The Pixel 6a marks Google’s return to India, but will it succeed?

The Pixel 6a marks Google’s return to India, but will it succeed?

The Pixel 4a arrived in India a few months late, but that didn’t stop it from becoming an instant hit – something not often said about Google phones – by hitting the value sweet spot. But that was two years ago, and since then the South Asian country hasn’t seen a Google phone. After a two-year hiatus, the wait is almost over: the affordable Pixel 6a is making its way to India in the coming months. There couldn’t be a better time for the budget Pixel phone to re-enter the Indian market, but its success hinges on one key factor.

The Pixel 6a isn’t coming to India anytime soon, though. A tweet by Google India after Google I/O’s main keynote vaguely mentions “later this year” as the launch schedule. The situation isn’t much different in other dozen markets, including the US, where the handset launched in July. But that’s still an improvement over the Pixel 5a, which was never available outside of Japan and the US due to supply chain restrictions during the pandemic.


The lag can actually be a good thing (for Google)

In 2020, the Pixel 4a’s India debut had also lagged behind the US by a few months. Google timed it to match mega sales 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 this could give Google the kickstart it so desperately needs in the Indian market.

Assuming Google has similar plans this time around, the Pixel 6a could launch sometime in early October. But that’s nothing more than a guess, and given how volatile supply chains have been of late, it would take a lot of things to get right for the Pixel phone to make it in time. Interestingly, a tipster recently tweeted that the Indian release could coincide with that of the US, ie. until the end of July.

Source: Google

But this month-long delay also comes with some downsides. The enthusiasm of prospective buyers will inevitably wane over time. And given the fast pace of the local smartphone industry, there will be plenty of options to choose from in a few months. One cannot ignore the ability of Chinese smartphone makers to quickly adapt and respond to changes in the market, which this time is the Pixel 6a.

The Pixel Advantage

Regardless of how quickly the competition reacts to Google’s mid-range offering, there are certain things a Pixel would do better every day. Mid-range phones take good photos in daylight but tend to struggle in low light. But Pixels, even the A series, shine in all scenarios. And the 6a even gets all the AI-enabled camera tricks of its pricier siblings, positioning the phone uniquely for itself.

Source: Google

The Pixel’s clean software experience also stands out when compared to its rivals’ heavily loaded skins. Motorola is the only other brand offering a similarly uncluttered operating system, but its update commitment lags behind Google’s day-one updates. The benchmark that Pixel phones have set could probably even make other brands like OnePlus and Xiaomi step up their game to offer better and ongoing software support.

If any Pixel has a chance to make it big in India, it’s the Pixel 6a.

But that’s not even the best part. With Google’s custom Tensor chip pushing into the budget segment, the new Pixel 6a is on par in terms of performance with the Pixel 6 Pro and other flagships. That puts it up against 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 everything Google’s new budget phone brings to the table, if a Pixel has a chance of making it big in India, it’s the Pixel 6a.

If the price counts – very much

Anyone who follows the Indian smartphone market knows that price segments work a little differently here. A phone that costs more than £40,000 (~$520) is considered premium, and the Pixel 6a’s price with taxes is pretty close to that mark. So staying below that number will be crucial for Google to make the Pixel 6a worthwhile for buyers.

Luckily for Google, the £30k to £40k price range is booming in the country, although most sales are in the lower segments. Increased consumer interest has resulted in all major companies offering dozens of good options. But most of these phones lack the superior overall experience that buyers in this segment want – an experience that the Google Pixel 6a offers.

It’s not all rosy for Google, however, as Apple is eyeing the same price range. Armed with local manufacturing (resulting in lower taxes), the heavily discounted iPhone 12 and 11 series were among the bestsellers during last year’s Diwali rush. While it may still be relatively easy for Google to poach buyers from other Android phone brands, competing with Apple could prove a daunting task, especially when iPhones have a desirable value.

The success of the Pixel 6a will depend solely on one factor – price.

India has never been a prime market for Google hardware. No Pixel flagship has launched in the country since the Pixel 3, the new Chromecast hasn’t made it here, and Amazon Echo speakers routinely outsell Google’s Home speakers.

Despite all this adversity and limited local availability across all categories, Google still managed to put the spotlight on the Pixel 6 in India – a phone that wasn’t officially offered in the country. Some die-hard Pixel fans here have bought imported units from local retailers with no warranty coverage just to have a phone that isn’t made by one of the mainstream brands. Even listed the phone through a third party, and the price isn’t too far below the US MSRP.

Sales figures for these imported units are obviously not high, but the fact that this is happening at all 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 has resonated even outside the small group of enthusiasts. Whether Google can benefit from it or not depends solely on one factor – the price. If Google manages to get it right, the Pixel 6a could be a smash hit, but if not, it would be Google who would lose out, not buyers.

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