The Pixel 6 is one of the best phones Google has ever produced, and the market appears to be rewarding Google for it. Today in Alphabet’s Q4 2021 earnings report, the company offered a rare comment on its hardware sales. CEO Sundar Pichai called out “a quarterly sales record for our Pixel phones.” Technically, his statement includes the Pixel 6 and the cheaper Pixel 5a, but this is the Pixel 6’s first quarter of availability, and the Pixel a series doesn’t change much year to year.
Here’s Pichai’s statement from the earnings call:
In Q4, we set an all time quarterly sales record for Pixel. This came in spite of an extremely challenging supply chain environment. The response to Pixel 6 from our customers and carrier partners was incredibly positive.
Google never offers specific numbers on Pixel sales, and the company didn’t change that habit today. According to the IDC, Google’s highest number of phone shipments came in 2019, the year the Pixel a series first launched. Google shipped only 7 million devices for the entire year (the company would do a lot better if it actually tried to be a worldwide manufacturer). Pixel distribution is currently the worst it has ever been, with the Pixel 6 only available in nine countries, and the Pixel 5a is only for sale in two countries. A Samsung or Apple phone sells in 100+ countries, and both sell anywhere from 200-300 million phones a year.
Early supply chain reports from Nikkei Asia said Google “has high hopes for the Pixel 6 range and has asked suppliers to prepare 50% more production capacity for the handsets compared with the pre-pandemic level in 2019.” Even this has not felt like enough units, as the Pixel 6 was constantly sold out as soon as it was announced, which frustrated many potential customers.
It’s not hard to see why the Pixel 6 is doing well. The 6 is Google’s first phone in a while to ship without any widely panned hardware decisions. The Pixel 5 opted-out of the flagship race by being a mid-range phone. The Pixel 4 had a Face ID and radar air-gesture system that didn’t work well, and the Pixel 3 had a ridiculously large screen notch. The Pixel 6, on the other hand, is a pretty normal flagship smartphone, with a handsome design, brand-new camera hardware, and a price that is about $300 cheaper than the nearest Samsung or OnePlus competition. It ships with Google’s beautiful new Android 12 OS, and Google’s iPhone-like, day-one software updates sidestep all the usual Android fragmentation nastiness.
The one thing Google messed up with the Pixel 6 is that it seems like the phone was rushed out the door with a few software bugs. On top of that, the company ended up missing the first two monthly security updates. With the January patch finally out the door, though, hopefully we can just chalk that shortcoming up to a brand-new chip and some early growing pains.