Francisco Jeronimo of IDC published some surprising sales stats for Google’s Pixel line, saying that 2019 was the hardware division’s best year so far, and with sales up 52 percent from 2018, Google managed to outsell OnePlus in 2019.
Google’s Pixel line was most recently in the news for the fallout from a disappointing Pixel 4 launch, so some positive sales news is unexpected. A report from The Information claims that Google Hardware leader Rick Osterloh internally criticized the Pixel 4 before launch, and both the Pixel line’s general manager and the Pixel Camera lead have left the team in the past year. As a response to the report, Google CEO Sundar Pichai gave an interview to The Verge saying “hardware is hard” and that he takes a long-term view of the Pixel team’s hardware efforts.
These sales numbers are mostly not about the Pixel 4, though. In terms of devices, 2019 device sales for Google mostly means the Pixel 3 and 3a. While the Pixel 4 launched in 2019, that was only in October. The Pixel 3 was for sale the entire year, having launched just a few months before 2019, and the cheaper Pixel 3a was available from May 2019 onward.
Google is also on record as saying the Pixel 3 sold less than the Pixel 2, so you have to credit some of this growth to the Pixel 3a, which allowed Google to tackle a lower, $400 price point. That makes a ton of sense: if you sell a cheaper phone, it becomes affordable to more people. So generally, cheaper phones sell more.
The 3a represents a market Google didn’t address in 2018. Jeronimo also cites the expansion of the Pixel sales into three new markets, so more potential customers means more sales.
. @Google continues to expand the #Pixel portfolio and sales are growing. In 2019 shipments grew 52% YoY to reach the highest volume ever, with strong performances in the USA, Western Europe and Japan. It now ships more units than @oneplus but it is still far from reaching Top10 pic.twitter.com/qY66isF9vN
— Francisco Jeronimo (@fjeronimo) June 9, 2020
In the smartphone market, 7.2 million sales is not a lot, and Jeronimo says Google is “still far from reaching the top 10” smartphone manufacturers. For a look at what a “top 10” list looks like, we have this 2019 market share report from Counterpoint. From top to bottom, Google is behind Samsung, Huawei, Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Lenovo Group, LG, RealMe, and Tecno.
That market share report also give us raw numbers. Samsung, the no. 1 manufacturer in 2019 with 20 percent of the market, sold 296.5 million devices, according to Counterpoint Research. With 1.486 billion phones sold overall in 2019, Google’s 7.2 million in sales gave it a 0.4 percent market share.
Google might be beating OnePlus, but OnePlus is not a great comparison point for Google, since the company is just a side project of a much larger Chinese company called BBK. BBK is like the General Motors of smartphones—a giant company with several sub-brands that share parts and engineering efforts, while targeting different markets. “OnePlus” as a standalone company isn’t trying to dominate the world—that’s BBK’s job as a whole. OnePlus is just after the enthusiast market in places like the United States and India.
BBK’s brands are OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, and iQoo, several of which are in Counterpoint’s “top 10” chart for 2019. If you combined the brands into a single “BBK” listing, the company would be the world’s no. 2 smartphone manufacturer. Many Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Xiaomi struggle to compete in the worldwide market, but BBK has a presence in most of the major markets thanks to the multi-brand approach.
Next up for the Pixel line will be the launch of the Pixel 4a, though the phone has been delayed quite a bit. The phone originally should have launched at Google I/O in May, but the show was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Rumor has it we’re looking at a July release now, which would be just three months away from the typical October release window for the next high-end Pixel, the Pixel 5.
Listing image by Ron Amadeo