The Pixel 4 series is make or break for Google

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Pixel 4 series is make or break for Google
In 2016, after almost seven years of Nexus devices, Google finally started taking the smartphone market seriously. The Pixel series, which combined stock Android with great cameras and a unique design, was announced in early October as the company’s first true iPhone and Galaxy competitor.

The first generation of devices performed relatively well in regards to sales, as did their respective successors in 2017. But what should have prolonged growth last year ultimately turned out to be a big setback for the company. The Pixel 3 flagships are permanently discounted due to low sales and only the mid-range Pixel 3a is producing positive results. Now, with the Pixel 4 series less than three months away, I believe the future of Google’s smartphone business largely depends on its success.

Google's first real attempt at targeting mainstream consumers


Despite being considerably more popular than the Nexus line it replaces, Google’s Pixel series has never appealed to mainstream consumers in the same way as Apple’s iPhones or Samsung’s Galaxies for a variety of reasons. But this year the company is finally trying to change this.

Starting with the design, official images and subsequent CAD-based renders have confirmed Google is ditching its trademark two-tone construction. I’ve loved this look since the very beginning and will miss it a lot, but I understand it’s certainly not for everyone and removing it makes perfect business sense as it’ll help broaden the appeal of Pixel smartphones.

Google is also adding more cameras to the back of its phones. The company’s software has helped it keep up with the competition until now but there’s no denying the Pixel 3’s camera setup lacks versatility when compared to Samsung’s latest flagships. The Pixel 4’s extra sensors will help bridge this gap and also attract the attention of more people. After all, most consumers these days believe multiple cameras are better than just one.

Another feature worth pointing out is the all-new square camera module on the rear. Despite what some people will say, the layout has probably been chosen because of the photographic results it produces. Nevertheless, the design similarities with Apple’s iPhone 11 should ultimately help Google in the long run because consumers will become more accepting of its shape and size.

Regarding the front panel design, what Google reportedly has planned seems to be miles better than the Pixel 3 XL’s notch or the Pixel 3’s thick bezels. Plus, the area above the display will be packed full of unique, new technology. As for the internal side of things, the Pixel 4 is unlikely to bring any major upgrades that’ll change the perception of consumers and ultimately boost sales. But one thing that will is expanded carrier availability. 

The Pixel, Pixel 2, and Pixel 3 lineups all launched as Verizon exclusives yet in early May Google surprised us all by partnering up with T-Mobile and Sprint to sell phones. The move has helped make the Pixel 3a series a success and should ultimately help make the Pixel 4 devices mainstream options.

There's no guarantee the Pixel 4 series will succeed


Although things are looking more positive for the Pixel 4 series than any of Google’s previous offerings, there’s certainly no guarantee the next-gen smartphones will be a commercial success. As Motorola showed us in 2017, more carriers and big marketing campaigns don’t guarantee strong sales. 

Because the original Moto Z Force performed well in 2016 while being a Verizon exclusive, Motorola decided to expand the Moto Z2 Force’s availability the following year to include all major carriers. On paper, the move made perfect sense. The original phone captured the attention of consumers thanks to its unique Moto Mods and the second-generation device built upon this by adding a dual-camera setup to the rear and following several other trends. Combined with expanded carrier availability and a big marketing budget, the Moto Z2 Force looked set for success. But that never happened. Between its August release and late October less than 150,000 units shipped. For comparison, Apple and Samsung can sell that amount in just hours at launch.

Google is admittedly in a slightly better position than Motorola was when it comes to the premium market – it’s the third-largest brand after Apple and Samsung respectively – but it’s going to be facing some very strong competition in the form of the iPhone 11 trio and Galaxy Note 10 duo. Because of this, the internet giant also has to be very careful when it comes to pricing. Price them too high and it'll risk hurting sales and could be forced to permanently slash prices as it has done with the Pixel 3 series, therefore hurting profits.

