Alphabet Inc’s Google launched more affordable versions of its Pixel smartphone on Tuesday at about half the price of its current models, and dropped an exclusive U.S. distribution deal with Verizon Communications Inc, signaling a major shift in the tech giant’s hardware strategy.
Since hitting the market three years ago, the Pixel has been a slow seller compared to phones from Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co. Those companies spend far more than Google on advertising, offer options at multiple prices and ensure wide distribution.
Google is now moving to close the gap. The new Pixel 3a is priced as low $399, compared with $799 for last year’s Pixel 3. The cheaper version will have one front camera instead of two and no wireless charging option, Google said. The phone will sell in the same 13 countries as the Pixel 3.
And while Pixel devices currently work on T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular networks, those U.S. wireless carriers will also begin to sell the phones starting Wednesday, along with Verizon.
Google had discussions with AT&T, another major U.S. carrier, but could not overcome some differences, according to people familiar with the matter. But Google and AT&T continue to discuss the possibility of stocking smartphones in the future, one of the people said.
Google’s Queiroz declined to comment on talks with partners.
He said advertising for the Pixel 3a would be a continuation of campaigns for the Pixel 3.
The Pixel 3a was unveiled Tuesday on the main stage at Google I/O, Google’s annual conference for its thousands of industry partners and its showcase for new products.