Pixel grabs 10% of the premium smartphone market in India, but there's a long way to go

The Pixel and Pixel XL made their debut in India on October 26, retailing for ₹57,000 ($830) and ₹67,000 ($975) respectively. The launch was followed by an advertising blitz by Google that saw billboards plastered across major urban centers and commercials on major channels. With a Note 7-sized hole waiting to be filled, Google shipped 33,000 units of the Pixels in the country, catapulting the phone to the third spot in the premium segment (devices over ₹30,000) with a market share of 10%.

That's according to data from market research firm Counterpoint Research, cited by ET Tech:

A refreshing and feature-packed Pixel is making for a good proposition against Apple's iPhone and Samsung's S series.Google does not want to miss out on the opportunities and is leaving no stones unturned with heavy spend on marketing. Going by spends on advertisement and offers provided by the company, Pixel is sure to maintain its market share if not extend it in the quarter.

A spokesperson Google India also chimed in, stating that the company was "enthused by the feedback from Indian customers," and that the initial response for the Pixel "has been extremely positive and in line with our expectations." While the numbers posit a healthy growth for the Pixel in India, they don't tell the whole story. The figures are units shipped to retailers and not sales to customers, and as such don't necessarily represent how the Pixel is doing in the country.

With 33,000 units shipped, Pixel takes the third spot in the premium segment in India.

As is often the case in the high-end segment in India, the pricing is the main drawback for the Pixels. With the 32GB Pixel XL selling for ₹67,000 ($975), the phone is out of reach of most buyers.

Then there's the larger issue at hand. Earlier this month, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out policy to deregulate high-denomination notes (₹500 ($7.20) and ₹1,000 ($14.40) in an effort to curb counterfeiting and corruption. In doing so, he invalidated nearly 85% of all active cash in circulation, or $241 billion in total.

The move has led to a severe cash crunch, and its effect is felt particularly in the phone segment. A majority of phone sales are conducted offline in cash-only transactions or online through Cash-On-Delivery. According to IDC, sales in the smartphone segment are set to decline by 17.5% this quarter as a result of demonetization. As such, it'll take a while for the category to stabilize.

That said, Google nailed the basics with the Pixels, both in terms of the phones and their availability. The handsets are up for sale from most major offline retailers, and the incessant commercials has led to more consumers being aware of the Pixel brand. It failed on both fronts with Android One, so it is promising to see Google make headway with the Pixels.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

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.