The Google Pixel and Pixel XL launched three months ago in October to a very enthusiastic response. They’re terrific smartphones. Our review headline called them a home run. But in the weeks since, it has become incredibly difficult for consumers to actually acquire either of them in a reasonable amount of time. Google has done a poor job of shipping adequate supply of both Pixels, as it’s now January and there’s still no easy way of obtaining the model you want without resorting to eBay or Swappa. That’s not so great for customers. And it’s hurting an incredible smartphone. The Pixel is the best Android phone you can buy — if you can actually manage to do the buying part.
The situation around the Pixel XL is the real sore spot. There are only two capacity choices for the Pixel phones: 32GB or 128GB. And according to NowInStock.net’s online tracker, the 128GB XL hasn’t been in stock at Google’s online store since November 30th of last year.
Availability problems extend beyond Google’s own site. Google and Verizon Wireless have made a fairly big deal about the Pixel phones being an “exclusive” for the carrier since launch. But the buying experience has been no better for Verizon customers. Orders placed today for the 128GB Pixel XL aren’t scheduled to ship until the second week of March. March!
That’s two months from now. It’s fairly difficult (though not impossible) to find the regular, 5-inch Pixel with 128GB of storage in stock at Verizon retail locations. But online orders for the smaller size are beginning to slide back weeks, too. The black 128GB Pixel is backordered into February. If you want the white color, you might wait until March.
But getting back to the XL variant, it’s been completely absent for most walk-in customers. In fact, I’ve never been to a single Verizon store that’s had the 128GB Pixel XL in stock at any point. Checking the company’s in-store availability tool has never produced a positive result no matter what city I set as the search perimeter. It’s a ghost. Best Buy has also had scarce supply — and it’s only selling the 32GB Pixels.
Google hasn’t yet released sales figures for the Pixel phones. Neither has Verizon. So it’s hard to get any dependable data on how well they’re selling. Analytics firms have suggested they’re performing strongly at Verizon stores. Better than your typical Nexus phone, at least. But can demand alone explain this bottleneck? Other phone makers have similar supply issues, but those almost always ease up within a few weeks after launch. The iPhone 7 Plus was pretty hard to come by in September and October, but not anymore. And remember that the iPhone is available from every major carrier and from any number of retail partners. That’s a lot of inventory to fill.
Google and HTC, the Pixel’s manufacturer, can’t exactly match Apple’s worldwide distribution infrastructure. Not many companies can. But it’s still disappointing to see Google getting so bogged down with shipping the Pixel lineup. When I asked Google for details on the ongoing lack of availability, here’s what a spokesperson replied with:
We're aware about the inventory issues on the Google Store and Verizon. Honestly, demand has exceeded our expectations. We're doing our best to restock on an ongoing basis.
In fairness, availability outside the US might look different. And again, the 32GB phones are a bit easier to find and will work for some people. But 32 gigs aren’t enough for everyone. Certainly not me. Maybe not you.
When you tell someone buying a new smartphone at Verizon that their Pixel won’t be delivered for two months, how many of them will instantly reconsider an iPhone or Galaxy S7 instead? Depending on the user, Google’s Pixel might be a better choice than either of those go-tos. But no one likes waiting. A week or two, maybe. But “you’ll get it in March” is a bad look no matter how much you throw the “demand” word around. Hopefully all of these estimates are worst-case timeframes and Google and Verizon will start ramping up deliveries over the next few weeks. The Pixel deserves to be a phone that people can walk into a store, purchase, walk out with, and enjoy. Three months after our review, it’s still not close.