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Despite "Pixel vs iPhone" Google phone sales are tiny

Lindsey Duncan
February 15, 2018

Google released its first Pixel smartphone in October 2016.

Do you own one of the 3.9 million Pixel phones that Google shipped in 2017?

According to IDC's numbers, Google shipped 3.9 million Pixel phones in 2017.

Even HMD Global, which began selling Nokia-branded smartphones a year ago, sold more phones than Google. Google launched the Pixel 2 in October past year.

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While that's technically double the phones Google shipped in 2016, there's a fairly important caveat to take note of. For Google, that's not too shabby for a newcomer - it's twice the number of Pixels from the year before - but overall it's still pretty weak, and a sign that there's a long road ahead before the company even comes close to challenging Apple and Samsung. The Pixel and Pixel 2 devices are only available in up to eight countries, compared to the iPhone X, for example, that may be purchased in 70 countries. For comparison, Apple typically has sales stats showing over a million iPhones sold per day.

Google occasionally dabbles with pop-up stores for the holidays, and it has some dedicated displays inside electronics stores, but it's missing a standalone retail presence.

But the Pixel isn't a massive commercial success for Google for the time being. In the United States, 90% of smartphones are sold via wireless carriers. According to data from TrendForce, HMD sold 4.4 million devices during the holiday quarter alone. So let's look at the average for the calendar year 2017. In fact, Apple and HMD Global will be the only major vendors to see an increase in sales this year as the smartphone market matures.

While he didn't provide any concrete figures, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently confirmed during the company's quarterly earnings call that Google has seen its device shipments more than double year-over-year. HMD is now the world's sixth largest smartphone vendor.