Future Google Pixel phone launch not ruled out for SA

google go 2 google in africa september 2019, pixel

Ever since Google Pixel first launched in 2016, one question has been on smartphone enthusiast’s minds: when it is coming to South Africa?

Speaking at Google In Africa’s WEF briefing event in Cape Town on Wednesday, Karan Bhatia, the company’s VP of policy and government relations gave us a glimmer of hope.

It was a snapshot answer, but there is hope the phone series will one day arrive on African shores.

When asked when Africans can expect the phone he answered: “Not soon enough.”

“We look forward to that day coming in due course,” he added.

Yes, that’s not a confirmation, and nor should we treat it as such, but it’s nonetheless more encouraging than “no”.

But it’s priority doesn’t seem to be its Pixel or it hardware, at least in Africa.

Google today drove home the need for cheaper smartphones on the continent.

Mzamo Masito, the head of marketing for Google in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighted this especially.

“Over 80% of devices that are shipped on this continent are 1GB ranked or lower,” he noted. “That basically means low speed, low storage, low battery life.”

“We have to have a device that is affordable, that is below $30 (around R450), that we would not be able to achieve unless we partner with telcos and OEMs,” he stressed.

Google’s cheapest smartphone at the moment, the Pixel 3a, doesn’t quite solve this problem. At $399 (R6000), it’s more than ten times above this $30 threshold, but there are other phones that fill this gap.

And Google’s chief programme for encouraging the proliferation of these devices is Android Go, it’s lightweight version of Android for budget hardware.

It doesn’t seem that Google is planning to release a phone cheaper than the Pixel 3a anytime soon, either.

The launch of its next flagship, the Pixel 4, is just around the corner and is set to sport technology we’ll probably won’t find in cheap phones for years to come.

When it debuts, it will also be a device that competes against other flagships, like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and the Huawei P20 Pro.

These aren’t exactly playing in the low price bracket.

So considering all this, its unlikely we’ll see the Pixel make its debut in Africa any time soon.

But still we can agree that Google’s presence in the hardware sector in Africa definitely couldn’t come “soon enough”.

Feature image: Mzamo Masito, Google’s director marketing sub-Saharan Africa in Cape Town, September 2019, by Andy Walker/Memeburn

Andy Walker, former editor


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