If the Pixel 4 underperforms, the future of Google's smartphone business is at risk


Ultimately, only time will tell how consumers react to the next set of Pixel flagships. But if the launch fails to take Google’s smartphone business to the next level, does competing in the market really make long-term sense for the company?

Google’s investing millions this year into new technologies such as Project Soli radars and all-new camera setups for its next-gen smartphones. It’ll probably also spend more than ever on advertising Pixel 4 phones to consumers. But if sales are poor, the profitability of the flagship business will undoubtedly be impacted massively and the return on investment will be minimal. This, in turn, could also affect the mid-range Pixel series.

Right now Google spreads the cost of its premium camera hardware across both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a lines, but if the flagship business becomes unprofitable that’s going to put a lot more pressure on the company’s mid-range lineup and could ultimately lead to smaller profit margins in that segment or perhaps a price hike which could result in a sales drop. Thus, the future of Google’s smartphone business would be questionable.

The company undeniably has a lot at stake this year. If Google plays its cards right and doesn't overestimate demand, the Pixel 4 series could easily mark the beginning of a new era of growth. However, one wrong move could put the Pixel’s future at risk and potentially force a retreat from the segment, which wouldn't be a first for the internet giant. Earlier this year it officially exited the Android tablet market and refocused its efforts on the more profitable smart speaker and Chromebook segments. 

Related phones

Pixel 4
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 2280 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 2800 mAh
Pixel 4 XL
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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134 Comments

1. Jrod99

Posts: 778; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

3rd time wasn’t the charm so who knows.

6. sgodsell

Posts: 7531; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Personally I hate notches, or any cutout of any kind on my display (holes, tiny notch). I would rather have some bezel. Now the bezel from the older iPhones was ridiculous. The bezel they have in the Pixel 2, Galaxy S9 was just fine. If they can manage to get rid of bezel on 3 of the sides, then I am good with that. Also I really hope they put a ToF camera on board the Pixel 4, as well as Soli radar. The more the merrier.

20. oldskool50 unregistered

The bezel on the older iPhone models are no different than the ones on older Galaxies. I dont even see the point of bring up older models. The camera sensor is large. That's why the bezel was so thick back then. Those those days are gone. Just let it go. But scolding the iPhone over it's old bezels when most phones were exactly the same is just dumb. I usually always agree with you, but this time what you said applied to every OEM.

60. sgodsell

Posts: 7531; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

If you actually have eyes. Then you know the bezel on the iPhone 5S, SE, 6, 6s, 7, and 8's is huge. Those devices had the lowest screen to body ratio of any smartphones. That's why I brought it up , because it's so obvious. But you going as far to say "scolding the iPhone over it's old bezels when most phones were exactly the same is just dumb", must mean you are blind. The fingerprint scanners on others took up less space, some scanners became square and tiny, or migrated to the back of the smartphones. So to say the were exactly same is really dumb on your part.

64. mackan84

Posts: 616; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

Jeez... Real peoples person aren’t you. Find it unbelievable someone even upvote you anymore.

23. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

Jrod99, totally agree. Google is great at other things, but with the exception of the camera on Pixels (which has been beaten already, still good nonetheless), Pixels are “meh” at best. Their only other saving grace is the lower price on the Pixel 3A series, which has great software support for a midrange smartphone, even though updates their updates are usually buggy.

28. Venom

Posts: 3802; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Beaten yet people are still trying to sideload the Pixel camera app on their devices. You don't get it, but I shouldn't be surprised considering you didn't know LTE was a GSM standard. And you are over here talking about BETA updates that aren't even official firmware updates. Stop trying to spread incorrect information.

72. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

I don’t care what people are trying to do. It’s a fact that they have been beaten. They aren’t the best, and definitely don’t produce the most natural looking photos. You don’t get it, but I’m not surprised considering you didn’t know that LTE was based on GSM and that you said a certain smartphone doesn’t have a FPS when in fact it does, lol. I’m talking about updates that are pushed out to Pixels that aren’t in beta, but cause issues nonetheless. Stop changing the facts to suit your false narrative.

