Google’s ‘unsuccessful’ Pixel smartphones outsold OnePlus in 2019


As we’ve seen over the past few years, it’s quite hard to break into the smartphone market and compete with the established players. We’ve watched as Samsung has taken out big players like HTC and witnessed the disastrous attempt by Essential to make a name for itself. Google’s foray into the smartphone space with its Pixel lineup has been labeled as unsuccessful for years by many in the press, but new numbers from IDC reveal that Pixel phones are more popular than those sold by OnePlus. 

According to the IDC’s 2019 numbers, Google sold 7.2 million smartphones last year, marking a 52% YoY increase for the brand. While that pales in comparison to the 296.2 million units Samsung managed to ship last year, it’s noted that the increase in Pixel sales allowed Google to leapfrog OnePlus, a brand that’s highly respected and largely considered to be a success in the industry. 

While we’re seen reports that the Pixel 4’s sales numbers were lower than the Pixel 3’s during the first two quarters of sales, only the first quarter of Pixel 3 sales were attributed to 2018 due to the phone’s fall launch date. The Pixel 3a was also a big boost to the brand since it allowed consumers to pick up a Pixel smartphone on the cheap and even pushed the devices into markets like India where Google isn’t selling it’s flagship-tier Pixel devices.

What’s most surprising though is that Google somehow outsold OnePlus, a “premium” brand that’s been selling its flagship devices at extremely low prices since its inception. OnePlus devices are available in more markets, including China and currently hold the spot as the number one premium smartphone brand in India.

So, what gives? Why is OnePlus praised while Google’s Pixel lineup is ridiculed?

The answer there is pretty obvious. Besides the cameras (which have gotten a lot better recently), OnePlus phones are a lot better than the devices Google has been putting out. Oneplus also get a lot of credit for the community its built, responding to consumer concerns with updates that improve their phones. While Google does much of the same fore its Pixel devices, it’s not community-driven. Google doesn’t get a lot of credit there either simply because there’s a higher expectation that Google will support and maintain their phones more whereas OnePlus get bonus points for the work they do simply because other manufacturers do the base minimum.

There’s no denying that 2019 was a good year for Google, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to maintain their lead over OnePlus in 2020. With the pool sales of the Pixel 4 and the delayed launch of the Pixel 4a dues to the global pandemic, OnePlus will likely have a better year than Google will at racking up smartphone sales.

Nick Gray
I'm a life-long tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC. After writing about tech for more than a decade, I jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of Editor in Chief at Phandroid. Please contact me at [email protected].

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