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Google not to launch its latest Pixel phone in India

Google decides against the availability of its Pixel 4 smartphone to Indians due to lack of 60 MHz spectrum band in India, which is needed for the Soli radar chip in the Pixel 4 devices to function. The chip supports motion sense and voice commands.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 17, 2019, 08.55 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Indian fans of Google’s smartphones are set to miss out on the US company’s latest devices in the festive season, with the Pixel 4 models not being launched in India, the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market.

“We decided not to make Pixel 4 available in India. We remain committed to our current Pixel phones and look forward to bringing future Pixel devices to India,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

“Google has a wide range of products that we make available in different regions around the world. We determine availability based on a variety of factors, including local trends, and product features,” the company added, while declining to share the reason for not making Pixel 4 available in India.

However, experts said the main factor was the unavailability of the 60 MHz spectrum band in India, which is needed for the Soli radar chip in the Pixel 4 devices to function. The chip supports key features including Motion Sense, which allows users to control the phone with gestures or voice commands.

Another feature that the chip supports is facial recognition, which would not work on Indian frequencies that are presently available. The devices have PIN and pattern-based authentication, but no fingerprint scanner.

“The spectrum band has been under debate for a long time, but since it is not available for public use in India, there is not much that we can do but to not release the devices here,” an executive said, asking not to be identified.

The government’s decision to not delicense the 60 MHz band is rooted in a stalemate with Indian telcos. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm want the E and V bands, which include 60 MHz, to be auctioned, not delicensed.

Some analysts said that Google may have had other reasons for skipping India, where it has little or no presence.

“An emerging and value-conscious market like India won’t help Google move the needle in terms of both volume and value, with only flagships in the market,” said Navkendar Singh, research director at International Data Corporation India. “Considering the small premium smartphone segment with intense competition from Apple and Samsung, India needs a more affordable segment play and we can expect Pixel 4A series to be launched (without Radar feature) in mid-segment.”

With a 0.1% share, Google’s Pixel devices have never made a mark in India, mainly due to their high pricing. Its low-cost Android One OS-based devices didn’t fly in the South Asian market because of unclear messaging around its branding and marketing.

However, India still remains an attractive market that Google needs to keep a close eye on, according to Tarun Pathak, associate director, mobile devices and ecosystems, at Counterpoint Technology Market Research.

“The premium segment is growing at a much faster rate than the overall market and this is, in fact, the right time to scale operations in India. Maybe Google will look at other SKUs for the India market going forward, like Pixel 3a,” he said.
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