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Google sold over 1 million Pixels: what it means

Last year, Google launched their “first” phone; Pixel phone by Google. The phone was hit among tech reviewers and Android enthusiasts. They compared the software optimization to how Apple can optimize iOS for the iPhone. Google was able to control the hardware and optimize Android to level unseen before. I said this was Google’s “first” phone because they’ve had the Nexus line which was still designed by them but heavily outsourced to a third party like LG, HTC, or Huawei. The Pixel outsourced to HTC, but Google played a larger role in the hardware design and manufacturing. Beyond the praise from tech reviewers, journalist, and enthusiast, the Pixel has won over some consumer. According to the Pixel Launcher on the Google Play store, there is somewhere between 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 installs. Because the Pixel Launcher is limited to the Pixel, we can roughly track how many Pixels sold.

Since Google only recently updated the installs from 500,000 – 1,000,000, we know the device only recently passed the threshold. The Play store doesn’t provide details on whether the phones a Pixel XL or a Pixel. While we don’t have concert numbers, it’s still interesting to see how many phones sold. Google spent millions on promoting the phone, and it’s mostly a failure.

iPhone sales chart

A million Pixels sold doesn’t compare to the iPhone

A million phones sold for Google is a significant achievement but also doesn’t compare to other competitors. Samsung, Apple, and other Android handsets makers blow by the million units sold all fairly quickly. Smaller brands like Honor or Essential phone will struggle to reach a million phones sold, but they’re smaller unknown brands that need to fight for consumers trust and attention.  They don’t have a large marketing budget or deals with major carriers to push the phones heavily.

Google partnered with Verizon to have the phones as a carrier exclusive. You could still buy the phone unlocked but limiting to Verizon customers was a poor bet. I know working with Verizon meant a bigger marketing budget and getting the phone in front of customers. At the same time, it meant they were limited to a small group of customers. If Google cut a deal with every carrier, they could have reached more customers and possibly sold more phones. Betting on a carrier exclusive in today’s world is a poor choice. I get the iPhone used AT&T as an exclusive carrier but the phones back then had crapware always loaded on, and the iPhone was the first phone untouched by the carrier. It’s more common to see a phone without carrier crap. Google could have spent the money or lobbied with carriers to get deals with all the major carriers; Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.

Google is gearing up to release the Pixel 2 this fall, and they’ll have an uphill battle if they’re committed. Google needs to keep up with Samsung, LG and possibly the iPhone 8 with their edge-to-edge display. They also need to bring the Pixel to more carriers to help sell more to possible Android lovers and iPhone converts.

Let me know what you think about the Pixel. I love the handset, but it has some glaring flaws from the phone overheating to software problems with the phone randomly restarting.