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The Pixel market share chart Google probably won't be showing at its event today

  • Google is expected to announce a new, upgraded Pixel 2 smartphone at an event today.
  • Anticipated improvements include longer battery life and even higher quality photos.
  • While its first version was critically acclaimed for both its hardware and software, it has not made much of a dent in the U.S. smartphone market after launching last October.
Sabrina Ellis, Director of Product Management at Google, speaks about the new Pixel phone during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2016.
Beck Diefenbach | Reuters
Sabrina Ellis, Director of Product Management at Google, speaks about the new Pixel phone during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2016.

Google is expected to announce a new, upgraded Pixel 2 smartphone at an event today in California. Anticipated improvements include longer battery life and even higher quality photos. Our colleagues at the Verge are covering it live here.

Google insists it has ambitious plans to create "compelling hardware products" and recently announced it would be hiring about 2,000 engineers from Taiwanese phone maker HTC to help achieve them. You can imagine future Pixels and other projects as part of that partnership (today's is reportedly a partnership with LG).

What's less clear is whether Google has any significant changes in store to how the Pixel is marketed and sold. Because while its first version was critically acclaimed for both its hardware and software, it has not made much of a dent in the U.S. smartphone market after launching last October.

An average 0.7 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers used the Pixel in the three month period ending in August, according to data from measurement company comScore. For context: Apple's iPhone is used by 45.5 percent of subscribers, and Samsung phones — the dominant company using Google Android to power its devices — represents 29.5 percent of U.S. subscriber share. More broadly, 53 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers use Android phones.

Does it matter if Google has a successful phone hardware business? Not really — the company is still phenomenally profitable based on its search advertising business.

But Google says it wants to be good at hardware, and it can theoretically make Android phones much better — and maybe even generate a profit — by more tightly integrating hardware, software and services, à la the Apple iPhone model.

It would be a waste and a shame if Google's best efforts only reached the 1 percent who went out of their way to find them. So it will be telling if Google cares enough to make this chart look very different in another year.

By Dan Frommer and Rani Molla, Recode.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

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