Google just launched a couple of iPhone clones. The Pixel and larger Pixel XL. XL? Perhaps the obvious Plus was already in use? Both models look much like Apple’s newly introduced iPhone 7 line and both bristle with the latest smartphone technology specifications; quad-core CPU, HD or Quad-HD screen, 4GB RAM, high capacity battery, excellent camera, latest Android Nougat OS.
Both models are made by struggling HTC and replace the aging Nexus line. Google simply introduced a new nameplate among the status quo of premium Android-based phones. What’s really interesting here is the Pixel’s price tag and the problem Google may face if the Pixel becomes popular.
The entry-level 32GB Pixel is priced at $649. The entry-level 32GB iPhone 7 is priced at $649. Add $100 to either one and get 128GB of storage. The larger screen Pixel is $120 more, $749. The larger screen iPhone 7 Plus is $749.
So much for premium Android smartphones being priced less than iPhones, huh?
What’s going on?
Google needs to be careful. The Pixel cannot be too successful because, after all, it’s competing against HTC, LG, Samsung, and every other premium Android-based smartphone, and most of which are priced far less than iPhone 7s.
The Pixel is priced about the same as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and the Edge, and the Note 7 is priced even higher. Premium Android-based phones are not cheap, but they receive discounts far below retail prices which Apple’s customers won’t see for a year after a new model is introduced.
Google is walking a precarious line with Pixel. The company wants to show that an Android smartphone can be sold at a profit. Samsung has proved that already with the high-end Galaxy line, but the Korean conglomerate remains the anomaly among Android device manufacturers.
The Pixel needs to sell, but not too much. It needs to become popular, even if only as a reference design for other Android device manufacturers. But not too much.
This situation is similar to a line Microsoft walks with its Surface PC line. Microsoft’s partners pay the company to install Windows but you can be sure that Dell, HP, Lenovo, and other PC makers do not appreciate having to compete with Microsoft which sells its own line of branded PCs. That’s why the Surface models occupy the premium end of the PC spectrum.
That’s why the Pixel occupies the premium end of the Android smartphone spectrum.
Will Google sell as many Pixel models as Apple sells iPhones? There’s not a chance in hell that will happen, and it has little to do with the specifications, Android itself, or a compare and contrast PowerPoint slide show between Pixel and iPhone.
Google does not want Pixel to succeed the way iPhone succeeds in the smartphone industry, and probably not even the way Samsung’s Galaxy line succeeds because if it did, all hell would break loose in Android-land. Already Samsung is working to loosen the ties to Android with its own Tizen OS. Apple is safe because the iPhone’s ecosystem is vast and profitable for everyone– Apple, app developers, accessory makers, and even customers who get crazy high resale value from the Apple’s products; iPhone, iPad, and Mac. iOS is a key differentiator against Android devices.
Google sits in a different position, so don’t expect the search engine giant to discount Pixel the way Samsung discount Galaxy smartphones.