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Google could lose its most valued US retail partner for the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 (or not)


UPDATE: Much ado about nothing? A new tweet from Android Authority's Eric Zeman suggests that may end up being the case here, as Verizon claims "there is no truth to the report" it will stop selling Pixel phones. More specifically, the nation's largest wireless service provider says it will continue to "work with Google", looking forward to the company's "new portfolio of devices." At this time, Android Police has retracted its original article, meaning new evidence may show that Verizon does, indeed, plan to keep working with Google on the Pixel.

Original story follows below:

Just how (un) popular are Google's stock Android-running Pixel handsets? It's a question that's been asked many times since the search giant revised its in-house mobile hardware strategy in 2016, nixing the budget-friendly Nexus lineup to focus on the Apple-dominated high-end segment of the US smartphone market.

Google itself has routinely avoided to tackle the matter of Pixel sales numbers head-on these past few years, but in case it wasn't already crystal clear the mobile device family isn't doing particularly well worldwide or even stateside, you simply need to look at third-party market reports and vendor rankings. Big G has yet to crack the global top ten chart, and while the mid-range Pixel 3a duo did help the company gain some US share, the boost wasn't even enough to challenge Motorola's overall Q3 2019 numbers, let alone Apple, Samsung, or LG.

Although there are no indications these seemingly poor results will prompt the dissolution of the Pixel handset roster or at least another shift in strategy anytime soon, Google's biggest and most reliable retail partner may have had enough, planning to cut its advertising ties with Mountain View. That's right, the fast-approaching Pixel 4a reportedly has a "zero" chance of being sold on Verizon, and at least for now, Big Red has no intention to carry the Pixel 5 and 5 XL either.

Huge blow for Google

It's no secret that Google values the US far above all other smartphone markets, and however hard T-Mobile might be trying to change the status quo, there's no threatening Verizon's supremacy... yet. Obviously, the nation's largest wireless service provider is responsible for the largest piece of handset sales conducted directly through carriers, and according to multiple analysts, carrier stores control anywhere between 85 and 90 percent of US postpaid phone sales.

While Google never managed to break Apple and Samsung's chokehold over this massive market segment, reportedly accounting for no more than 4 percent of December 2019 sales at each of the big four mobile network operators, the only way the company can ever hope to become a relevant smartphone vendor is to maintain its retail presence and stay in front of customers.

If Android Police's "source familiar with the company's plans" is correct, which feels pretty much guaranteed given the publication's reputation and track record, Pixel phones will lose a lot of eyeballs by disappearing from Verizon stores. Of course, eyeballs don't always convert into sales, but a strong retail presence indicates importance, and if your designs are compelling enough, curiosity and ultimately customer interest become mere formalities.

And then there were three (or is it two now?)

Verizon's decision, if it pans out, still leaves the door open for the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 at the nation's other three major carriers, which doesn't sound like such a disastrous situation. Of course, the three are about to become two as soon as the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint inevitably closes, and perhaps more importantly, AT&T and "New T-Mobile" are unlikely to give Google the visibility and importance that Verizon has been providing since 2016.

Because the first three Pixel handset generations were exclusively carried by Big Red, the nation's number one cellular company treated Google's smartphone releases pretty much the same way as it did new iPhones and high-end Samsung Galaxy devices. T-Mobile and Sprint joined Verizon in selling the Pixel 3a and 3a XL back in May 2019, and a few months later, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL were officially released on AT&T in addition to all the above.

Strictly from a numerical standpoint, you could say the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 will be better off than the Pixel 1, 2, or 3 if they're carried by AT&T and "New T-Mobile." But Verizon was by far Google's most committed, visible, and enthusiastic retail partner, so it's hard to see this move (if it materializes) as anything other than a big loss for Google and probably the most damning piece of evidence yet suggesting Pixel sales are lower than everyone expected.

It remains to be seen if the Pixel 5 will come to Verizon after all, as there's still plenty of time for the carrier to reconsider its stance, although if that recently leaked design proves accurate, we can definitely understand why Big Red would want to stay away from Google's next high-end release.

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