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Google Pixel 3a's camera is hot, but the price is not

Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL promise a new dawn for camera on mid-range smartphones, but the price kills it before arrival. With OnePlus 7 launching next, Pixel 3a series is likely to be overshadowed.

Google Pixel 3a (1)

Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are finally here. The two devices, meant to enforce Google as a bigger player in the mobile hardware segment, have been part of leaks and rumors since late last year but now that they are official, it leaves a lot to be desired. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL bring back the memories of now discontinued Nexus series, which offered premium hardware, class leading software in a price that most people love. However, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL price in India make you wonder if these devices can even be called cheaper smartphones.

The first and the most important thing to know is that Google’s Pixel series has never stood for the hardware but rather for its experience. Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Hardware at Google, said the company aims to make “technology more available and accessible for everyone” and that is the premise for these two new smartphones. With the Pixel 3a series, Google wants to bring that experience to even cheaper devices but in markets like India, that experience can already be found – elsewhere. There is a lot going for the Pixel series, they are the first to get Android software updates and the new Pixel 3 smartphones have the best camera on any smartphone right now.

While competitors like Samsung and Huawei have added more cameras to their flagship smartphones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL achieve most of those functions with a single camera. Where the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL excel though is with image quality and color science. The images shot with Pixel 3 series offer dynamic range and color saturation that are more natural and pleasing to look than those seen on rival smartphones. The promise of that same camera on a smartphone costing hundreds of dollars less is tempting to say the least but from an Indian context, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL look not only expensive but overpriced for the market.

In the US, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are priced at $399 and $479 respectively. In India, the devices are priced at Rs 39,999 and Rs 44,999 respectively. In pure dollar terms alone, the Pixel 3a’s cost seems to be calculated at over Rs 100 for a dollar while that of Pixel 3a XL seems to have been calculated at over Rs 93 for a dollar. Google, which imports Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL as completely built units, has to pay import duty but even after that, the pricing seems to be on the higher end of the spectrum.

“The specifications of Pixel 3a are totally out of sync with what the customers would expect. It will be straight compared with OnePlus 7, which is far more better in specs it is expected to offer,” Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC said in an email. This is the real problem for the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, which goes on sale in India from May 15. By the time Flipkart starts selling the Pixel 3a series, most Indian consumers would know all the features and price of OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro.

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The leaks so far suggest that OnePlus 7 will be priced on par with Pixel 3a while OnePlus 7 Pro could be a bit more expensive than the Pixel 3a XL. However, the OnePlus 7 series will rock Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855 mobile platform, and likely to boast improved cameras. OnePlus also offers refined operating experience in the form of OxygenOS and its track record in terms of software is better than that of Samsung and Huawei. India is a market dominated by price-to-performance ratio and Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL do not make a strong impression.

“I see this product will not be doing a great success in the market. Looks like Google in the attempt of making its brand accessible to wider potential buyers, has designed a mediocre smartphone in terms of specifications not aligning with what users in the segment expect,” Kawoosa added.

Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research, however believes Pixel 3‘s sales were constrained by channel strategy and Pixel 3a series could sell better in key markets. “With Apple and Samsung available in 6x and 13x more countries than Google, Pixel series reach was limited to only a handful of countries to target a potential user base who is looking to buy something different from Apple and Samsung. Additionally, lack of availability on retail shelves was a challenge too. For example in the USA, it was limited to Verizon,” he said in an email.

He adds that Pixel 3a series gives Google the opportunity to start from scratch in emerging markets like India, where premium market is small but growing fast. “This can help Google to lock in some first time users who are looking for premium features at an affordable price. Eventually competing in OnePlus segment,” he added.

Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL are not bad devices and are in fact, the kind of devices that smartphone makers should launch more. Not every smartphone user wants ultra premium design but one thing every user commands is smooth experience. Google has the unique position to deliver such an experience but at a starting price of Rs 39,999, Pixel 3a offers a great camera experience but not a well rounded smartphone experience that ticks all the boxes. While Apple managed to sell iPhone SE as a cheaper iPhone in the Indian market, it needs to be seen whether Google has the clout to pull something similar.

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  • Published Date: May 8, 2019 3:19 PM IST

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