The Pixel 4a arrived a few months late in India, but that didn’t stop it from becoming an instant hit – something you don’t often get to say about Google phones – hitting the ideal 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 about to end: the budget Pixel 6a will make its way to India in the coming months. There couldn’t have been a better time for the budget Pixel phone to re-enter the Indian market, but its success hinges on one key factor.
However, the Pixel 6a is not coming to India anytime soon. A Tweeter from Google India following the Google I/O keynote vaguely mentions “later this year” as the launch timeline. The situation isn’t much different in a dozen other markets either, including the US, where the handset was launched in July. But it’s still an improvement over the Pixel 5a, which was never available outside of Japan and the US due to supply chain constraints during the pandemic.
Delay may actually be a good thing (for Google)
In 2020, the Pixel 4a’s debut in India was also a few months behind the US. Google timed it to match the mega sales that took place in the weeks leading up to Diwali, but the company struggled to keep up with the high demand. Retailers typically make a large chunk of their annual phone sales during the Diwali season, and that could give Google the boost it desperately needs in the Indian market.
Assuming Google has similar plans this time around, the Pixel 6a could launch around early October. But that’s nothing more than a guess, and given how volatile supply chains have been lately, it would take a lot for the Pixel phone to arrive in time. Interestingly, a tipster recently tweeted that the Indian exit could coincide with the United States, that is to say. by the end of July.
But this delay of several months also has its drawbacks. The enthusiasm of potential buyers is bound to fade over time. And given the rapid evolution of the local smartphone industry, there will be a ton of options to choose from in a few months. One cannot ignore the ability of Chinese smartphone makers to be on their toes to quickly adapt and respond to any change in the market, which is the Pixel 6a this time.
The Pixel Advantage
No matter how quickly competitors respond to Google’s mid-range offering, there are some things a Pixel would do any day better. Mid-range phones take good photos in daylight but tend to struggle in low light. But Pixels, even the A-series, shine in every scenario. And the 6a even gets all the AI-enabled camera tricks of its more expensive siblings, which positions the phone uniquely.
The Pixel’s clean software experience also stands out against the heavily loaded skins of its competitors. Motorola is the only other brand to offer such a clean operating system, but its update commitment lags behind Google’s day one updates. The benchmark that Pixel phones have set could probably even push other brands like OnePlus and Xiaomi to step up their game to offer better and continued software support.
If any Pixel has a chance of going 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 to the budget segment, the new Pixel 6a is on par with the Pixel 6 Pro and other flagships in terms of performance. This contrasts it to the iPhone SE, minus the dated design.
It will take a lot to beat brands like Xiaomi and Realme which have a strong presence in the Indian market. But considering all that Google’s new budget 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 the price segments here work a bit differently here. A phone that costs more than ₹40,000 (~$520) is considered premium, and the Pixel 6a’s price with tax comes pretty close to that mark. It therefore becomes crucial for Google to stay below this figure to make the Pixel 6a attractive to buyers.
Luckily for Google, the ₹30-40,000 price bracket is booming in the country, even though most sales are occurring in the lower segments. Increased consumer interest has led all major companies to come up with dozens of good options. But most of these phones don’t offer the superior overall experience that buyers in this segment want, an experience offered by Google Pixel 6a.
However, not all is rosy for Google, as Apple is eyeing the same price range. Armed with its locally made chops (resulting in lower taxes), the heavily discounted iPhone 12 and 11 series were among the top sellers during last year’s Diwali rush. While it’s still relatively easy for Google to drive buyers away from other brands of Android phones, competing with Apple can be a daunting task, especially when iPhones have ambitious value.
The success of the Pixel 6a will depend entirely on one factor: price.
India has never been a priority market for Google hardware. No Pixel flagship has launched in the country since the Pixel 3, the new Chromecast hasn’t arrived here yet, and Amazon Echo speakers regularly outsell Google Home speakers.
Despite all these odds and the limited local availability across all categories, Google still managed to create a buzz around the Pixel 6 in India, a phone that wasn’t officially offered in the country. Some diehard Pixel fans here have purchased imported units from local dealers without any warranty coverage just to get a phone that isn’t made by one of the mainstream brands. Even Amazon.in has the phone listed through a third-party seller, and the price isn’t too far off its MSRP in the US.
The sales figures for these imported units are obviously not high, but the fact that this is even happening is a telltale sign that Indians have an appetite for Pixel phones. Last year’s Pixel 6 series created a positive perception among buyers in India, and the appeal even spread outside of the small group of enthusiasts. Whether or not Google is able to profit from it will depend entirely on one factor: price. If Google can get it right, the Pixel 6a could be a smash hit, but if not, Google would be the loser, not the buyers.
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