Google’s New Pixel Phone Beat Microsoft, Huawei In Early Sales

December 9, 2016, 7:58 PM UTC
Google Inc. Product Launch Event
Sabrina Ellis, director of product management for Google Inc., discusses the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones during a Google product launch event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. Google is embarking on a wholesale revamp of its mobile phone strategy, debuting a pair of slick and powerful handsets that for the first time will go head-to-head with Apple Inc.'s iconic iPhone. Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Michael Short—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google’s new Pixel phone got off to a solid start in its first few weeks on sale, according to new data.

The two models of the Pixel accounted for 0.5% of all U.S. phone sales for the three month period ending October 31, according to market research firm Kantar Insights. That doesn’t sound impressive, although it does tie the level of phone sales by Huawei and Microsoft.

But the Pixel phones weren’t available until October 20, meaning they reached the 0.5% level in 11 days, versus the three-month, or 92 day selling period for all the older phones on the market, explains Lauren Guenveur, director of global consumer insights at Kantar. Apple was the market leader, selling 41% of all new phones in the three months, Kantar reported.

Google is likely to sell a total of 3 million to 5 million Pixel phones in the fourth quarter, versus an expected 75 million to 80 million Apple (AAPL) iPhones, according to Morgan Stanley analysts.

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Google, a unit of Alphabet (GOOGL), introduced two models, the 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL, in October. Google fans have been attracted to the phones because they are the only ones to include the company’s new voice-driven digital assistant and are among the first to run on the Snapdragon 821 chip, the fastest processor from Qualcomm. The phones also include a highly-rated camera that some reviewers said rivals the camera in iPhone 7 Plus.

Due to an exclusive Pixel partnership with Verizon (VZ), customers of AT&T (T), Sprint (S), and T-Mobile (TMUS) couldn’t buy Pixel phones directly from their carriers and had to get the phone from Google or Best Buy.

The Pixel’s success may have been due to the substantial TV advertising budget for the phone during the launch period, Guenveur says. Google commercials ran during professional football games and other popular programming. The company spent over $3 million in the first two days of the campaign, and industry officials expected Google would shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in total. The company did not confirm the figure.

For more on the introduction of the Pixel phone, watch:

Google’s overall approach of hewing closely to Apple’s designs, features, and ad strategies also helped sales, Guenveur says. “It kind of looks like an iPhone, the ads kind of look like Apple’s iPhone ads,” she says. “Everything that Apple’s done well, Google has paid attention to.”

The 0.5% market share for Pixel over 11 days would equate to about 4% of the market over the entire three months. Still, there’s no guarantee that the Pixel phones will continue to sell briskly past the early attention of the launch period.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” says Guenveur, who wouldn’t offer a preview of Kantar’s upcoming surveys covering November or later.

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