Google Share to Drop Leading up to Pixel 6 Launch

Last month, Google released its new Google Pixel 5a 5G model, the follow-up to last year’s Pixel 4a and 4a 5g. The Pixel 5a 5G packs decent specs compared to its predecessor, including a larger 6.34” display, a 4680 mAh battery, an updated Snapdragon 765G processor, and water and dust resistance. More importantly, the Pixel 5a 5G retails for $449 compared to the Pixel 4a 5G’s $499 launch price.

Despite these improvements, however, the Pixel 5a 5G will struggle to find success in the US market. First of all, the Pixel 5a 5G did not see a global launch like its predecessors. Instead, it is only available for purchase in the US and Japan. This signals that Google is probably facing stiff competition for components amid ongoing shortages. More concerning for Google, however, is the lack of availability of the device in the markets the device did launch in.

Previous Google devices have been widely available in the US market even if they have failed to achieve more than niche popularity. The Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 were all available through Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as in unlocked channels like Best Buy and Amazon. In stark contrast, the Pixel 5a 5G is available solely through the Google Store and is unlikely to launch at the carriers. There are a few reasons for this.

While the Pixel 5a 5G is a strong device for its price, it is missing a key piece of technology. With only Sub-6GHz connectivity, the device is poorly positioned to be included in AT&T and Verizon’s portfolios, as both operators are looking to expand their portfolios of mmWave-capable devices. MmWave remains an important aspect of AT&T and Verizon’s network strategies, with the two operators at least partially covering more than 40 cities each with mmWave.

But it is also possible that Google is waiting for the Pixel 6 to try and make waves in the US smartphone market. Leaks of the Pixel 6 show a revamped design that goes along with a new, custom processor. Amid reports that the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 will be discontinued following the release of the Pixel 5a 5G, Google could be attempting to distance the Pixel 6 from its previous device launches and reset its image in the smartphone market.

Whether intentional or not, the limited availability of Google smartphones will place a significant amount of pressure on the Pixel 6 to perform well. With the Pixel 5a 5G’s limited availability likely resulting in its subdued sales, Google’s market share is likely to drop leading up to the Pixel 6 launch. Once the Pixel 4a and 5 are discontinued, their share will drop even further. Google’s place in the US handset market will rely on the Pixel 6’s success.

Counterpoint Research