Google’s 5G Pixel strategy hits Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup where it hurts


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Some business decisions are obviously brilliant from moment one, while others take time to play out before definitive judgments can be made. The jury’s still out on Google’s Pixel smartphone experiment, which started as a way to create hero hardware for Android software, but apparently hasn’t generated the sales or impact Google expected, in part because of the long shadow cast by Apple’s flagship and near-flagship iPhones. This week, Google switched strategies — at least for now — by refocusing Pixels as midrange 5G devices, seemingly in the pursuit of greater mainstream success.

I’m not yet sure whether Google’s choice will ultimately prove to be smart or foolhardy, but the company deserves some credit for actually having a strategy and seeing where it goes. As horrifying as 2020 has been, this seems like the year to focus on both affordable phones and delivering great value for the price. That’s exactly what Google is trying with the new Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5, phones that aim squarely at Apple’s historic weak points. If Apple thought it might launch the iPhone 12 family without a potentially significant challenger nipping at its heels, Google is here to offer people 5G Android devices for hundreds of dollars less. The math will be simple for businesses planning multi-device purchases: Google’s 5G Pixels will sell for $150 to $300 below Apple’s expected pricing for entry-level 5G iPhones, a savings that will only multiply at enterprise-scale device purchasing volumes.

Pixel 4a 5G is a $499 5G phone with a 6.2-inch OLED screen and 6GB of RAM, housed in a plastic body without water resistance. The base model includes sub-6GHz 5G support, compatible with most of the world’s current 5G networks; a Verizon-specific version with millimeter wave 5G support will cost $599. Pixel 5 is a $699 5G phone with a 6-inch OLED screen, 8GB of RAM, and a water-resistant aluminum body. This model has no surcharge if you want Verizon millimeter wave 5G support; all U.S. versions of the Pixel 5 have both millimeter wave and sub-6GHz 5G, while non-U.S. models only support sub-6GHz networks.

So Google’s pitch is simple: You can choose from $499, $599, and $699…