Google's Pixel boosts Verizon entering holiday season: Wave7

EE's black Google Pixel smartphone
Google's Pixel

Verizon and Google have exploited an opening in the high end of the smartphone market to boost sales of the new Pixel. Unsurprisingly, other carriers have yet to fully leverage Google’s new flagship phone.

The Pixel claimed 7.5% of activations at Verizon stores over the last month, according to Wave7 Research estimates, due largely to aggressive promotions from both the internet giant and the nation’s largest carrier. Retail outlets are using in-store displays to push the 32 GB Pixel (which starts at $650) and the Pixel XL (starts at $770) as well as Google’s $79 Daydream View VR. Google spent $15 million on TV ads supporting the Pixel from Oct. 27 through Nov. 2, Wave7 said, and Verizon spent nearly $12 million on commercials during that time to push the phone.

Pixel marketing spending remains heavy, Wave7 said, but has cooled notably.

Google introduced the Pixel in early October and Verizon touted its exclusive deal on the phone when it began selling them Oct. 20. T-Mobile challenged that “exclusive” partnership a week later, offering a $325 discount to customers who purchase an unlocked version of the phone and then activate it on the carrier’s new T-Mobile One unlimited plan.

Verizon remains the only U.S. carrier to receive much of a boost thus far from the Pixel, however. “(A)ctivations at all other carrier stores are in the 0-2 range, so activating the Pixel at AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint is not yet a significant factor. The Pixel is now sold at Best Buy,” Wave7 noted.

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A lack of marketing support from other major U.S. carriers is surely shackling sales of the Pixel, but Google’s device is filling a gaping hole in the high end of the smartphone market as the industry enters the critical holiday season. Samsung’s disastrous endeavor with the Galaxy Note 7 has dampened expectations during a typically active fourth quarter, and limited stocks of Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus are also weighing down the market.

The major question regarding the Pixel for the next month will be how soon other carriers will be able to market the device themselves. Apple disappointed analysts in October who expected it to make $76 billion to $78 billion in revenue by the end of the year, seemingly indicating holiday iPhone sales won’t meet expectations.

Meanwhile, Samsung continues to struggle with the Note 7 debacle that has become extremely costly. While two-thirds of retail representatives polled by Wave7 said the Note 7 problems haven’t “significantly hurt the sales of other Samsung smartphones,” the fallout continues heading into Black Friday. Samsung’s share of activations “is down significantly” compared to summer levels across carriers, Wave7 noted. If carriers other than Verizon can begin marketing and selling the Pixel in the next two to three weeks, sales of Google’s phone could soar.