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Why does South Africa not have the Google Pixel phones?

Google Pixel 4a
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Google has the tech world talking after their recent launch of the Google Pixel 5. While South Africans are up-to-date on the latest products coming from Google, we're left behind when it comes to availability in the country.

This is especially true when it comes to their phones. Google Pixel phones were released in 2016 and since then the only way South Africans can get their hands on them, is through special import. 

While this is a fine option, it often comes with challenges and can be quite expensive. 

So when it Google Pixel going to launch here?  

Google dangles the possibility 

Google has been very vague whenever broached about the possibility of expanding the country launch of its phones, offering only indeterminate hints that it might be on its way...someday. 

In 2019, Karan Bhatia, Google's VP of policy and government relations said at Google In Africa’s WEF event that the phones "can't come soon enough" and "we look forward to that day in due course."

While not a confirmation or promise of any kind, it did give fans hope. However, over a year on and there hasn't been another peep about this possibility since. 

Space in the market

Alternate Android phones aren't big in South Africa and brand recognition is key to getting people to buy in. While Google is a big name, it is possible that putting up a fight in the local market between Samsung, Huawei and Apple might not seem worth the effort. 

While South Africa has impressive smartphone penetration, there is a big difference between the low-middle tier market and that for the flagship phones. While many like buying the latest and greatest, often settling for middle is a necessity because of the incredibly high prices. 

Since Google has kept its smartphone production niche in the higher range, flagship phones, the appetite in the country for cheaper phones isn't really met by their model. Currently their cheapest phone the Pixel 3a is selling for around R6,500 in the US. 


So, are we going to get them? 

Really there is no solid answer and Google have been pretty clear about not giving a definitive yes or no. 

It is encouraging that other Android phone companies like Oppo have decided to launch here, which could encourage more to join and bring their phones to our market. However, only time will tell. 

Leila Stein

Leila Stein is an experienced multimedia journalist and content producer with a special interest in data journalism. she is skilled in news writing, editing, online writing and multimedia content production and have a Bachelor of Journalism  from Rhodes University and an Honours in Historical Studies from University of Cape Town.