Reports earlier this year painted a bleak picture for Google’s smartphone efforts. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL arguably had the best version of Android on board, but sales were down from the year before. Google needed to give its phones a boost, and the Pixel 3a reportedly did just that. A new analysis claims Google is again one of the fastest-growing smartphone makers on the back of the 3a.
For most of Android’s history, Google didn’t care much about selling its own phones. The Nexus series was little more than a way to show off unblemished Android and promote the platform to developers. When Google got serious about selling phones, it reorganized everything under the Pixel brand. It now designs and maintains the phones itself, and new features like Duplex and Call Screen have come to Pixel phones first.
Despite all that, Google admitted earlier this year that its phone sales were down. So, the improved third-gen Pixels were selling worse than the second-gen. Companies like Samsung or Apple can cope with declining sales because they’re huge, but Google didn’t have enough market share to be losing already.
The Pixel 3 started at $800, and the 3 XL is $900, but both have been discounted in recent months. Google may have missed the mark on pricing because the cheaper Pixel 3a turned the entire operation around, according to Counterpoint Research. The firm says Google saw an 88 percent year-over-year sales increase in the second quarter of 2019. That’s short of OnePlus’ 152 percent growth but better than Motorola (53 percent) and Apple (14 percent).
Smartphone sales overall fell 1.5 percent in Q2 with companies like Samsung, ZTE, and LG seeing lower shipments. Virtually everyone has a smartphone now, and they’re using those phones longer before upgrading. The Pixel 3 didn’t convince people to upgrade, but it seems the Pixel 3a offered the right combination of price and features. The Pixel 3a and 3a XL offer almost all the features of the more expensive Pixels, but they start at just $400.
Google also seems determined not to let history repeat itself with the Pixel 4. Even with the announcement a few months away, Google has taken the unusual step of posting teasers and talking about upcoming features like 3D face unlock and the radar-powered Soli gestures. We expect the Pixel 4 to debut in October, but maybe the Pixel 4a will be Google’s next major launch.