94. Venom

Posts: 3802; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Lol don't flatter yourself. You do care which is why you are hilariously trying to save face in Pixel articles because the very phone you are trying to defend is severely lacking in multiple areas. The Pixel phones are the best and that is a fact that is stated by many different sites that are far more credible than some shill who desperately acts like he's on Nokia's payroll. Why don't you stop making s* up to suit your false narrative.

105. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

Lmao How or why would I care what others are trying to do with their smartphones? Your not making sense, as usual. You can’t talk about any phone being severely lacking when Pixels have been bug prone from day one, lacking in QC. And the Pixels aren’t the best, that’s only something that the fanboys say. If they were the best, they wouldn’t have been beaten by others. Even some Pixel fanboy YouTubers have been complaining about the constant issues that Pixels have been having. But leave it to a shill like you that thinks he’s on Google’s payroll to change the facts to suit his false narrative. Why don’t you take your own advice for once lmao.

34. JunkieXL

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 27, 2019

"Which has been beaten". That's usually how it works when the next generation of phones come out. Pixels launch so late into the cycle that it's easy to forget they are not launching the with the newest hardware under the hood when just months after Google launches their flagship, competitors are launching theirs on a new platform. Looking at the generation of phones the Pixel 3 was competing against, it did have arguably the best camera vs the S9/S9+, Note and iPhone XS MAX. Though where the Pixel excelled in photography, it seriously lacked in videography. As a Pixel 2 XL/Pixel 3 XL owner it's pretty pathetic in that dept.

73. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

I know how it works, which is why it’s ridiculous that some still say that they have the best camera.

93. Venom

Posts: 3802; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Not as ridiculous as not knowing that LTE is a GSM standard. Feel free to give yourself a thumbs up with your other accounts btw.

104. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

Except you were the one that didn’t know that LTE was based on GSM technology lmao. Feel free to continue to be salty because others agree with me and not you lmao.

47. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

I hope it's the last,, pixel is the worst smartphone ever made. All of them

50. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

That's a very biased opinion. you should have provided some facts with that statement. Otherwise you appear to be doing your usual "iPhone rules!" Type trolling.

52. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

I didn't even mention iPhone, I said it's the worst smartphone of all in the world. 1) looks are subjective you'd say but pixels are ugly, probably the ugliest in the world 2) they use the cheapest materials ever 3) if one have to choose between two phones with the same OS, a sane person would choose the one with better and smarter features. Compare a galaxy S or note with a pixel. Same OS but tons of smart and amazing features in the galaxy make it a much better phone so the fake concept of pure or vanilla version is insane. It's not pure, it actually lacks features but sold at same price.. Even if you can't buy iPhone, there's no point of buying a pixel over other Android smartphones.. A note 10 or even an S10 would be a much better choice as it'll give everything android has to offer plus much more

62. Dbosss unregistered

I agree to that... to Google's standard, they should get their s**ts together. Infact they literally took their s**ts together for pixels sp far

79. TBomb

Posts: 1650; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

call up the mental ward. I'm not a sane person :(

81. MrMalignance

Posts: 322; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@mike88: you didn't need to mention iPhone. I was saying that was the type of trolling you are laying out, with your comment. 1) looks are indeed subjective. I've heard mixed reviews of the look of the phone, but you stating they are ugly, then backing up your claim by reasserting your claim is ridiculous. Your opinion cannot back up your opinion. 2) they did use cheap materials. I agree. 3) there is no concept of fake vanilla. Pixel runs straight unskinned Android. Features that are on Galaxy phones are added into the skin/software/hardware. The pixel is more of a Spartan purist Android phone. It's not for everyone, but it's not insane to make a real observation based on facts. Your point is invalid due to your comparison. Lastly, there was no one claiming that anyone cannot buy an iPhone. Iphones are a personal choice. Some people don't like the system or the way they act/function/look. As for your s10/note giving everything plus more, that is false to a degree. It still has to wait for the latest version of Android. The pixel will get it months earlier, and it filters through to Samsung to apply it so it plays well with their handsets. I do agree that they add their own little tweaks and such, but it isn't "much more". Usually the in house apps are what allow for the interesting tweaks

2. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2482; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I think the success of the 3a shows that the market is increasingly looking for more value and at the mid tier range in price. There are various Chinese OEMs offering Snapdragon 855’s in < $500 phones. And the Pixel 3a proved you can have a phone with a flagship camera at half the price. Google should either try to offer new midrange phones with Snapdragon 700s while continuing to offer the best in photography or maybe they should try bringing back something like the Nexus. But instead of selling the hardware at cost you can still make some money by offering it for $600.

4. alila2

Posts: 169; Member since: Nov 01, 2011

i agree 100% about the Nexus , they should bring it back , a Xiaomi (Redmi) K20 Pro hardware and specs with Google software and camera a Nexus slapped on the back i will happily pay $600 for it.

45. vincelongman

Posts: 5746; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

IMO they should do 3 lines in 2020 -Pixel 4A. $600+. Snapdragon 730-class SoC. Dual cam. UFS. AMOLED -Pixel 4B. $350+. Snapdragon 675-class SoC. Single cam. eMMC. IPS -Pixel 5. $850+. Flagship tier specs. Triple cam Also they should bring forward the Pixel 5 release to Q2 so they can get sales before the new iPhone, Note and Mate Series

7. Venom

Posts: 3802; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

I agree Dr. Phil. The midrange market is what they should focus on and the Pixel 3A XL is proof of that. A compelling smartphone with the best camera of any phone available at an affordable price.

8. srgonu

Posts: 566; Member since: Feb 13, 2012

Agree with you that having good capability is the main thing going for pixel 3a series. But I think the other important contributing factors are software experience as good as flagships and promised security and OS updates. These two are missing with other mid range and top end flagships which are failing.

36. JunkieXL

Posts: 7; Member since: Jul 27, 2019

" the market is increasingly looking for more value and at the mid tier range in price" That's how most consumers look at most things. Think of vehicles you see on the road, how many of the ones you see are mid-level trims, vs fully loaded top trims? Sure you get more the higher you go, but most people reach for the best value and simply the best for their budget. $1000 phones are nice, but you can play candy crush, send texts and post on social media just fine on a phone half the cost. Put them in a case and 9/10 times you dont know what they have.

41. rsiders

Posts: 1996; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

That's one of the reasons I hate cases besides anything that's not clear. Even still I prefer skins over cases. I see your point about value but there's just something about a bad car riding through traffic. It turns heads and wakens the imagination of the average driver. At least it does for me. Especially if you're driving one of those "family vehicles."

3. LiveFaith

Posts: 493; Member since: Jul 04, 2015

I don't know the sales #s. But does the "fat middle" of the market really even care @ Pixels. I know the fanboys around here gobble up everything with the infallible "pure Google" OS. I know that power users, developers, and enthusiasts consider the Pixel relevant. But, I honestly doubt that 9:10 people out there with an Apple or Samsung phone in tow, even know that Google makes a phone. The last iteration sure didn't do much to convince them. From the sheer looks of the IVs hardware, this is feeling like deja vu.

18. lmao2016

Posts: 86; Member since: Mar 17, 2016

Where I work is very transient so I see alot off ppl And of course I noticed their phones all the time the other day this lady had the pixel so I was like oh you have a pixel she was like “a what” lol she has no idea what phone she was using she called it an Android that she actually likes....

24. meanestgenius

Posts: 22423; Member since: May 28, 2014

I have to agree. I do want Google to finally have some success in the high end smartphone market, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening, and I have little faith (no pun intended) that the Pixel 4 range will be successful. Outside of tech enthusiasts, Pixels garner very little attention, and outside of the U.S., they are practically nonexistent.

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