“Awesome screen, awesome camera, long-lasting battery life,” was a tune that may still ring in the ears of many who turned on a TV around the launch of the Samsung Galaxy A51 – a few months before the launch of the Google Pixel 5.
Later in the year, you were likely greeted by advertisements of the lavish colour variations on offer from the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and its pulse-raising domino-like showcase. Apple’s ad assault started strong, of course, with Ridley Scott’s iconic 1984 Mac ad, which ran for a full minute, and carried on it the same manner with dancing jelly iMac G3s, pop art silhouette iPod spots, the “there’s an app for that” campaign, and more.
This begs the question, do you remember anything from Pixel 5 adverts? In fact, when was the last time you saw a Google Pixel advertisement? At £599, Google Pixel 5 looks like one of the best value phones on the market, while the Pixel 4a is similarly inviting, providing a top contender for the best camera and software for any phone under £400.
Yet, the popularity of the Pixel range still wanes in the face of competition from more widely adopted and promoted rivals. In the US, Google phones have a lower market share than both LG and Huawei. The former recently chose to ditch its smartphone business while the latter has not sold new phones in the country for over a year. At just over two per cent, Google market share is dwarfed by the respective 25 and 54 per cents of Samsung and Apple.
One thing is clear, there is little point in the bumps in specs and performance of the Pixel 6 if Google continues to do a poor job of shouting about it.
The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a are great phones, and, aside from a rocky time with the Pixel 4, Google’s smartphones have delivered when it comes to hardware and software. What’s not to love about the Pixel? From a camera that is praised year-on-year and great software to well-built hardware and, recently, attractive pricing, it’s a compelling package. However, the market speaks for itself and the Pixel just isn’t that popular.
An area that may go some way to explain the Pixel range’s lack of popularity, despite them being great phones, is advertising. According to Nielsen, since the start of 2016, Google has spent just over £40 million on smartphone advertising in the UK. By comparison, Apple and Samsung have spent around four and five times more than that.
If you don’t recall seeing a Pixel advert on TV, or think it’s a rarity, the breakdown of Google’s ad spend explains this. Google spent just £14 million on TV ad spend in the same period while Apple spent £75 million and Samsung shelled out a whopping £124 million. Samsung is spending more than three times as much on just its TV campaigns than Google’s entire Pixel ad spend in the UK.
Google isn’t short on resource, so this begs the question, why isn’t it spending more to get the Pixel out there? This question was being posed way back in 2016, with Wharton University publishing an article titled “Why Google’s Pixel is more about strategy than smartphones.” Professor of management David Hsu stated: “The main business of Google is enabling their advertising revenue model. Hardware is always going to pale in comparison.”
Also, in 2016, both Hsu and assistant professor of business economics and public policy Michael Sinkinson suggested the Pixel range should’ve been priced more aggressively. Since then, the “a” series of Pixels and Pixel 5 have done just that, yet not much else has changed. In the same article, Gerald Faulhauber, professor emeritus of business economics and public policy, argued Pixel would likely be around for “a couple of years and go away”. You’d forgive Faulhauber for thinking this, given Google’s track record, but the company is sticking at it.