Google Doubles Pixel Phone Unit Sales But They're Still A Fraction Of Apple And Samsung

The smartphone business is quite cutthroat, and has seen a shifting dynamic among the top players in recent years. We've seen a steady rise in power from Chinese OEMs that are looking to challenge the market dominance of Apple and Samsung. But what about Google? The company has long sold its Nexus-branded smartphones and more recently introduced its Pixel family. The smartphones are highly regarded in the enthusiast community, but how well are they actually selling?

According to IDC, Google's Pixel shipments for all of 2017 doubled compared to 2016. The finally tally for 2017, according to IDC, was 3.9 million units. Compared to the Essential Phone, which by all accounts was a flop following its mid-2017 launch with just 88,000 units sold through the end of the year, Google's Pixel sales look quite good.

google pixel 2 family

However, compared to giants in the smartphone industry, Pixel sales are essentially a rounding error. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones during its holiday quarter (Q4 2017) according to its own reporting -- that's not even counting the full year. Samsung, on the other hand, sold 74.1 million smartphones during Q4 2017 according to IDC.

Despite its relatively meager sales numbers, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are excellent smartphones that have the full backing of Google (the devices will receive three years of OS updates through Android R in 2020). We also know that Google is fully committed to smartphones for the long haul, as it recently completed its $1.1 billion acquisition of HTC's Pixel hardware team. So, depending on the strength of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL when they are released later this year, we could potentially see another doubling (or more) of Google smartphone sales for 2018.

Whatever the case, Google will find itself competing more and more with not just market leaders Apple and Samsung, but also Chinese powerhouses like Huawei, Xiaomi and OPPO, which take up the third-, fourth- and fifth-place rankings in global smartphone sales. Xiaomi in particular has been on the move over the past year, as its Q4 2017 sales volume doubled compared to the same period in 2016.

However, as prices for premium smartphones (like the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL) continue to climb, IDC warns that consumers might be reluctant to upgrade in 2018. "With ultra-high-end flagships all the rage in 2017, many of these new bezel-less wonders proved to be more of a luxury than a necessity among upgraders," wrote IDC. "Even though we have seen new full-screen displays, advanced biometrics, and improved artificial intelligence, the new and higher price points could be outweighing the benefits of having the latest and greatest device in hand."