Ending months of speculation and rumors, Google finally announced two new smartphones at yesterday’s 'Launch Night In' event. The two new smartphones introduced at the event include the Google Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G. Google has made several changes to its product placement in 2020 - most notably skipping an XL variant of the phone in favor of a lower-priced 5G model. Another feature that the Pixel 5 misses is the radar-based gesture recognition system called Motion Sense. Google has already listed the countries where the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G would be launched, and India is notably missing from the list.
Let’s find out why
Google Motion Sense and the V Band issue
Before we discuss the reasons behind Google opting not to launch the Pixel 5 in India, it is important to note that the company did not launch last year’s Pixel 4 in the south Asian country as well. This was largely blamed on Google’s decision to implement its RADAR based gesture recognition system - Motion Sense. This system uses 60 GHz frequency bands (V band) for which Google had to obtain separate regulatory approvals even in other countries.
While some countries allowed the use of the Pixel 4 with the Motion Sense hardware disabled, this was not an option in India where even the import of hardware that can transmit at 60GHz was (and continues to be) prohibited. The country is yet to delicense the usage of V Band for civilian use. This meant there was no legal way for Google to import the Pixel 4 into India – unless, of course, they completely removed the Motion Sense hardware for phones headed to India. It was logical for Google to then choose the next step.
They decided against bringing the Pixel 4 to India.
No RADAR on the Pixel 5. Why is Google still not launching the phone in India?
With the Google Pixel ditching Motion Sense technology on the Pixel 5, there was an expectation that the Pixel 5 would make it to India. That doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, it is likely even the Google Pixel 4a 5G will not make it to India. The only 2020 Google smartphone that will make it to India, therefore, is the Pixel 4a – which will go on sale in the country later this month.
While we are yet to receive an official statement from Google India, the company was quoted saying earlier that these devices will not make it to India because of ‘local market trends and product features.’
With 5G networks in India still a distant dream (the country is yet to even auction the 5G spectrum), using 5G technology as a selling point is pointless in India. Besides, in a price-conscious market, adding 5G hardware only exacerbates the overall cost of the phone without offering any value to the consumer. Even with their current prices - $499 for the Pixel 4a 5G and $699 for the Pixel 5 - with import taxes added, it would rise to more than Rs 45,000 ($610) for the Pixel 4a 5G and Rs 60,000 ($816) for the Pixel 5 for the Indian market.
At these prices, the ‘mid-range’ Google Pixel devices will find a hard time competing with flagship-grade smartphones like the OnePlus 8 series, and the Samsung Galaxy S20. Even the iPhone SE is available for a lower price in India.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Google has played it safe and has skipped the Indian market altogether this time around for the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G.