The Pixel 6a marks Google’s return to India, but will it succeed?

The Pixel 4a came to India a few months late, but that didn’t stop it from becoming an instant hit – something you don’t often get to say about Google phones – by hitting value. But that was two years ago, and the South Asian country hasn’t seen a Google phone since. After a two-year hiatus, the wait is almost over: the budget Pixel 6a will make its way to India in the coming months. There couldn’t be a better time for the budget Pixel phone to re-enter the Indian market, but its success depends on one key factor.

However, the Pixel 6a is not coming to India any time soon. A tweet from Google India in response to the main Google I/O keynote vaguely mentions “later this year” as the launch timeline. The situation is also not much different in other dozens of markets, including the US, where the device appeared in July. But that’s still an improvement over the Pixel 5a, which was never made available outside of Japan and the US during the pandemic due to supply chain constraints.


The delay could actually be a good thing (for Google)

In 2020, the Pixel 4a’s Indian debut was also a few months behind the US. Google timed it to match the mega sales that happened in the weeks leading up to Diwali, but the company struggled to keep up with high demand. Retailers usually make a big chunk of their annual phone sales during the Diwali season, and it could give Google the kick-start it so desperately needs in the Indian market.

Assuming Google has similar plans this time around, the Pixel 6a could launch sometime in early October. But that’s nothing more than an assumption, and given how volatile supply chains have been lately, it would take a lot of things for the Pixel phone to succeed in time. Interesting, a tipster recently tweeted that the Indian release could coincide with the US, i.e† by the end of July.

Source: Google

But this months-long delay also comes with some drawbacks. Enthusiasm among potential buyers will diminish over time. And given how fast the local smartphone industry is, there will be a ton of options to choose from in a few months. One cannot ignore the ability of the Chinese smartphone makers to be keen to quickly adapt and react to any change in the market, this time the Pixel 6a.

The Pixel Advantage:

As quickly as competitors respond to Google’s mid-range offerings, there are certain things a Pixel could do better every day. Mid-range phones take good photos in daylight, but often struggle in low light. But Pixels, even the a-series, shine in all scenarios. And the 6a even gets all the AI-enabled camera tricks of its more expensive siblings, positioning the phone in a unique way.

Source: Google

The Pixel’s clean software experience also stands out when compared to the competition’s heavily loaded skins. Motorola is the only other brand that offers an equally clear operating system, but the update obligation lags behind the first updates from Google. The benchmark that Pixel phones have set could probably even push other brands like OnePlus and Xiaomi to step up their game to provide better and ongoing software support.

If there’s a Pixel with a shot at making it big in India, it’s the Pixel 6a.

But that’s not even the best part. With Google’s custom Tensor chip making its way into the budget segment, the new Pixel 6a is on par with the Pixel 6 Pro and other flagships in performance. That puts it against the iPhone SE, minus the dated design.

It will take a lot to beat brands like Xiaomi and Realme that have a strong foothold in the Indian market. But considering everything the new budget Google phone brings to the table, if any Pixel has a chance of going big in India, it’s the Pixel 6a.

When price matters – a lot

Those who follow the Indian smartphone market know that price segments work a little differently here. A phone that costs more than ₹40,000 (~$520) is considered premium and the Pixel 6a’s price with taxes is pretty close to this figure. So it becomes crucial for Google to stay below that figure to make the Pixel 6a worthwhile for buyers.

Fortunately for Google, the ₹30-40,000 price range is on the rise in the country, although most sales are in the lower segments. The increased consumer interest has led all major companies to offer dozens of good options. But most of these phones lack the superior overall experience buyers in this segment want – an experience the Google Pixel 6a delivers.

It’s not all rosy for Google though, as Apple is looking at the same price range. Armed with its local production chops (resulting in lower taxes), the heavily discounted iPhone 12 and 11 series was among the bestsellers during last year’s Diwali rush. While it can still be relatively easy for Google to pull buyers away from other Android phone brands, competing with Apple can prove to be an uphill task, especially when iPhones are an ambitious value.

The success of the Pixel 6a depends entirely on one factor: the price.

India has never been a priority market for Google hardware. There hasn’t been a Pixel flagship launched in the country since the Pixel 3, the new Chromecast hasn’t gotten here yet, and Amazon Echo speakers routinely outsell Google’s Home speakers.

Despite all these opportunities and limited local availability in various categories, Google still managed to create a buzz around the Pixel 6 in India – a phone that was not officially offered in the country. Some diehard Pixel fans here have bought imported units from local dealers without any warranty coverage, just to have a phone not made by one of the mainstream brands. Even listed the phone through a third-party seller, and the price isn’t too low for the US suggested retail price.

The sales figures for these imported devices are obviously not high, but the fact that this is even happening is a telltale sign that Indians are interested in Pixel phones. Last year’s Pixel 6 series has created a positive perception among buyers in India, and its appeal has penetrated even beyond the small enthusiast group. Whether or not Google can take advantage of that depends entirely on one factor: the price. If Google manages to get it right, the Pixel 6a could be a huge success, but if not, it’s Google that loses, not the buyers.

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