Aishwarya Ramesh

How much equity does the newly launched Google Pixel 6 hold in smartphone space?

Google’s market share in the smartphone and laptop space is minuscule, as compared to Xiaomi, Samsung and Apple. So, why does it still try?

The newly launched Google Pixel phones come with an impressive list of features – but the price tag leaves something to be desired. The Pixel 6 is priced at Rs 44,990 and the 6 Pro is priced at roughly Rs 68,000.

According to Counterpoint Research, majority of the smartphone market share in India is held by Xiaomi, Samsung, vivo, realme, OPPO and others. OPPO’s OnePlus leads the premium smartphone market, with a 34 per cent share of the user base.

Data courtesy - Counterpoint research
Data courtesy - Counterpoint research

It’s clear from these numbers that Google Pixel phones don’t even fall into the consideration bracket for many Indians. The latest 6 and 6 Pro models won’t be available for purchase in India for these reasons. Even globally, Google Pixel phones don’t feature in the list of brands that own market share. The brands with the leading market share include Xiaomi, Samsung, Apple and vivo.

Data courtesy - Counterpoint research
Data courtesy - Counterpoint research

When its consideration is so low in consumers’ minds, why does it still try? We spoke to some market experts to find out.

Sandeep Budki, founder and managing editor at The Mobile Indian, mentions that Google essentially has been a software company at its core. It has multiple verticals – the search engine, mapping and software development. The Android ecosystem is a part of the software development vertical. It is responsible for creating the Android smartphones that you see in this vertical, Budki says.

“Hardware is one the spinoffs it ventured into sometime back. Initially, Google was partnering with third party companies for the Pixel phones, including brands like HTC, LG and Huawei. With this partnership, these phones become co-branded phones. Hardware has always been dependent on vendors or OEMs, but software has been its own stock Android – a software that doesn’t have any additional layers.”

Sandeep Budki
Sandeep Budki

Budki explains that every brand (for example Samsung or Xiaomi) takes the basic foundation of the Android system from Google and then builds its own user interface on top of it. “Pixel is making the phone through different OEM partners, but Google has never been extremely serious about this part of its business. It wants to show to the world that it is capable of dabbling in this field, but it never followed through with it.”

Last year’s Pixel didn’t release in India because a navigation chip that was part of the phone wasn’t allowed to be used in India with the satellites.

Budki adds that even when it comes to phones and hardware, Google doesn’t see India as a serious market. Otherwise, the phones would have been priced much more competitively.

“Google hasn’t been able to push the Pixel hard because of the pricing, which is non-competitive. It wants to show the people what the company’s hardware and software capabilities are, but people aren’t buying it,” says Budki.

He adds that Google’s Chromebook laptops are going through a similar fate. Chromebooks were initially targeted at the students, but the prices are much higher than other laptops targeted at them in India.

According to Divyapratap Mehta, founder of the consulting agency Intertwined Brand Solutions (ex-national planning director at Publicis), this is Google’s bid to gain control over the full user experience.

“It’s not a complex strategy. Google is attempting to aggregate until the last mile. If it does that, it can help the users with a richer, more controlled experience. Its base software Android is used in most smartphones anyway. This is the brand’s way of trying to cover the last mile too.”

Divyapratap Mehta
Divyapratap Mehta

Mehta adds that Apple is one such brand that has been able to bridge the gap between hardware and software in order to create an optimised product. “When Apple launches a new phone, it has the power to make your old phone stop working. So, the users are forced to upgrade and buy a new phone.”

Mehta says that this has little to do with brand building and more to do with last mile control over the user experience. “Even the earlier versions of Mac computers were able to create a fully integrated user experience and that’s what makes it so popular among the users. So far, Google has only been focused on software design and it is hard for it to get the hardware interface right.”

Mehta theorises that Apple, Google and Amazon will emerge as the dominant tech companies in the future. The reason that Amazon made a play with Alexa is because (founder) Jeff Bezos believes that the future of the e-commerce industry will be voice-controlled.

Shubhajit Sen, founding partner, A Priori Consultants (ex-CMO of Micromax), speculates that Google sees Apple and iOS as its long-term strategic competitors. One of the big disadvantages that Google has is that its hardware is not as widely used as its Android software systems.

Shubhajit Sen
Shubhajit Sen

“Some capabilities of the Android system will not be experienced when the software is accessed on third party devices. This is when the issue of hardware and software not being optimised together, arises – like it is in the case of Apple.”

Sen points out that with the latest phones, Google has brought on board its own customised chip. It is the company’s attempt to own the hardware as well as software of the phones.

“The long-term global strategic plan is to create a flagship product – from the OS to the chip that powers the device. So, in that sense, the company has full control. That would showcase the true power of Android and Google,” he signs off.