In terms of smartphones, the Google Pixel 4 range was one of the biggest disappointments of 2019, and a few snippets from Alphabet’s latest earnings call have strongly hinted that the firm’s latest handsets are not selling well.
It was more a case of what wasn’t said, rather than an outright admission of the Pixel 4 being a flop. The handset was mentioned only once during the entire call and, tellingly, the firm deliberately kept things vague.
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“Hardware is still in the early stages of delivering on our vision for ambient computing,” said Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai during Alphabet’s Q4 earnings call, covering the three months spanning October to December (via Motley Fool).
“Our home devices demonstrate how this vision can come to life in creating the home of the future with our new Nest Mini and Nest Hub Max, selling well over the holidays, following on from the Pixel 3a, which sold well last year.
“With Pixel 4, we continue to build out our capabilities and are keenly focused on execution, delivering great user experiences and broadening our distribution.”
It isn’t unusual for Google to brush over Pixel sales in its earnings calls. For instance, its phones were mentioned just three times during Alphabet’s Q4 2018 earnings call.
However, things sounded much more positive back then, with Pichai saying of the Pixel 3 range at the time: “We offer the best experience today on our products like Pixel, our Made by Google products. And we are looking to scale it up to reach more users. But we think we have a strong product there.”
We know that the Pixel 3 didn’t sell well, but the difference in tone from last year to now suggests that the Pixel 4 is doing even worse.
Ruth Porat, Alphabet and Google’s chief financial officer, also hinted at poor phone sales during the firm’s latest earnings call.
“In the fourth quarter, our total revenues were $46.1 billion, up 17% year-on-year and up 19% in constant currency,” she said. “Our results were driven by ongoing strength in Search, YouTube and Google Cloud, offset by a decline in hardware revenues”.
Porat also went on to mention “a decline in Hardware revenues relative to what was a fairly strong Hardware revenue growth rate in 4Q ’18”.
Once again, we should stress that the Pixel 3 was not selling well during Q4 2018.
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So why was the Pixel 4 such a disappointment? It almost exclusively comes down to the phone’s terrible battery life. During my brief time with it, I routinely had to charge the phone at least twice a day − and its battery went flat on more than one occasion.
Once again, there’s a lot riding on Google’s upcoming mid-ranger, this time the Pixel 4a.