This post was originally published on May 16th and updated on May 18th. Update below.
The COVID-19 outbreak, and the resultant economic downturn we’re all experiencing, has forced tech companies to rethink their launch plans.
Not just when devices are launched, but what devices are released and how much they’ll cost. Google appears to be the latest big name to make dramatic changes to its plans.
Stephan Hall from tech site 9To5Google tweeted this week that sources speaking to him suggested that Google’s upcoming Pixel 4a will be priced at $349. The new mid-range handset from Google will also come with 128GB storage as basic.
Update May 18th: A Google product survey sent to a Reddituser (spotted by Android Authority) adds weight to Hall’s rumour about the 4a’s price, but it also gives us fresh information about the pricing of what could be the Pixel 5
One device is described as having a “durable plastic body”, a 3.5mm headphone jack and starts at $349. It seems fairly clear this is the Pixel 4a.
The other device mentioned in the survey is where it gets interesting. Described as “the best flagship Google phone” and having a “best in class camera” – likely refers to the Pixel 5, Google’s 2020 flagship that will launch later this year. Priced at $699 (according to the survey) – this would dramatically undercut Samsung’s current flagship range and be on par with the OnePlus 8. It’s also $100 cheaper than the Pixel 4 launch price last year
Reliable leaker Evan Blass tweeted pictures of what appears to be Pixel 4a marketing images, which showed a price-tag of $399. There’s good reason to believe that $399 price was accurate because it’s what the Pixel 3a cost when it launched last year.
But Hall’s news now suggests that Google has shifted plans and knocked $50 off the 4a to, presumably, take the fight directly to Apple’s recently released iPhone SE, which starts at $399.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Google is adapting to the current economic reality, especially considering how popular the iPhone SE was with Pixel phone owners in Reddit and Facebook groupsthat I came across last month.
The clear consensus was that Apple’s cheapest iPhone was too good a deal to resist. Regardless of the phone’s capabilities, the very fact that it’s an Apple device was enough to entice previously priced-out Android users.
However Hall’s 4a price cut information has down gone very well in those same groups, so Google may have won back a few wavering customers.
I don’t think this price-war between these two mid-range devices ends here, though. Apple is already in the unusual position of discounting its products, so there may be more surprises on the way.
For Google, though, it’s not uncommon to see its phones heavily discounted months after launch. Its last two flagship Pixel phones have been discounted by $200 for the 2018 and 2019 Black Friday shopping periods, which comes a month after the October Pixel launch. Then there are intermittent discounts throughout the year, including a limited time $300 off at the start of this month.
Google also isn’t shy about bundling freebies with its phones, be that a free Nest device or, perhaps less likely, a discounted pair of its recently released Pixel Buds.
Google and Apple aren’t the only companies playing this game. Microsoft knocked $50 off its recently released Surface Earbuds, Samsung is reportedly working on a half price Galaxy Fold, OnePlus has a ‘lite’ device on the way and Google’s Pixel 5 might be a lot cheaper.
These are unusual times and companies are adapting their strategies, so expect more discounts as the price war intensifies. If you’re in the business for a new phone, wait to see what deals you can get – because a lot more are almost certainly on the way.