The Missing Piece In Google’s Pixel Puzzle

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this before: Google is about to take hardware seriously.

Yeah, yeah, i know. I’m going to stop for a second while you regain your composure.

Look, I’m a big fan of what Google is trying to do with its Pixel products. If you’ve read my ramblings for long (or seen the multicolored NSFW “P” logo tattoos on various parts of me), you know how I feel about the Pixel’s place in the Android ecosystem and the critical role it plays. he plays. (I’m just kidding about the tattoos, by the way.) (For now.)

But the truth is, we’ve been hearing the line “Google is about to get serious about hardware” for a long time – over and over again. At some point, you have to ask, “Uh, gang? When does this actually start?! »

Today is that day. I ask the question, publicly, here and now. But I am also cautiously expressing optimism that the answer is resounding: “Right now – for real this time. »

All hot air aside, there’s only one way hope could happen. And it would require Google to overcome a major challenge that the company has yet to show any signs of being ready for.

Let me explain.

Perspective in pixels

First, a bit of background needed to set the scene here: It’s important to note that Google’s hardware manufacturing ambitions technically date back to pre-Pixel times. Aside from its (mostly) fan-focused Nexus phones, Google has been churning out its own Chromebook Pixel products starting in 2015. It’s been making a variety of Chromecast-branded streaming Doohickeys since 2013. And there’s been this, uh , extraordinarily short-lived Nexus Q….incident around 2012 (but we won’t talk about it).

It was when El Googster pivoted to the Pixel phone plan, however, that things really started. That’s when the hardware became minus one hobby and more than one affair. And not only that, we were assured, but it also marked the start of hardware becoming a core part of Google’s broader business. plan for the future of the company.

“Fundamentally, we think a lot of the innovation we want to do now ends up requiring end-to-end user experience control,” Google’s then-new hardware chief. told The Verge in 2016, around the launch of the first-generation Pixel phone model.

And then there’s this oft-quoted excerpt from that same article:

Osterloh knows that “we’re definitely not going to have huge volumes of this product. This is the very first round for us. The measure of Google’s success for the Pixel will not be whether it takes significant market share, but whether it can achieve customer satisfaction and form retail and carrier partnerships that Google can operate for years to come.

OK. Chill. 2016 was therefore the beginning. What about 2017?

That’s when Google hardware was “no longer a hobby”, because the next Osterloh-interview-driven article at The Proclaimed Verge.


Last year was a coming-out party for Google hardware. This year is something different. It’s a statement that Google is very serious about turning hardware into a true full-scale enterprise – but maybe not this year.

Gotcha. Ah, and:

While Osterloh expects the Pixel to “become a big and meaningful business for the company over time,” its benchmark right now isn’t sales, but “consumer satisfaction.” and user experience”. So I ask: what about in five years? “We don’t want it to be a niche thing,” says Osterloh. “We hope to sell products in large quantities within five years. »

In five years. That was 2017. And now it’s 2022. There you go.

Pixel potential

As we approach the half-decade of Google’s last “serious” moment, it seems safe to say that Pixel adoption isn’t where Google hoped at this point. Most market share analyzes show that Google has such a small share of the US mobile market that it rarely warrants a presence on an official-looking line chart. “Lower single-digit percentages” would be the most polite way to sum up the status of the brand so far.

The problem is certainly not the Pixel product or its advantages over other Android options, especially from a business perspective. Pixel phones are the only Android devices that get reliable and timely OS and security updates, even when they’re a year or two old, without any troubling asterisks — you know, pesky little things like privacy policies that allow the device manufacturer to collect and sell your personal data.

On a more tangible level, the Pixel line has some phenomenally useful features no one else even comes close to matching – things like Google’s AI-powered hold-for-you phone system, the navigation genius of the Pixel-exclusive phone maze and Pixel call filtering and filtering technology that blocks spam. And all this just the beginning.

So what gives? Well, it’s almost ridiculously simple: average schmoes need to know all of this. Humans who buy phones and the clearly non-human creatures who run corporate IT departments should be aware that even Pixel products to existfirst and foremost – and then they need to figure out why they’re worth considering over the most well-known Android phone options.

So far, Google has done a pretty poor job of making that happen. My longtime exercise is to take a Pixel-exclusive feature and imagine if Apple had its grimy virtual paws on the same thing. Imagine how Apple would market it if the next iPhone had AI-enabled call screening, effective robo-blocking technology, or a futuristic hold-for-you system. They would all be innovative, revolutionary, magical and revolutionary the game changers, garsh dern it! These would be life-transforming revelations available “only on iPhone” (because when someone pretentiously avoids using articles while referring to their products, you know they must matter).

Pure and simple, we would never hear the end of it. And with Google? Google has these products this minute. How many non-tech-obsessed people do you do you know who knows about any of them?

Marketing has never been Google’s strength, to say the least. But now, as we approach that “high-volume” goal five years later, we can only hope that someone in the business realizes that great experiences alone aren’t enough to engage the masses to what you do.

You also need to make sure they know it. That’s the real challenge Google faces if it wants the Pixel brand to matter – and if it wants to convince us that it’s really, really ready to take the hardware seriously.

Don’t let yourself miss an ounce of Pixel magic. Sign up for my free online course Pixel Academy to discover tons of hidden features for your favorite Pixel phone.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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