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Google’s Pixel 4 smartphone goes on sale next week, but it won’t be sold in India

The new Google Pixel 4 phone is on display during a Google product launch event called Made by Google 19 on October 15, 2019 in New York City. - Google unveiled its newest Pixel handsets, aiming to boost its smartphone market share with features including gesture recognition that lets users simply wave their hands to get things done. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

Google will not be bringing its new Pixel 4 to the world’s second-largest smartphone market.

The smartphone was unveiled in New York on Tuesday and officially goes on sale on October 24, but it won’t be available in India.

“We decided not to make Pixel 4 available in India,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business.

That’s reportedly because one of the Pixel 4’s key components, a Soli radar chip that enables facial recognition and gesture controls, operates on a frequency that India doesn’t allow companies to use. Google was unable to obtain a license from Indian authorities to use the 60 Gigahertz frequency, according to several media reports.

India’s Department of Telecommunications did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Google said the company’s devices are made available in countries “based on a variety of factors, including local trends and product features,” but it declined to comment on why the Pixel 4 was not being launched in India.

“We remain committed to our current Pixel phones and look forward to bringing future Pixel devices to India,” the company spokesperson said.

India is not the only country where Motion Sense — the feature that allows users to control the Pixel 4 through hand gestures — has hit roadblocks. The feature is also not yet available in Japan, Google said on its support page, but will roll out there by spring 2020.

However, Japan is one of a dozen countries where the Pixel 4 will go on sale, a list that also includes the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Singapore and Taiwan.

India is a huge prize for smartphone makers, with more than 400 million users and a potential market of several hundred million more who have yet to get connected to the internet.

But the Indian market is dominated by Chinese players like Xiaomi and BBK Electronics, which together made up nearly 60% of smartphone sales last quarter, and global leader Samsung, which accounted for another 25%.

Google’s smartphones, with their high price tag (the Pixel 4 starts at $799), are out of reach for the average Indian, who earns less than $2,000 a year, according to the latest International Labor Organization figures.

The company accounts for less than 1% of India’s smartphone market, according to Tarun Pathak of Counterpoint Research.

As in Japan, it could have launched the Pixel 4 in India without some features. Apple has taken a similar approach in the past, when it started selling the Apple Watch without its heart rate monitor last year. Apple finally added the feature to its Indian watches about a month ago.

But Google doesn’t have enough of a presence in India to justify reworking its devices for the country, Pathak said.

Google still sells its older Pixel models in the country, including the Pixel 3, the Pixel 3 XL, and the Pixel 3a.

“This should not be seen as an exit,” Pathak added. “It’s still a lucrative market for Google… it’s not like everything is lost because they couldn’t launch one series.”

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