Some business decisions are obviously brilliant from the moment, while others take time to play out before final assessments can be made. The jury is still out on Google’s Pixel smartphone experiment, which started as a way to create hero software for Android software, but apparently did not generate the sales or impact Google expected, in part due to the long shadow cast by Apple’s flagship and close – flagship iPhones. This week, Google changed strategies – at least for the time being – by refocusing pixels as medium-sized 5G devices, apparently in pursuit of greater mainstream success.
I’m not yet sure if Google’s choice will eventually turn out to be smart or foolhardy, but the company deserves some credit for actually having a strategy and seeing where it goes. As terrible as 2020 has been, this seems like year to focus on both affordable phones and deliver great value for the price. That̵
The Pixel 4a 5G is a $ 499 5G phone with a 6.2-inch OLED screen and 6GB of RAM, housed in a plastic part with no water resistance. The base model includes sub-6GHz 5G support, compatible with most of the world’s current 5G networks; a Verizon-specific version with millimeter-wave 5G support costs $ 599. Pixel 5 is a $ 699 5G phone with a 6-inch OLED screen, 8GB of RAM and a waterproof aluminum part. This model has no surcharge if you want Verizon millimeter wave 5G support; all US versions of the Pixel 5 have both millimeter wave and sub-6 GHz 5G, while non-US models only support sub-6 GHz networks.
So Google’s pitch is simple: You can choose between $ 499, $ 599 and $ 699 Pixel phones with 5G – and it’s no more expensive. All the new phones come with 128 GB of storage, and the $ 699 Pixel 5 is top of the line, period. Meanwhile, Apple is just weeks away from unveiling its first 5G iPhones, which are expected to have base prices of $ 649, $ 749, $ 999 and $ 1,099 before no doubt adding necessary memory upgrades. The most affordable new iPhone will probably be called the iPhone 12 mini, has a 5.4-inch screen and includes only 64 GB of storage. You have to spend at least $ 749 on a new iPhone to get a Pixel 4a screen, and for that price you may not even get Pixel-equivalent storage.
If the details above were important, this would not seem like a fair fight. Google’s delivery of 5G phones at prices Apple will not match at a time when every dollar means something to millions of potential customers. If you think that Google – and I do, given the well-known importance of aggressive pricing in consumer electronics marketing – $ 349 Pixel 4a 4G is already outsourcing the company’s earlier, more expensive Pixel 4 flagships despite lower components. The value sells, and if that trend continues, the new pixels can have a great holiday.
But like most strategies, Google’s choice to focus on the middle without any real “hero model” on top has several serious risks. First, many companies make mid-range 5G Android phones; The non-premium smartphone market is clearly a red sea with no shortage of options, regardless of the specifications you are looking for. Second, Google is in a challenging position of having fewer prominent hardware features to switch from “all” to “all” phones. Unlike last year’s Pixel 4, the new models lack the Soli radar, Pixel Neural Core AI processor and telecom camera, to name a few features.
The third risk may be the greatest of all. Instead of using Qualcomm’s latest flagship Snapdragon 8 series processor, as it did last year, Google’s entire Pixel series in 2020 is based on mid-range 7-series processors, with the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 using the Snapdragon 765G. While it is true that this is an upper midsize part of Qualcomm standards, it is not the kind of chip choice that will inspire Pixel 4 owners to upgrade to Pixel 5, to move from Series 8 to Series 7.
The Pixel family essentially moves sideways as processor technology advances. Google is not going to win any AI performance awards with 765G, which promises 5.5 trillion operations per second (TOPS) compared to the 11 TOPS promised by Apple’s iPhone 12-bound A14 Bionic chip. To keep everything else the same, it would be 50% lower performance, a huge AI deficit. And while full references are not yet out for the A14 Bionic, it will almost certainly trample Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 865 in both CPU and GPU performance, leaving the older 765G in the dust.
Unlike Google, Apple is likely to include its latest processor instead of a year-old midrange option in the iPhone 12. The result, like the iPhone SE to Pixel 4a comparison, will be an iPhone 12 mini that is more expensive and less shielded than the Pixel 4a 5G. but significantly faster when running demanding apps and games. Future proofreading matters, especially since people are now hanging on to phones for three years on average, and there is not much question that Apple will continue to support the iPhone with new iOS releases for at least as long as Google.
Only time will tell if Google was wise to point its new Pixel phones at Apple’s center rather than its head or arms, but regardless of the outcome, this will be an interesting battle to watch next year. Android’s strongest advantage over iOS has been the large number of companies companies have made available at various prices, including those that deliver better than iPhone hardware while undercutting Apple’s notoriously large profit margin – even if they do not achieve sales volume at the iPhone level. . This year’s Pixel phones will certainly not be the only Android devices with midrange performance, but they can help 5G become available to people Apple is not ready to record in 2020, and that alone can be a good justification for their existence.