After the Pixel announcement early on Wednesday morning, we ran a bit of a poll on Ausdroid to gauge your interest in Google’s newly announced phones. Overwhelmingly, you’ve told us that you just aren’t really interested. Just 18% are committed to buying a phone based on what you’ve seen so far, with a further 29% undecided … however more than 52% have said no, just not interested.
We’ve been discussing this quite a bit, actually, but not for the reason you think.
In fact, we’re surprised that it’s only 52% that have said no.
What’s wrong with the Pixel line-up?
First and foremost, the feedback is the price. With Google’s Pixel phones varying in price from $1,079 for the smaller size and 32GB storage all the way up to $1,419 for the larger size, 128GB storage, there’s little doubt that the Pixel line simply won’t be priced like the Nexus line was. We know this, or should’ve … Pixel has been, since it was incepted, Google’s premium showcase. Nexus showed off the best of Android, and as Google’s own execs say, Pixel shows off the best of Google. It’s a notch above.
This is quite a departure from the Nexus model, where premium wasn’t really the focus, and building a phone showing what Android could do was. It just so happened that this worked out to be a bit more affordable, with Nexus phones starting life significantly less expensive, though with last year’s Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, the price was starting to jump quite a bit.
Nexus comparisons aside, which probably aren’t all that fair, the pricing of the Pixel range is in keeping with what we’ve come to expect in 2016 from a premium handset. Apple’s iPhone 7 range tops out at $1,379 (though you do get 256GB of storage at that price). Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge is priced at $1,249 at the moment, with 32GB of storage. The slightly smaller Galaxy S7 is $1,149 now, though both it at its larger brother were a bit pricier at launch.
Even this little analysis paints us a bit of a picture. At $1,419, the Pixel XL 128GB is $40 more expensive than Apple’s iPhone 7 with 256GB of storage. What’s going on there?
Apple’s iPhone line is ten years old next year. Samsung’s Galaxy S line is six years old this year. These brands have been around for a number of years, and have — over time — built up quite an expertise in developing premium, highly desirable phones, and though there might be some argument, I would say they’ve built a reputation that allows them to charge a premium for their products.
Google’s Pixel line is much younger. The Pixel line’s dabble in mobile phones is younger still; in fact, it was only announced last week. To launch a brand new phone, with no pedigree, at a price point beyond what both Samsung and Apple are charging for their established, premium brands … I think it’s understandable that Google has got a few of you off side.
What’s the effect of that price?
The first and most obvious effect is that would-be customers will simply turn away. You’ve told us as much.
We’re in October, a time of year where – based on history – there aren’t many more announcements to be made until the beginning of next year. Many phone customers, especially those who buy premium, may have invested only a few months ago when the premium phones announced at Mobile World Congress made their way onto shelves. They might well choose to wait a few months until February 2017 to see what’s coming next.
Those who come from a Nexus buying background might too be holding on to their phones from last year, but they have the added disincentive of price disparity; something that customers used to Samsung and Apple prices might already be comfortable with. For these customers, the Pixel line becomes even less attractive.
Even your die-hard Android aficionados — like us — aren’t entirely sure that the investment will be made. From a quick internal discussion, Dan will buy one, and is likely to get a second, and I’m likely to get just the one, but for many of the rest, the value proposition doesn’t match the price.
Are they premium enough to justify the price, though?
This is the challenging part. No one outside of Google has had much time with the Pixel phones yet. Phones aren’t in the hands of reviewers … we’ve been told this will happen some time before the 20 October retail availability, but not by much. The only impressions out there are what limited people have formed from hands-on time with the Pixels at launch events, and those aren’t great environments to form considered opinions.
However, early impressions are very positive. Jason, Duncan and I were of mostly the same mind after comparing notes. The Pixel phones feel amazing. They’re beyond buttery smooth; they’re lightning quick. The build is virtually unimpeachable. The camera software is still decidedly Google, but it’s also very good, and the camera performance is beyond anything we’ve seen in a Nexus phone before, and beyond what we’ve seen in most of 2016’s top-shelf smartphones too. For the last couple of years, Apple and Samsung have definitely led the field in camera performance, but the Pixel could — on first, brief impressions — easily beat them.
There’s more to the value proposition than how they feel and how they work, though. Phones from Google (including the former Nexus line, and these Pixels) will receive software updates before anyone else, by many months in some cases. If you like to be ahead of the pack, and receive security updates very quickly, the Pixel is the best way to do that in Android.
There’s also the other things we know about — the best of Google, as they say. Unlimited photo storage, access to and integration with Google’s new and developing products, etc. I don’t need to go into detail, because you’ve read it, and we all know it, and while there’s some value in all this, it’s not the decision point for most of us.
Where does this leave us?
To my mind, without having conducted a full review, there’s every suggestion that the Pixel line deserves premium pricing. The question in my mind is whether it deserves pricing beyond what everyone else is doing, while — ostensibly — not offering as much. iPhone 7 doubles the storage for less coin. Samsung S7 offers less storage, but for two hundred dollars less, from a more established brand of smartphone.
Are we surprised that only 18% of Ausdroid readers who answered are interested in buying? Not really. Are we surprised that 52% have already decided against? A little.
Without knowing more, and without gaining that knowledge from a full review, and reading the reviews of others, it’s too hard to say — on paper — that the Pixel line represents good value. I have a sneaking suspicion that a review will bring this out, and some will be changing their minds. Will we see significantly more than 18% deciding to buy, though?
What are your thoughts on all this?