Google is seeing a modicum of success with its Pixel phones in North America and the U.K., but its hardware efforts haven't really borne fruit in India. While it made India a key market with initial Pixel launches, that narrative changed in recent years. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL never made it to India, nor did the Pixel 5 or 5a. The only device Google launched in the last two years was the Pixel 4a, and that too several months after its global debut.
This isn't just with Pixels either; a huge chunk of Google's hardware portfolio isn't available in India. That's why I was excited when Google announced that it would bring the Pixel 6a to India. The Pixel 6a has a lot of promise, and a lot of it is down to the fact that it uses the same Tensor platform as the flagship Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. While earlier A series devices had decent enough hardware, they weren't well-suited for intensive tasks — that isn't a problem with the Pixel 6a.
With the Pixel 6a slated to make its way to the country, I wanted two things from the device: for it to launch at the same time as other markets, and for Google to be aggressive with the price. Well, Google has officially launched the Pixel 6a in India, and the phone is now up for pre-order with sales kicking off July 28.
What isn't so great is the price: ₹43,999 ($550). Google could have finally make inroads into one of the world's largest phone markets; all it had to do was be a little aggressive and position the Pixel 6a as an alternative to the likes of the Nothing phone (1), Nord 2T, Galaxy A53, Realme GT Neo 3, and others. Instead, it made the same mistakes that made earlier Pixels dead on arrival — price it out of reach of potential buyers.
Above all else, India is a value-conscious market. All brands (other than Google) know this and tailor their products accordingly. For instance, the phone (1) starts off at ₹32,999 ($412) in the country, and £399 ($478) in the U.K. Chinese manufacturers similarly sell their products for less in India in a bid to gain market share — that's the main reason why Xiaomi accounts for a third of all sales in the country.
With OnePlus becoming an OPPO subsidiary and losing its software focus, there's a distinct lack of phones that deliver a clean Android interface without bloatware. That's why there was so much interest in the phone (1) from India, and Google could have positioned the Pixel 6a as the ideal alternative, but with better cameras — provided it nailed the pricing.
Basically, Google had all the right ingredients to make the Pixel 6a one of the best mid-range phones in the country. But with the phone debuting at ₹43,999, even loyal Pixel fans (the few that exist) will be unwilling to pick up the device.
I could talk about Google's lack of local manufacturing efforts and its halfhearted attitude toward India when it comes to hardware, but those are all moot points now. The Pixel 6a could have been Google's first device to take off in India, but the brand squandered it by pricing the phone out of reach.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.