Google Pixel and Essential were 2017’s High-Profile Flagship Failures (Premium)

Two of the most eagerly-awaited smartphone flagships of 2017 were epic sales failures. Can any Android company besides Samsung compete with Apple in the high-end of the market?

Apparently not.

Let's start with Google, which in 2017 marked its fifth straight year of "finally being serious about competing with the iPhone," as some tech blogs keep re-reporting for each generation of its devices. That's when Google announced its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets, plus a slew of other hardware.

Most of it was really buggy. The Pixel 2s were marred by a wide swath of defects, especially the more expensive Pixel 2 XL. In fact, the problems were so widespread, I coined the term Pixelgate.

So it is perhaps no surprise that these devices failed in the market. According to IDC, Google sold just 3.9 million Pixel smartphones in 2017. In a market of about 1.5 billion smartphones, however, that works out to just .26 percent market share. Not 2.6 percent. Point two six percent.

(To be clear, the 2017 number includes some combination of the lackluster first generation Pixel and Pixel XL phones, which first went on sale in late 2016, plus the buggy Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones, which became available in October/November 2017.)

How bad is this? Even Nokia---which in this case is just a brand, not a company---sold more phones: It sold 4.4 million handsets in the final quarter of 2017 alone.

On the plus side, Google's 2017 sales figure is about double the number of Pixel (and, presumably, Nexus) phones that it sold the previous year. So they are at least heading in the right direction. Up.

The news is even worse for Essential, which is not heading in the right direction. That firm suffered through a number of defeats--including shipment delays and rumors of slow sales that were followed by a permanent $200 price cut---in 2017 after a high-profile launch.

Essential makes Pixel look like a colossus of the smartphone world: The firm sold just 88,000 units in all of 2017, IDC says, making it something even smaller than a boutique phone maker. That's roughly 0.006 percent market share. And I'm rounding up to be kind.

If there's any good news for these firms, it's that it could still be even worse. A smartphone maker called Wileyfox sold so few of its Android handsets over its short life, that it's heading into the UK's version of bankruptcy. That's what you get for a trying to sell a new Windows phone in 2017, you dummies.


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