immediately after the US debut. More importantly, there is no clarity on how much the Pixel 4a will cost in India when it finally launches in October. Will it cost above Rs 35,000? Or will Google price the phone under Rs 25,000? We don’t have an answer to that just yet.
The Pixel 4a might not be a flagship device, but its impact on the mid-range market, especially in India, could be huge. The entry-level phone, if priced aggressively, could change Google’s fortunes in the mainstream Indian smartphone market. While internationally the Pixel 4a’s $349 price tag is a masterstroke, all eyes will be on how Google prices the phone in India, the second-largest smartphone market in the world.
“For Pixel, India is more for a visibility market,” explains Rushabh Doshi, an analyst with the research firm Canalys. “This is not the right time for Pixel to launch as a full-fledged smartphone brand in India.”
Google as a company has great visibility in India through its search business and Android, but very few people know that the Sundar Pichai-led tech has its line of Pixel smartphones. Sure Google likes to play on the high-end of the smartphone market but even in that segment, the company has not been able to find consumers it hoped for. This is the same market segment where brands like Apple, OnePlus and Samsung dominate the market share.
Pixel’s strong points include its superb cameras and guaranteed software updates. But Indians still prefer an iPhone or OnePlus smartphone over a Pixel phone.
As Doshi points out, Google neither manufactures its Pixel phones in India nor does it have its own first-party service centres. In comparison to Apple which is also a smaller player in India, the company manufacture some of its iPhones in India. The brand also has a vast network of service centres as well as authorised stores in the country.
“Google launching the Pixel 4a in October is detrimental to the fact that India is not a priority market,” says Doshi. “I don’t think, even in the upper tier, people understand what a Pixel phone is.”
“The pricing of Pixel phones are higher mainly because they haven’t invested in local production,” he said, adding that “it remains to be seen if their investment in Jio changes that not from a local production perspective but whether they start to entrench more in Indian ecosystem – both on smartphones and platform side.”
Doshi further adds that if Google decides to move the Pixel supply chain to India, there might be an uptake of the brand in the country. This will also help Google to lower the price of Pixel phones and sell them at a competitive price. But for that to happen, Google needs a go-to-market strategy which is not there at the moment.
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