Late last night, I posted a story claiming Verizon was closing up shop on its relationship with Google and the Pixel. As of this morning, I'm retracting that claim, because the previously reliable source from which I received it—a source that I know and trust, and provided information from a variety of contexts and sources—was incorrect. While I'm unable to share more specific information, I have extremely good reason to believe that source was working with inaccurate, unreliable, or outdated information (or all three), which led to a conclusion which is not supported in reality.
At this time, it is our belief that Verizon's statement, repeated below for the sake of convenience, is the best possible guidance on the carrier's plans as regard the Pixel phones in 2020.
"There's no truth to this story. Verizon continues to work with Google and looks forward to the new portfolio of devices."
Read narrowly, you can take this to mean Verizon will stock at least some of Google's Pixel smartphones this year, or read broadly, you can take it mean it will stock all of them. At this time, I have no reason to doubt Verizon's statement. Additionally, as a result, we will no longer be posting stories based on information from this source.
For the sake of posterity, the original story text follows below. I apologize for how this was handled, and do try to hold our stories regarding rumors and unannounced news to a high standard of quality. Today, we failed to meet that bar.
In short, a previously (very) reliable source turned out to be unreliable in this case. I personally apologize for what turned out be a story that, so far as we can tell, has no truth to it. At this time, I believe Verizon's statement offers the best guidance on the situation.
— David Ruddock (@RDRv3) February 20, 2020
Original Story (2/19/20)
Speaking to a source familiar with the company's plans, but who was not authorized to speak on Verizon's behalf, the carrier has allegedly put on indefinite hold any plans to sell new Google Pixel smartphones. No specific reasoning was immediately cited, but it's not hard to guess: these phones just don't sell.
At this time, our source believes the chance of the Pixel 4a coming to Verizon is now zero; it's far too late for Verizon to change its mind. And while there is a possibility the Pixel 5 could end up there, that's just because there's still enough time on the clock for plans to change. At this point, Verizon allegedly has no intention of selling Google's next-generation smartphone.
It's not exactly a secret that Google's Pixels haven't been a roaring commercial success, and by all accounts, even the "better" sales of the Pixel 3a remain meager in the larger US smartphone market. Verizon was easily Google's most important carrier partner, as Verizon was responsible for the lion's share of total carrier advertising and promotion for every generation of Pixel to date.
It is difficult to overstate the devastating effect this loss would have on Google's smartphone unit. Carriers are the lifeblood of phone manufacturers in this country, and Verizon was Google's most important partner. It seems Verizon was so unhappy with the Pixel's performance that it finally threw in the towel. Given we know the carrier is courting OnePlus, whose phone will likely land later this spring—around the time the Pixel 4a would have launched—perhaps that should have been a warning sign.
The fallout from the dissolution of this business relationship could be far reaching in Google's hardware division. This would, without a doubt, represent an unmitigated failure for Google's multi-year effort to become a significant player in the smartphone world. It is difficult to see such a loss not resulting in major changes to how the company approaches its strategy going forward, and whether it plans to continue making smartphones at all. After four generations of phones and no real signs of momentum, the powers that be inside Google are likely getting impatient with a business unit that has so consistently underperformed with an approach that arguably hasn't changed much in those four years. It's a damning track record, and one which will no doubt come under intense scrutiny if our source is correct.
Is it possible Google could knock Verizon's socks off with what it's planning for the Pixel 5? I mean, I guess it's possible. But if you were to ask me if it was likely? I'm just not optimistic.
No doubt, speculation will run wild that Google could eventually exit the smartphone business entirely, but we currently have no reason to think that's something on the table. But if the Pixel 5 really doesn't end up Verizon, I can't imagine that not being something Google executives will have to consider as an option.
We've reached out to Google for comment on this story and will update with any response they provide.
In a statement to Android Authority's Eric Zeman, Verizon has denied any break-up with Google and said it's looking forward to new devices from the company.
Verizon says "There is no truth to this report" that it will stop selling Google's Pixel phones. "Verizon continues to work with Google and looks forward to the new portfolio of devices."
— Z (@zeman_e) February 20, 2020