New smartphones, new headphones, a connected watch and soon a tablet…. On the occasion of Google I/O 2022, the American manufacturer announced the extension of its “Pixel” range, produced in 2016. Already essential on the software side, since it develops the Android operating system (which equips 71% of smartphones) and the Play Store application store, the tech giant now displays its ambitions on the hardware side, with devices designed to work in synergy.
With these announcements, Pixel finally becomes a mirror version of Apple’s benchmark ecosystem (iPhone, iWatch, iPad…). Before him, the number one smartphone Samsung as well as Huawei (before his banishment) have also developed a complete range, but they do not master mobile operating systems like Apple and Google. Still, the Pixel range is in its infancy, while Apple devices are crushing their markets.
Google on the hunt for high-end Android users
Google adopts market standards for its product lines, most of which are established by Apple. The Pixel Buds wireless headphones are going to have a Pro version, more expensive but equipped with active noise reduction. The new Pixel 7 smartphone is available in a very high-end version, the Pixel 7 Pro, like its predecessor the Pixel 6 (launched in October 2021). The latter will for its part receive in July a mid-range variation, the Pixel 6a, a format successfully tested since the third generation of Google smartphones.
Since the Pixel 6, Google smartphones have been equipped with an in-house processor, Tensor Flow, which replaced Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. In other words, the Californian manufacturer controls the production chain of its flagship smartphone more than ever, and it limits the use of subcontractors. The recipe seems to be working: acclaimed by the tech press, the Pixel 6 has already outsold its two predecessors, according to Rick Osterloh, Google’s vice president of devices and services. The executive also clarified that, without the global routing problems, the turnover could be even greater.
However, the Pixel remains a confidential smartphone: the Pixel 6 manages to take between 1% and 4% market share in the countries where it is present (according to Statista). It remains far behind the quintet made up of the Korean Samsung, the American Apple (both with more than 20% market share), and the Chinese Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo (each taking between 8% and 13% of market parties).
The clash between the Apple chapel and the Android chapel has been the subject of debate among tech enthusiasts for years. Belonging to one or other of the software ecosystems is a marker of differentiation and confinement: once you have an Apple smartphone, it is easier to choose other devices from the firm, because all of them interconnected. If fans of top-of-the-range Android have so far turned almost exclusively to Samsung models, they could increasingly turn to Pixel, which has created a real ecosystem around its brand and now has another very appealing appeal product with the Pixel Watch.
A connected watch capable of competing with the Apple Watch?
The most anticipated product of the conference was the Pixel Watch, which will arrive in the fall at the same time as the Pixel 7. Expected, because it is the fruit of the acquisition of the giant of connected devices Fitbit by Google, for 2.1 billion dollars in 2021. As with its smartphone, Google controls the entire smartwatch value chain, which will rely on Fitbit’s health software, among other things.
At present, the Apple Watch monopolizes more than 30% of the connected watch market, well ahead of Samsung and Huawei (10% and 8%), its two biggest competitors, and Fitbit, the Google subsidiary ( 3.8%). As for smartphones, Google was already present on the software side of the market, with Wear OS, an operating system based on Android, which equips all references except Apple.
The Pixel Watch is expected to be an extension of users’ smartphones, stepping up from the Apple Watch, while also showcasing Fitbit’s fitness features. In short, it has all the assets to become a strong competitor to the market benchmark, which grew by 24% in 2021. Where the Apple Watch is only compatible with iPhones, the Pixel Watch will be compatible with Pixels but also other Android smartphones (Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo…).
In addition to its connected watch, Google had reserved a surprise: the arrival of a large format tablet in the Pixel range by 2023. If the manufacturer gave few details, Rick Osterloh still clarified that it would be a “premium” product, equipped with a Tensor processor, designed as an extension of Pixel smartphones.
To accompany the product, the Android development team would have made great advances in its software for tablets, says Rick Oserloh. Today, Apple’s iPads dominate the market, with more than 53% of the parts, followed again by Samsung.
Although it is now well equipped, the Pixel range still has a long way to go before competing, but its ambition is clearly to become the main alternative to the Apple ecosystem. A place currently jointly occupied by Samsung, which has the disadvantage of depending on Google for some of its software.