Danish Kapoor
Danish Kapoor

Google goes the opposite: in an increasingly weak mobile industry, the Pixels are the great hope of Android

Google trusts the Pixel. Comparisons with iPhones are odious, but step by step this mobile phone that can almost be considered niche is attracting the attention of more people. With the Pixel 8, an important step has been taken in this direction of trying to reach more users.

Because the Pixels have always been a reference within Android, but sales were not keeping up. And much of the blame lies not with the Pixel itself, but with Google’s logistics and sales strategy. Little by little they are taking note.

The Pixels also want to be ‘mainstream’

Taking advantage of the arrival of the Pixel 8 in Spain, from TechGIndia we have spoken with Michiel van Eldik, head of EMEA for Google devices and services. We asked him what is changing this year and how Google sees the mobile phone sector. A sector that is not going through its best moment but that from Google’s personal vision they do not see it the same.

“We’ve been growing pretty significantly with Pixels. We’re the fastest growing manufacturer right now. You can look at the IDC data. You can look at Gartner. In fact, we are the only manufacturer that is growing at this moment“explains van Eldik.

According to latest data from IDC, the Pixel range has sold a total of 37.9 million units since its launch in 2016. Almost 40 million Pixel phones sold and what is more relevant, with double-digit growth in recent years. For comparison, the Galaxy S23 has sold about 18.63 million during the first half of this year, according to Counterpoint Research.

“If we look specifically at the European market, we see that although volume is down, value is up. Most countries have seen a 10 to 20% decline in sales volume, but they are holding up in value. We believe that people “Look for more durable and sustainable products. And that is what we are trying to make a reality,” he explains, in relation to the seven years of Android updates that the Pixel 8 promises.

This extended support is also reflected in how operators are offering the terminals, extending contracts from 24 to 36 months. In Spain, Google has decided to bet on Orange to offer the new subsidized devices. An operator with whom they have had a relationship since 2015. In Portugal, they do so with Vodafone.

Michiel Van Eldik

Michiel van Eldik has been at Google for about five years, but before that he had extensive experience as a manager at Telefónica and Vodafone. It is not surprising that To expand the popularity of the Pixel, Google chooses to approach operators.

Initially, the Pixels were sold only through their own online store. Last year, with the Pixel 7, Google chose to open up to Amazon and start selling them through the ecommerce giant. With the Pixel 8 they will also be sold together with two of the most popular sellers in Spain: Mediamarkt and El Corte Inglés. Both on their websites and in physical stores, where they will have dedicated spaces.

In this attempt to expand Pixel sales, Google knows that it must do serious logistical work. At the stock level they have more than enough. “Anyone who wants a Pixel can buy it,” describes van Eldik, in what is clearly turning the page regarding the supply problems of mobile devices that occurred after the pandemic.

Google still sees itself as a small company in the field of mobile devices. Its communication language is more similar to that of a company to be discovered than that of one of the largest companies in the world, as it is. “Google was not a hardware company, it took us years to achieve this. The Pixel 8 is 100% Google engineering,” he explains. The Tensor G3 is its third generation of its own processor and Google considers it to be “on par with any competitor, if not better.”

But “hardware is hardware. We seek to complement that experience with our own functions.” And that’s where AI comes in. When you look at what’s new in the Pixel, it’s not so much the components chosen, but rather all the editing and automation functions they include. From the ‘Best take’ to the ‘Audio Magic Eraser’.

A landing that is going at a good pace, but is still not complete

“There are about 20 to 25 areas of Google that are affected when we work with a new retailer,” explains van Eldik. From marketing to sales, to customer service and warranty. It is the justification they make for the landing of new products and their arrival in new countries to happen so little by little. “We are not going to stop. We will also end up reaching Andorra or Liechtenstein,” van Eldik anticipates.

This 2023 is the first time that the Pixel Watch is sold in Spain. However, we still don’t have the Pixel Tablet or the Pixel Fold. The catalog of Pixel devices for Spain is beginning to be considerable, but we are still not the first line.

“Every time we go into a new market, we want to focus initially on the phone. And the reason we won’t focus too much on the ecosystem is that if we have to explain the phone, the watch and the headphones to a consumer, they will miss completely. Because there are too many messages there, there are too many use cases,” he justifies.

With the Fold we have an example of Google’s position. “We want to make sure that people understand our product, especially since they will compare it to others. We have put the Fold on the market and it has been incredibly well received. It has given us a lot of confidence. But we want to make sure that we have the infrastructure necessary to support really this product. The reverse logistics of what needs to be implemented to support a Fold is completely different from that of a traditional smartphone.”

More expensive (and also more durable) cell phones

Pixel 8 Pro Prices
Pixel 8 Pro Prices

The Pixel 8 are more expensive. The Pro model cost 899 euros, now 1,099 euros. It is not something that the company denies, they justify it by the fact that they are now better devices and are designed to last longer. Those seven years of updates mean that a user who buys a Pixel 8 could hold it updated until 2030.

“Any company has two challenges with pricing: inflation and ethics, which should not be underestimated,” describes van Eldik. And he means that a premium product must have a high price: “we continue to believe that we offer great value for the price.”

Google states that the market value is higher in the high range. In the mid-range it is pure sales volume, but this is precisely what is changing, as users keep their devices for longer and longer. In addition to the updates, Google does not forget about sustainability with the commitment to 100% recycled aluminum and paper packaging.

Google's Pixels have never taken off anywhere.  With one exception: the country that loves the strangest

Google had been very low in sales, but growth is constant. While companies like Samsung, Motorola or even Apple have fallen in sales, Google has grown 59% in the US during the second quarter, according to Canalys.

Asked about the role of Chinese Android manufacturers, van Eldik points out that “Europe is an incredibly difficult market” but that “Google not only has Pixel, we also have many partners with Android“.

Europe’s role exists, although the Pixel 8 is manufactured between China and Vietnam. What role do we have then from here? Michiel remembers that DeepMind, Google’s base startup for artificial intelligence, is originally from London.

Danish Kapoor