Google Pixel 6
Image: Google

The Pixel 6. The mere mention of the name gives me equal parts excitement and frustration. I haven’t been so excited for the release of a phone in a very long time, while simultaneously feeling as though I might forever shake my head at how a release went down. Google absolutely failed the release of its latest flagship phone, the Pixel 6, which should go down as a historic shame (at least within the realm of the tech sector), but will barely register as a blip on the radar of consumers around the world.

Let me explain.

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The day of the Pixel 6 release was upon me. I watched the Google event because I had to report on the details of the new phone. During the event, I shifted between the Google speakers and the Play Store, hoping I could be one of the lucky ones to pre-order the exact Pixel 6 I wanted.

I don’t remember at which point it happened, but Google unlocked the metaphorical doors and allowed people to start pre-ordering the Pixel 6.

In theory.

What unfolded was an absolute disaster for Google.

I attempted to place the phone in my shopping cart, only to receive a 500 error. At first, I thought it was that Google hadn’t actually made the pre-orders officially available and I just needed to double down on my patience. But the error persisted.

And then morphed.

And then returned.

Eventually, the error vanished, only to reveal most of the devices had already sold out. I was able to finally place a 128Gb unlocked device (not the phone I was hoping for) in my shopping cart, only to receive yet another error.

I kept at it. No luck. I did some quick searching to discover the problem was global.

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This was an embarrassment.

The company that is supposed to be the heart of everyone’s internet experience couldn’t deliver on a simple e-commerce solution on what should have been one of its biggest releases to date.

At some point, the wife and I had to run some errands. I asked her to drive, so I could continue trying to get Google to take my money (this time on my Pixel 5) yet the company persisted in failing to do so.

It wasn’t until I got home and tried again (some three hours after the event was over) that I was able to get the phone into the shopping cart and make the purchase.

Once this event was over, it gave me time to reflect on my experience and similar experiences with previous Pixel releases. A conclusion was drawn.

Apple absolutely kills Google on hardware releases. In fact, there’s absolutely no reason to compare the two.

Apple succeeds.

Google fails.

The “meh” approach

Apple spends the money necessary for proper marketing and is capable of getting consumers seriously hyped about a new product. It’s what Apple does best. And in this case, it’s astonishing how large the gap is.

During the lead-up to the Pixel 6 release, I think I saw maybe two commercials for the device, and those commercials were less than exciting (to say the least). Prior to the latest iPhone release, I couldn’t escape the advertising. It was everywhere. So prevalent was Apple’s iPhone hype, it had me wondering, “It’s been years since I had an iPhone. Is it time I try one again?”

On the contrary, Google’s Pixel 6 hype had me like, “Meh. Whatever. I’ll get one.”

That always seems to be Google’s approach to marketing hardware. “Meh, it’ll work.”

Thing is, the Pixel 6 looks to be one of the best phones on the market (once they start arriving in the hands of the users). So why the company approaches marketing with such a blasé attitude is beyond me.

Consider this: The Pixelbook Go is one of the finest Chromebooks on the market. Do you remember their marketing efforts? Neither do I. When the original Pixel Chromebook was released it was a work of technological art. It redefined mobile screens, keyboards and trackpads. Hype? Nada. Android 12 might well be the finest iteration of Google’s mobile platform ever released. PR? Scant.

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If you’ve ever wondered why Android market share lags far behind iOS in the United States, it’s because of this very thing. You cannot turn your TV on without seeing iPhone ads or placement. They are everywhere. When was the last time you saw an Android phone in a television show?

I know it might seem silly, but product placement works … very well. People see celebrities using a product and they’ll feel inclined to want that product. You just don’t see celebs sporting Android. It’s all iOS all the time.

Apple knows this and uses it to its advantage. And when a new iPhone release is upon us, Apple inundates the media with incredibly effective advertisements that actually work to build hype around their product. Apple is the true master of marketing.

And until Google can bridge this gap, Android will continue to fall behind in the U.S. and Japanese markets (both markets where image is important). Google needs to markedly refine its lead-up to releases, shore up its e-commerce solution, and then hire a marketing team that understands precisely why Apple constantly succeeds (even when its product might be inferior to what Google has to offer).

If Google doesn’t fix this problem, it’ll have to accept that the Pixel market consists of previous Pixel owners and mobile device users who have grown tired of the iOS way of things. If that’s the company’s marketing plan, then all I have to say is, “Meh.”

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