Much as everyone (myself included) has bemoaned the "exclusive" launch of the Pixel on Verizon, it seems to be a winning strategy in the U.S. for both Google and the carrier. Even though you can buy a Pixel through several different channels unlocked, including Google's own store, research has revealed that the Pixel is selling extremely well at Verizon directly.
Numbers show that Pixels accounted for 7.5% of all phone activations on Verizon since it became available, which is a hefty chunk for a phone that's expensive and the first of its kind from Google. The same research shows that in-store activations of Pixels at T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T stores landed at less than 2% each, which makes sense considering they don't sell the phones directly. Those numbers show a narrow view of the phone's sales overall, of course, as not everyone who buys a Pixel will take it to one of the "big four" U.S. carriers.
We don't have a true view for how well the Pixels are selling, but Verizon is selling a lot.
In order to add some context to those numbers let's look at Verizon's Q3 2016 earnings report, where we can see it activates roughly 8 million phones per quarter. If you assume Verizon activates a similar number in Q4, that'd average out to 600,000 Pixels activated at Verizon in the first three months (of which we've just completed one). A lot of phones, but not world-beating numbers. We would need unlocked sales numbers to make a true assessment of how "well" the Pixels are doing.
You won't have had to pay too much attention in the past month to notice the aggressive advertising from both Verizon and Google for the Pixels, with TV ads, website ads and strong placement on the Verizon website for the phones. Google and Verizon have spent a combined $27 million on marketing for the Pixels thus far, according to the report.
As we kick off the aggressive holiday buying season, Google and Verizon are expected to increase ad spending as well, dropping TV ads during the big Thanksgiving NFL games and running impressive promotions through the end of the year.
The true view of how many Pixels Google can sell will come at the point when Verizon's exclusivity comes to an end, and whether or not that also means Google can strike deals with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to stock and sell the phones.
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