Here's Why Google Is Lying in its Pixel Ads


The Google Pixel is "only on Verizon." That is a flat-out, dirty, no-account lie.

You can buy a Pixel that works with any major US carrier and many minor ones, directly from the Google Store. And yet "only on Verizon" is the line that ends every ad in Google's current $3.2 million ad blitz for its upcoming Pixel phones. It shows that, as I expected, Google is still walking the tightrope of trying not to annoy its many Android licensees by preventing itself from selling as many Pixels as it could.

I've written columns before on Google's incentives not to sell phones. Android rules the world, and Google likes it that way. It makes its money through eyeballs and data collection, not through hardware sales. If Google sells too many phones, though, major partners like Samsung and Huawei may get skittish and decide to run with their own operating systems, or their own forks of Android that don't include Google services.

So Google restricts sales without saying it's doing so, through soft means like weakly marketing its phones, or making it look like its phones are compatible with fewer carriers than they're really compatible with. That way, some Pixels get out there, and the technorati and developers who really want a Pixel on the carrier of their choice all get their devices, but Google doesn't rock Samsung's boat.

Not only is "only on Verizon" a lie, it's the worst way to buy your Pixel. One of the top reasons to get a Google phone is to get regular, frequent updates with the latest Android features. But on the Verizon-branded units, Verizon will manage feature updates. If past performance is any indication, owners of the Verizon models will get their feature updates months later than owners of Google units.

Google even offers its own financing for Pixels. At $27.04/month, it's charging the same amount that Verizon and Best Buy are for their units. And the Google unit is superior, as it'll get its updates directly from Google with no Verizon delays. But you don't hear a word about that in Google's marketing.

T-Mobile seems to be running some sort of rear-guard action on its social media accounts to encourage people to buy real Google Pixels and hook them up to T-Mobile's network. But with 90 percent of the smartphones in the US sold carrier-locked, T-Mobile has an uphill battle if there are no Pixels in its stores.

A single carrier exclusive phone hasn't been a best-seller in the US since the early heydays of the Verizon Motorola Droids and the AT&T iPhone exclusives. When you lock out two-thirds of your potential market, you cripple yourself in comparison not only to iPhones and Galaxies, but even to the LG G5 and HTC 10. The Pixel isn't actually an exclusive, but Google seems to want us to think it's one.

Before you argue that Verizon demanded this language for its participation, remember that Google could have done this differently. It could have linked up with all four US carriers, or could have pushed its own sales channels. It could have gone through Best Buy or Walmart for something carrier agnostic. But instead, it decided to lie, to purposefully restrict sales, and to spread a myth that this phone is "only on Verizon." This is why Google won't become a best-selling smartphone maker on the level of Apple or Samsung. It doesn't want to be.

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