Google’s Pixel Phone Shines Despite Misgauging Demand

The Pixel phone, Google's answer to Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy, is off to a promising start -- but might have done even better had Google managed consumer demand as smartly as the device's sleek design.

Although Google hasn't released sales figures, industry researchers say the Pixel [pictured above] has been a hot item since its October debut was greeted with mostly glowing reviews and the biggest marketing blitz in Google's 18-year history.

But there were missed opportunities.

Google didn't have enough Pixels available to meet demand. Rather than wait several weeks, many consumers interested in the Pixel probably bought an iPhone, Galaxy or another phone instead. And these people aren't likely to need a phone replacement for another year or two.

Google also struck a deal to sell it through just one wireless carrier, Verizon. Although Google's online store sold Pixels compatible with other wireless networks, most people don't shop for phones that way. Of course, it's a moot point if there weren't enough Pixels to sell, but Google likely would have produced more if it had distribution deals with other carriers.

It's not surprising that Google misjudged the market, given that this is the search company's first stab at making its own phone. Previously, it partnered with various manufacturers on a Nexus line of phones to showcase its Android operating system, but that effort barely made a dent.

"This was probably a really good learning experience for them," says Neil Doshi, an analyst with Mizhuo Securities USA.

The Pixel's success is important to Google because it wants to ensure there's a stylish Android phone to compete with the iPhone and drive more affluent consumers to its search engine, maps, YouTube videos and other services. Samsung's Galaxy and other phones also run on Android, but those devices have been de-emphasizing Google's services.

Google, which is based in...

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