The Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are by no means bad phones. We mostly liked the Pixel 4 XL and love the fact that both have seen large discounts in recent months. But most reviews of each phone (including ours) found them lacking and overpriced at launch, leaving us under the impression that both were likely failures from a sales perspective.
That may be an understatement of the Pixel 4’s story, at least according to a report from The Information, who suggests the Pixel 4 launch was a massive disaster.
In a report out this morning, we’re learning that not only was the Pixel 4 a retail flop, it may have cost the company its camera guru. The head of its hardware division also apparently shared his displeasure with the pair of phones and their features prior to launch. I mean, this sounds bad.
On a sales front, the IDC estimates that Google sold just 2 million Pixel 4 phones in the first two quarters of its release. For comparison, Apple sold almost 74 million phones in Q4 of last year alone. The Pixel 3 reportedly sold around 3.5 million over a similar 2-quarter span, while the Pixel 3a hit 3 million. The Pixel 3 is mostly viewed as another flop, so if the Pixel 4 is well below that, then that’s a big yikes.
Sales aside, Marc Levoy, the computational camera guru from Stanford that has helped the Google Pixel line shape an identity all around having one of the best cameras in the business, has left the company. Levoy, as you may recall, spent 11 minutes on stage during the Pixel 4 event just this past fall to talk about all of the camera magic his team had built into Google’s new phones. He led the team that introduced HDR+ and Night Sight and the Portrait modes found in Pixel phones.
Wondering what that means for the Pixel 5 camera and beyond? So are we. The foundation is there for great cameras, but knowing how poor the camera experiences on Google phones were prior to Levoy, you have to be somewhat nervous about future Pixel phones.
On an equally concerning note, just before the hardware team took the stage to introduce its line-up of new products, head of hardware Rick Osterloh held an all-hands meeting where he was reportedly not happy with the phones he would soon sell the public. Osterloh was apparently not happy with some areas of the phones, most notably in the battery department:
At a hardware team all-hands meeting in the fall, ahead of the October launch in New York, Osterloh informed staff about his own misgivings. He told them he did not agree with some of the decisions made about the phone, according to two people who were present at the meeting. In particular, he was disappointed in its battery power. Google denied a request to speak with Osterloh.
As you all know, battery life, particularly with the Pixel 4, is one of the areas that likely sunk Google’s newest phones. To see Osterloh share disappointment should bring up questions about who is making final decisions here. If it was Mario Queiroz, the man behind years of Pixel and other Google hardware products, today’s report acknowledges that he has since left the company as well.
Alright, then, how about that Pixel 4a!