Tragedy of Pixel 4: Should you wait for Pixel 4a, or is this Apple’s year?

By Sourabh kulesh - October 29, 2019
The Pixel 4 series of phones aren’t coming to India, and the Apple iPhone 11 Pro has already been crowned for offering highest quality images ever on a smartphone. This article is aimed at helping t....

We all are aware of the fact that there are plenty of gadgets that aren’t available in the Indian market, and the primary reason is the lack of infrastructure support. The Google Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL smartphones are the latest casualties of the tech disparity between India and the western countries. While the Pixel smartphones do not have a huge market share, but they do have loyal ‘fans’ who love clean Android software and the AI prowess offered by Google.

For those who don’t know, the Pixel 4 series will not be launched in India. This is due to the fact that the Motion Sense radar chip, which is one of the highlights of the smartphones, works on the 60GHz mmWave frequency band. Google hasn’t received approval from the Indian government to use the bandwidth and, hence, has decided to skip India from the list of countries where the phones will be available.

A Google spokesperson later confirmed the decision saying that Google remains ‘committed to [its] current Pixel phones and looks forward to bring future Pixel devices to India.’ While the company hasn’t mentioned that it would launch the Pixel 4a a name that could be given to the next affordable Pixel smartphone – it’s possible that Google would bring it sooner to gain substantial market share. 

Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a XL: A boon for Google?

Before talking about the Pixel 4a, let’s first understand the significance of the series. Last year, Google launched the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL smartphones (Review). And in May of 2019, the company unveiled trimmed down versions of both the devices, called the Pixel 3a and the Pixel 3a XL. These smartphones offer the same camera and Android experience as their expensive siblings, but since they have a slow processor, a plastic body and a couple of other minor tweaks, the phones are priced much less than the original ones.

Google Pixel 3 Xl Intext

In the Q2 earnings call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, ‘With the launch of Pixel 3a in May, overall Pixel unit sales in Q2 grew more than two times year-over-year.’ This statement, combined with the company’s latest statement on the ‘future Pixel phones’, subtly gives hint that the Pixel 4a series of handsets may be in the making. We expect that the Pixel 4a would follow its predecessors’ footprints and offer the Pixel 4-like camera and other experiences. It may come equipped with a processor with low firepower than the Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, but it may have the same camera and pure Android OS experience as the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4XL phones. 

According to Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, there will hardly be any impact on Google’s smartphone market share in India. ‘I don’t think this is going to impact much in terms of market share for Google but surely the mind share which they could have captured through a festive season launch will be missing. However, we expect that this shouldn’t be seen an exit but rather a planned SKU approach due to the regulatory as well as ultra-premium scenario in India,’ Pathak told XiteTech.

It should be noted that Qualcomm is set to launch the newest members of the Snapdragon processors family in December. An upper mid-range processor – similar to the Snapdragon 670 in Pixel 3a Series of phones – could be a viable option for Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a devices. Further, Google could remove the Soli radar chip, which facilitates the Motion Sense, and replace it with an under-display fingerprint sensor.

‘Google may have a Pixel 4a-level SKU in mind, which can be later launched in India. Indian premium smartphone segment still has a lot of room for OEMs to grow. The premium smartphone market is growing at a rate of 20 per cent while the overall smartphone market is growing at a rate of 10 per cent. What’s interesting to see is that the flagship smartphone market in India contributes to just five per cent of the overall smartphone market. So, there is plenty of opportunities to grow,’ Pathak added.

Should you go for iPhone 11 Pro?

Apple launched the iPhone 11 series of phones, which include the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. As per reports, the Apple iPhone 11 Pro was claimed to have the best smartphone camera – at least till the reviews of the Pixel 4 were out. What this translates for Indian users is that the phone with the best camera performance is the Apple iPhone 11 Pro, currently. Now those Indians who use largely use their phones for mobile photography and were waiting for the arrival of the Pixel 4 series could now be in a dilemma – should you go for iPhone 11 Pro, or wait for the Pixel 4-related announcements? Well, that’s a tricky question.

IPhone 11 Pro Intext

Practically, if you were waiting to purchase the Pixel 4, the only viable option left for you now is to go for the iPhone 11 Pro. This will technically put Apple in a win-win situation in India.  Pathak says, ‘Apple is going great as per our initial checks for India festive season. We don’t have projected any number, but it seems that it will be a record Q4 for Apple in India.’

Given Google’s plan to expand its hardware line-up, the seriousness by which it is working on its devices, and India being an important market for the company, it is possible that it may launch the Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a XL early next year.

...or should you buy the Pixel 3/Pixel 3a?

If you don’t have deep pockets to purchase an iPhone 11 Pro but want a good phone with an impressive camera, you can still purchase last year’s flagship, the Pixel 3 or the Pixel 3 XL. Yes, the hardware is dated but it is still a powerful device with one of the best cameras on a smartphone. Or you can purchase the affordable Pixel 3a or Pixel 3a XL (Review)

‘I don’t think 3a sales will pick up unless heavily discounted as older flagships of Samsung and other premium brands had significant price cut during the ongoing festive season. Yes, Pixel 4  has been getting good reviews. And many have praised its camera, especially in the Android camp. So, camera aficionados in India will miss Huawei and Pixel – at the same time leading to benefit Samsung and iPhone 11 series,’ Pathak noted.

Pixel 3 Intext

Moreover, Google’s announcement of extending the ‘Astrophotography’ feature to the Pixel 3 devices gives you another strong reason to purchase this phone. This move shows that Google knew it might lose potential customers of the Pixel 4, but it is working on an alternative so that people can still purchase its devices. The company’s software game is strong, and it may work out in their favour. Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a series of phones have received price cuts in India, so it might be a good time for you to grab one.

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