Why The Pixel 3a is Most Likely Google’s Future
When you consider that Google holds the keys to the world’s most popular mobile operating system, it’s remarkable that the company has such a tiny share of the global smartphone market. Sure, it’s Pixel line of devices regularly gain rave reviews, but they sell a small fraction of what their rivals manage; Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei all comfortably out-sell Google’s hardware efforts – which is a pretty silly situation when you stop and think about it; shouldn’t Google be in the same position as Apple, dominating the OS it has done so much to perfect?
Pixel 3a In A Nutshell:
- Instant Android Updates
- Amazing Camera
- Great Battery Life
- Perfect Software (No Bloatware)
- Inc. Headphone Jack
- Ultra-Low Price – Pixel 3a Retails For $399!
Of course, Google and Apple are two different companies and Android and iOS are two very different operating systems. iOS was always developed as a ‘closed’ ecosystem and was only ever intended to run solely on Apple’s hardware. In contrast, Google positioned Android as an open-source OS which could be delivered on many different phones; as a consequence, when it launched Android in 2008 Google worked with hardware partners rather than crafting its own handset.
From Google Nexus To Google Pixel – A History of Google Phones
It wasn’t until the arrival of the Google Nexus One – which, lest we forget, was actually manufactured by HTC – that Google began to see the benefit of having a ‘reference’ phone on which it could showcase Android’s latest and greatest features. The Nexus line would, of course, continue with the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and Nexus 6; a common theme of all of these handsets was that they combined cutting-edge specs with a mid-range price point, setting them apart from Apple’s premium-cost iPhone models. Another common theme that was all of these products were created in partnership with other companies; Google still lacked the ability to make its own phone, despite buying Motorola (which it quickly offloaded after stripping it of useful patents).
When the Nexus line ended, some assumed that Google had decided to back away from the hardware market and focus solely on software, which – you could argue – has always been the company’s true strength. However, the arrival of the Pixel ended that speculation; Google was throwing itself back into the phone market with a device that was cutting-edge and offered an amazing camera; it was also a phone that Google had a tighter hold on in terms of design and production.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 soon followed, with each one introducing further improvements to that award-winning camera. However, despite marrying amazing software with equally striking hardware, something was wrong; Google was still being ignored in terms of sales. The company had to sheepishly announce that the Pixel 3 had failed to sell in the numbers expected, a statement which caused some fans to worry that the search giant was once again getting cold feet.
Such fears were unfounded, as Google has quickly responded with the Pixel 3a, a budget version of the Pixel 3 which retains that amazing camera setup but removes some key features to hit a truly mass-market price-point – very much like the Nexus line, you could argue.
The Google Pixel 3a – The Cheaper Pixel Phone We ALL Wanted…
For some, the Pixel 3a represents a company in retreat; by cutting back on the processor and using cheaper materials in the casing, Google is basically scaling back its intentions and dodging a battle with Samsung and Apple. That’s a rather negative viewpoint and one that misses the massive potential audience out there that exists in the middle space of the mobile market. While there are millions of people out there who think nothing of spending £1000 on a new phone or tethering themselves to an expensive monthly contract, there are just as many – if not more – who want a decent handset at a low price.
The Pixel 1, 2 and 3 were all amazing phones, but they were arguably competing in the same space as Samsung and Apple’s flagship devices – and without the recognition of those two firms, it was a battle they were only going to lose. The Pixel 3a is a totally different proposition; while the mid-range smartphone sector has arguably never been more competitive – especially with the likes of Huawei, Honor, and Xiaomi all pumping out amazing handsets – Google can offer the best camera on any phone for under $400. Good quality photography is something pretty much every mobile user wants above all other things, so Google already has a key selling point that means more on paper than wireless charging or a marginally faster processor.
The positive reception given to the Pixel 3a bodes well for its commercial fortunes, and we hope that it manages to overcome the funk that has plagued the standard Pixel 3. In fact, we hope that next year Google simply doesn’t bother with a ‘flagship’ Pixel and instead opts to produce another low-cost handset that offers consumers a budget route into ‘pure’ Android and amazing camera hardware. That feels like the future of Google’s phones; ironically, if you look back at the Nexus range, it’s actually the company’s past as well.
Google Pixel Sales Just Went 2X Year-on-Year (And This is Probably Why…)
Google has just confirmed that sales for its Pixel line of handsets have increased 2X during the past 12 months. This represents the first time Google has been actively boastful about Pixel sales.
Here’s what Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “With the launch of Pixel 3a in May, overall Pixel unit sales in Q2 grew more than 2x year-over-year.”
But does it mean Google’s line of phones has finally turned a corner? It certainly appears to be the case; 2X’ing sales is never easy, and the Google Pixel 3a, the phone I’m using right now, is a very compelling handset.
The Google Pixel 3a Pricing – Is That Its Secret Sauce?
Google was pretty vague about what caused the 2X in sales for its Pixel line of phones. It did, however, confirm that the Pixel 3a has the biggest distribution ever for a Pixel phone – it’s widely available from T Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, Spectrum Mobile and others.
No other Pixel phone has gotten this kind of push. But what about the price of the Google Pixel 3a? It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than previous Pixel phones. And it has a headphone jack too. Could this (the price, not the return of the headphone jack) be the real reason why the Pixel 3a is doing so well?
I mean, LG and Sony both have pretty good distribution in the US too, but you don’t see either of those brands posting news about 2X’ing phone sales year on year. Personally, I think Google has finally given users what they want – an affordable flagship handset that works great and packs in the best version of Android on the market.
This is what the Pixel phone should have been about all along; solid software, decent cameras, and low-ish price tags. This is all people want and in the Android space, affordable phones with decent software that actually gets updated regularly are still far too rare.
Cheap Android Phones That Get Proper Android Updates
This was ALWAYS the niche Google should have gone after. But instead of doing this it decided to try and compete with Apple when it came to pricing.
This was a mistake. Lest we forget, it took Apple 10 years to get to the $1000 price tag for the iPhone X. And when it did release that phone, with its eye-watering price tag, it knew it had a pool of at least 50 million people that would definitely buy it.
I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve had from readers about their cheap Android phones breaking, bricking, or simply working correctly. Nine times outta ten, it’s the software – they’re running super-old versions of Android. Other times, it’s shoddy hardware. And make no mistake: this problem is RIFE in the Android ecosystem.
The Google Pixel 3a, with its $400 price tag, costs 60% less than Apple’s iPhone XS Max flagship and 50% less than its “cheaper” iPhone XR. It has a great camera, great software, the display is great, and its battery life is very good too. Hell, I’m a tech journalist and I use one, so it must be pretty decent, right?
Has Google learned its lesson? Will the Pixel 3a pricing remain in place from here on out? I really hope it does because the Pixel 3a, to me, as a long-time Nexus/Pixel user, is EXACTLY what Google’s Pixel range should be all about: value for money, software, performance, and utility.
And if you can impress a tech journalist with your $400, enough that he goes out and buys one, then convincing the general public should not be a problem.
Long live the Google Pixel 3a!
Damien McFerran has been covering phones and mobile technology for well over a decade. An Android specialist, as well as an expert reviewer of phones, Damien is one of the best technology journalists working today. He is also editorial director over at the excellent Nintendo Life.