Why do Pixel phones exist? (and how they just hurt Apple in revenge big time)

I never cease to amaze how wrong tech writers get some things. For years now I read about how Google has failed with Pixel phones, “never quite got it right”, “hasn’t got market share” and other such comparisons with companies that are nothing like Google.

Pixel phones were never meant to sell a lot. That would be suicidal. Google is not a hardware company. (Yet) And if it becomes one, it will not be from selling phones that the profits will come. Google sells ads. Everything else is an enticing freebie. To get you to buy ads.

Case in point, Android. The dominant superpower of smartphones globally. Unless you live in a bubble in the West Coast, New York ….or the magazines and tech blogger world. They write about a company with less than 1/10th of the market share globally, as if it is an equally powerful opponent. It is a rerun of the PCs vs Mac “wars” of the past. Again, a completely insignificant market share of Macs was held up so antitrust authorities and whoever doesn’t like monopolies could pretend Microsoft had an opponent.

But Google needed to find a way to control the ecosystem. They tried Nexus, they tried Google One (Google Go, whatever) and they tried Google Pixel. They don’t want to sell million of phones. They want to sell just enough to goad the rest of the market in the right direction. Everyone now talks about a “clean Android” experience as a major selling point. Bloatware on Samsung and other market leaders has gone down dramatically. You are either with Google or …well, with Google but they let you add a twist here and there in case you come up with something innovative.

Enter the Pixel3a. Now that is something different and mysterious. So far they artificially kept Pixel prices high so as not to antagonize other Android manufacturers. Here we have a different story. This is revenge. The product launched just as Tim Cook had decided to make privacy a major selling point on iOS. And with the launch of one device, Google kicked him back in the groin. Just as millions of iPhone users are wondering if it is worth spending 1000 bucks on a new device, the Pixel3a offers premium everything at 400.

Google will not pursue it further. You can be sure that there will be problems with availability and all the other excuses they have used in the past years to purposely stop Pixel and Nexus devices from eating up market share from Google’s Android partners. Tim Cook seems to be backing down on his privacy-based effort to differentiate Apple products. If he doesn’t, Google can easily wipe more value off his company by launching a Pixel 4a or shelling out Amazon Prime day offers for the 3a at 300 bucks or whatever it takes to demolish all that magic dust Apple took years to rub onto their overpriced devices. Google doesn’t even need to make another mid-priced phone. They have just officialized the category. Xiaomi and other manufacturers can now capitalize on it.

It is a great example of how a company loses focus and fails. Apple is too big to fail of course, more an international currency than the dollar. But some of us, in times like this, get a glimpse at just how well a behemoth such as Google can play the monopoly game with style.

Oh, and grab a Pixel 3a, it really is a stunning device for that sort of money.