What you need to know
- According to The Information, Marc Levoy and Mario Queiroz have both left Google.
- Levoy was known for being in charge of the Pixel camera division.
- The Pixel 4a should be announced soon and come with a price of $399.
In an alternate timeline where Google I/O still took place, May 12 likely would have seen the announcement of Google's Pixel 4a. Given that this year's conference didn't happen, however, Google had to push things back. A new report from The Information sheds some light on the Pixel 4a's availability, along with two internal shakeups that have happened within Google's Pixel division.
Starting first with the 4a, it's reported to cost $399 (the same price as the Pixel 3a) and "make its debut online sometime soon." The latest rumors prior to this hinted at a launch in June, which still seems likely given that Google is hosting a livestream to launch the Android 11 public beta on June 3.
That's all fine and well, but the real meat of this story has to do with the people responsible for making Pixel devices. Per the report:
The mastermind behind Google's Pixel camera, Marc Levoy, who last year showed off his team's photography advances during a Google event in New York City, left the company in March. The exit, which hasn't been previously reported, follows the departure of Pixel general manager Mario Queiroz, the second top executive to leave the Pixel orbit in less than a year.
You may not know Levoy by name, but you probably remember his time on stage last year during the Pixel 4 unveiling. He's the one who claimed that ultra-wide cameras weren't important and that telephoto was better, resulting in unwavering criticism across the board. Check the YouTube video below if you need a refresher.
That criticism aside, one of the biggest draws to a Pixel is its camera performance. Google's unmatched software processing allows its phones to churn out some of the best pictures of any smartphone, so losing the person in charge of this effort has to hurt. Levoy had been with Google since 2014, so he's been with the Pixel line since the beginning.
As for Queiroz, he joined Google all the way back in 2005 and had been the general manager of the Pixel series since day one. Prior to that, Queiroz was responsible for helping launch the Nexus One in 2010.
All of that is damning enough as is, but the report doesn't stop there. The Information also sheds some light on Pixel sales performance, revealing that Google only shipped two million Pixel 4 units over the course of six months.
Google shipped around 2 million units of the Pixel 4 in the first two quarters it was available, at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, according to IDC's estimates, a drop from the 3.5 million Pixel 3 and nearly 3 million Pixel 3a models that shipped in the first two quarters of their availability. In the U.S., Google's largest market, it had just 3% market share of the smartphone market last year, said IDC.
The Pixel 4 was a fine phone, but when reviews came out, one of the biggest complaints was its poor battery life. This is apparently something that Google's head of hardware, Rick Osterloh, was aware of.
At a hardware team all-hands meeting in the fall, ahead of the October launch in New York, Osterloh informed staff about his own misgivings. He told them he did not agree with some of the decisions made about the phone, according to two people who were present at the meeting. In particular, he was disappointed in its battery power.
Google's struggled to get its Pixel devices to reach a mainstream audience ever since the series' debut in 2016, and a report like this certainly doesn't bode well for its future.
The Pixel 4a still has a lot of potential to be one of the better smartphone values of the year, but where does Google go from there? These internal shakeups have undoubtedly made an impact on the Pixel 5's development, but whether or not it'll be for better or worse remains to be seen.
Thanks for the heads up Manish!
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