For all of its great successes in the Pixel, Google still has one critical flaw to figure out.
April 20 marked the six-month anniversary of the Google Pixel going on sale in the Play Store. As was typical for a Google phone launch, they were tough to get ahold of — backorders reached weeks or even months, depending on what model you wanted. Now, six months later, Google inexplicably still can't keep Pixels in stock. Just head to the Google Store right now and see that most configuration combinations aren't available.
Even the models that you can click "buy" on — like a black 32GB Pixel or silver 128GB Pixel XL — won't ship for two to four weeks. Once again, this is a phone that has been on sale for six months and not once in the past 180+ days has the stock situation been any better. How is it that Google can get this so wrong? Part of it is expectations, but the blame mostly lies on Google's apparent inability to control its supply chain.
When it's tough to get a phone, you can always take the positive view that it is simply so popular that the company can't make enough. But let's not kid ourselves — you'd have to see a Pixel in every other person's hand on the street to believe that demand was high enough that it legitimately outpaced any company's ability to make the phones. The retail channel limitation of only being able to buy from the Google Store or Verizon — rather than seeding to the likes of Amazon and Best Buy — is alone enough to cut back on supply pressure. So really, the issue is how Google set expectations of the Pixel's availability, only to drastically underdeliver.
After years of Nexus devices with a variety of go-to-market strategies, the Pixels are clearly designed and advertised as phones for everyone in the market for a top-end phone. The way the phones were made, paired with huge spending on effective advertising, set the expectation amongst general consumers (read: not just smartphone nerds) that this would be a phone you could actually buy. At the same time, it seems Google internally still has a portion of its hardware team that sees the Pixels the same way as Nexuses of the past: make some phones, sell what we have and don't make it a priority to keep stock levels where they should be for a global product launch. Those two aspects don't mix, and it's a recipe for frustration for those who want to buy a Pixel.
Google led us to believe we could just buy a Pixel, but then it failed to deliver.
But there's a problem: those normal consumers that Google targets with its continuous Pixel ads don't wait around for a phone unless it says "Apple" or "Samsung" on the box. And even then, a significant portion of the buying public wants to walk into a store or visit a website and simply buy the latest phone available today — they don't want to sit around and wait three weeks for a phone to be in stock, then wait another two weeks for it to arrive. They need a phone now, and every time Google can't keep its Pixels in stock it's a lost sale from the exact market it targets.
For all of their flaws, the other Android manufacturers know how to manage a supply chain. Samsung, LG, Huawei, Motorola, HTC and heck, even OnePlus now, know how to make phones available around the world in massive quantities. They have in most cases each made the necessary deals and commitments to get the phones in thousands of physical stores as well, a dramatically taller task than simply stocking a couple of warehouses for online-only distribution.
I don't want to belittle the huge commitment of time, money and people required to manage the manufacturing, shipment and distribution of phones. But Google designed a phone for the general consumer and spent tens of millions advertising to that demographic, only to once again completely fail to make the devices available when those people went to buy. At some point, we just have to throw up our hands and wonder why it can't get this right when so many other companies have.
And now, let's cap off the week with a few other thoughts:
- During my extremely amazing vacation, the rest of the team killed it with Galaxy S8 review coverage.
- This is just the beginning, of course, as we'll continue to talk about the Galaxy S8 a lot for the next year.
- I now have my black Galaxy S8 — making a conscious decision to choose the smaller model for ease of use understanding that the battery life takes a hit.
- The official Twitter app rolled out a change to replace the Moments tab with a Search tab that includes search, topic exploration and Moments. This is a way better interface that makes that tab (which everyone has to see every day) useful for a far wider range of Twitter users.
- Hard to believe we're only a few weeks away from Google I/O 2017 — it's going to be a blast, as usual.
That's all for now. Have a great week, everyone.
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!