Google is launching a new subscription service designed to both sell its new Pixel 6 smartphone and promote its bevy of existing paid software services. It's called the Pixel Pass, and it bundles a new Google handset with YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium, Google Play Pass and Google One cloud storage.
Google is trying to rival both Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program and Apple One bundle, which includes access to Apple's TV and music-streaming services in addition to other benefits. With Pixel Pass, customers will pay $45 or $55, depending on whether they want a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, and can upgrade their device after two years. The company announced the new plan on Tuesday during the live stream of its annual fall Pixel hardware event.
Google has very good reason to want its own all-in-one bundle. Tech companies are increasingly building out ecosystems of hardware and software, largely due to Apple's success in transforming its iOS ecosystem into a larger family of products and services that all tie into one another. By promoting one product, companies are more easily able to sell customers on a companion software subscription that works well with that product, as Apple does with its AirPods, HomePod and Apple Music platform.
With bundles, companies like Apple and Google are able to lock in customers and keep them paying a recurring fee in perpetuity, especially as those customers become accustomed to constant access to otherwise paid services that dictate how they get their music and entertainment. That in turn makes it more difficult for customers to switch to competing services in the future.
But Google is going one step further than the competition in unifying a hardware purchase with a software subscription bundle, ensuring customers continue paying for the device and using the provided platforms for years to come. That, too, makes sense: Many of Google's services, even its paid ones, monetize in ways beyond just subscription fees or basic advertising, relying on data collection to help inform Google's broader digital ad empire and to support the moneymaking activities of many of its free services, like Gmail and Google Search.
It's not clear how many customers are eager to wade this far into the Google ecosystem. Though the company is much more optimistic about the sales outlook for the Pixel 6 than for previous iterations, the company's mobile hardware efforts have to date failed to gain anywhere near the traction of the iPhone or Samsung's Galaxy line. Yet for those looking to buy the new Pixel phone, there don't appear to be any deals as tantalizing as the Pixel Pass, marking the start of what could turn into a not-so-walled garden of Google's own.