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Why Google Pixel smartphones make little sense at current prices

google-pixelBroadly, all brands can be divided into two types — mass brands and elite or premium brands.

Mass brands are those used and preferred by ordinary people, while elite brands are confined to those who have very ‘refined’ tastes and for whom money is not usually a concern.

Based on the above definition, Google is certainly a mass brand. It is the most used webpage in India, as it is elsewhere.

It has revolutionised the way information is consumed and made available on the Internet – making it easily available to the masses.

So, when Google comes up with a smartphone, everyone has their hopes high.

Perhaps, the company will bring advanced technology to the masses? Perhaps it will be a combination of quality and affordability unseen so far?

ELITIST PIXEL

Unfortunately, its latest Google Pixel smartphones are anything but value for money.

They are, in fact, a big departure from the Nexus brand of devices that used to hit the market regularly over the last few years.

For example, the Nexus 6P, which was last year’s Google-backed model, was priced at Rs 39,999 and came with a 5.7-inch Quad-HD AMOLED display and flaunted all the top-end features available at the time.

The corresponding model under new platform is called Google Pixel XL and comes with 32 GB of storage, 4 GB of RAM and a 5.5-inch Quad-HD AMOLED display.

But at a price of Rs 67,000, this year’s model is almost 70% more costlier compared with last year’s model at launch.

THE BEST EVER?

There is no doubt that the Pixel XL is a formidable package to compete against. Credit must be given to Google’s engineers for ticking all the boxes — whether it is the camera, display or the processor.

But it’s the pricing that breaks new ground for Google, and not in a nice way either.

Ever since it began bringing Nexus-branded, Google-backed devices to the country, the Nexus line-up was synonymous with “affordably high-end” — offering value even though they were positioned in the upper band by pricing.

They were costly phones, but also offered value for the money spent and occupied the ‘entry-level premium’ category, for lack of another suitable word. They offered a strong choice to those who were willing to spend, provided they got good returns.

This was the category of consumers who supported Nexus phones in the past.

BETTER CHOICES OUT THERE

But with the latest line-up, Google seems to be aiming for the iPhone crowd — who prefer to go for the most expensive, premium device without looking at value for money.

In other words, the Pixel phones do not make much financial sense to value-conscious people — either when compared to previous Google Nexus phones, or to what is available in the market today.

For example, the Moto Z — which also carries some of Google’s Nexus history behind it and is a direct competitor to the XL — is priced at just Rs 39,999 and is very very similar to the Google model.

Of course, there are certain areas where the Pixel shines, such as its reportedly superior battery and the relatively quicker software upgrade paths. The camera on the Pixel, for example, is considered the best ever on a smartphone based on benchmarks. Similarly, the newer device also comes with Snapdragon 821 instead of the 820.

However, many of these advantages — except for the camera — are unlikely to make a big difference in daily usage. For example, the Snapdragon 821 chipset can run at a clockspeed that is 10% faster than the 820, but the fact is that most people would probably never push their phones to that extent.

Snapdragon 820 already has more power than many of the Core i chipsets found in laptops still in use in the country. Given that the underlying process and technology is the same in 821, increase in clock-speed will come at the cost of battery back-up. In fact, reports and reviews suggest no great leap in terms of battery life despite the bigger battery (3.6 Ah vs 2.6 Ah).

The Moto Z — made by Lenovo — comes with twice the amount of internal storage compared to the Google Pixel XL.

THE JUNIOR PLAYERS

However, it is when one evaluates the junior model from Google’s new line-up that one can really see the difference in value offered compared to other popular models.

The smaller Pixel phone comes with a 5-inch full-HD AMOLED display and a 2.77 Ah battery, but is otherwise largely similar to its bigger sibling.

It is priced at a whopping Rs 57,000 in India — making it the costliest full-HD Android phone in the country by a distance.

In comparison, Xiaomi was selling its Mi5 — which is very similar except for the display (LCD instead of AMOLED) and RAM (3GB DDR4 instead of 4GB DDR4) for Rs 18,999 during Diwali.

Le Max2, which has twice the display resolution as Pixel junior, costs less than one-third of the Google model. Le Max2 too flaunts 4GB of DDR4 RAM, an AMOLDED display and a Snapdragon 820 chipset.

Yet another option is the Moto Z Play, which also comes with a similar 5.5-inch display utilizing full-HD AMOLED technology. It is selling in India for Rs 24,999. The main difference is that it comes with 3GB of DDR3 RAM and not 4GB of DDR4 RAM.

However, if the Moto Z Play had come with the newer RAM version, the price would have been higher by around Rs 2,000-2,500. But that would still have been priced at less than half of Rs 57,000.

The point of comparing the new phones with the above devices is not to state that any of them are equal to the Pixel — they are not — but just to drive home the point that it isn’t just the hardware costs that are driving high price-tag.

If it was the hardware costs, we would see all these models priced in the Rs 40,000-50,000 range.

So, what does all this mean for the prospective buyers?

If you can afford to spend on your next phone close to what you would spend for a Motorcycle and want the absolute best, you can go for what Google is offering. Similarly, if you are willing to spend an extra 20,000 or so for a great phone camera, go for it.

On the other hand, if you are someone who also looks at value for money, either go for a model like the Moto Z, or wait for Pixel prices to drop.

Last year, for example, the price of Nexus 5X — manufactured by LG with support from the search giant — dropped from Rs 32,000 in October to Rs 21,000 in January 2016. In the previous month (December 2015), it was being listed at Rs 23,095.

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