Pixel perfect: 2019 was best year yet for Google's mobile hardware biz, says analyst

Chocolate Factory surpasses OnePlus sales for first time, thanks to Pixel 3a

2019 was a good year for Google's mobile hardware division, according to figures from analyst house IDC, which reports record Pixel sales of 7.2 million units – up 52 per cent on the previous year.

IDC veep Francisco Jeronimo said that this means the Chocolate Factory surpassed Android stalwart OnePlus in sales figures.

Speaking to The Register, Jeronimo attributed Google’s strong 2019 to shipments of the Pixel 3A series (which includes the 3A XL) and the previous Pixel 3 flagship, which accounted for 49 per cent and 30 per cent of Google's numbers respectively.

It's unsurprising most of 2019 sales came from the well-received and affordable Pixel 3a, which launched in May, and with a lower starting price of $399. The Pixel 3a retained the camera hardware from the previous Pixel 3 flagship, with only a handful of compromises, mostly around storage and processing.

Early estimates of combined Pixel 3a and 3a XL sales show Google flinging 3 million units in the six months after release. Sales volumes were referenced by CEO Sundar Pichai during the firm's Q4 earnings call, (transcript here), while remaining curiously silent about the success of the Pixel 4 series.

Comparatively, the Pixel 4 struggled, although Jeronimo is reticent to describe it as a “flop,” noting the fact that it’s a newer device that was launched in October, and therefore hasn’t had much time on the market.

That notwithstanding, the Pixel 4 was dismally received by critics, who primarily complained about the phone’s woefully stingy 2,800mAh battery. That's not great considering most Android manufacturers are shipping devices with 4,000mAh and even 5,000mAh cells. It infuriated punters, who after getting used to multi-day longevity, suddenly found themselves having to constantly stay close to a wall socket or carry a bulky portable battery.

Google is expected to release a budget version of the Pixel 4 later this year – called, predictably, the Pixel 4a and 4a XL.

In keeping with tradition, it's likely the Chocolate Factory will release the flagship Pixel 5 towards the end of the year. Some of the previous launches took place in October, although it's not certain whether Google will end up postponing the Pixel 5 release date, given the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. ®

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