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Why the Google Pixel 5a isn't available to buy in most countries

Google Pixel 5a
(Image credit: Future)

If you've been tempted by the new Google Pixel 5a, you'll probably have noticed that you can't buy it outside the US and Japan just yet. This isn't a staggered launch, though; the phone just isn't going on sale in any other regions.

That's a curious change from other Pixel phones, the majority of which have been available in other places including Europe and other Asian countries. So what's happened?

Well, if you follow the tech news, you can probably guess why the handset isn't going on sale elsewhere; if you don't, we can explain why 2021 has been a weird year for gadgets.

Supply issues

The tech world is going through shortage issues - largely of silicon, used for chipsets, but displays are also affected to a lesser degree.

There's no one reason for this, and it's down to a range of factors, including Covid affecting factories, an increase in demand with lockdowns, and various Chinese trade sanctions, while an increase in crypto mining hasn't helped either.

Google Pixel 5a

(Image credit: Future)

All this means that companies are struggling to get enough parts for their smartphones. We already know the Samsung Galaxy Note 21 was canceled for this reason, and unsubstantiated rumors suggest the OnePlus 9T and Huawei Mate 50 were the same.

Google has confirmed the reason the Pixel 5a isn't coming to most regions - "global supply chain challenges limit a larger regional roll out", a spokesperson told TechRadar. That's a veiled way of saying that the company can't get enough tech to build enough phones for audiences in other regions.

But why these countries?

Google's strategy, of releasing its phone in just a few countries, is arguably better for the consumer than just canceling a phone outright, as some other brands seem to be doing. At least some Pixel phone fans can buy the device, and other people can import it if they're willing to take the risk.

The company hasn't commented on why the US and Japan were chosen, but it makes sense, because of market differences.

The Google Pixel 5a is very, very similar to the Pixel 4a 5G, and the 4a 5G was a fairly competitive product in the US, due to the general lack of low-cost phones there. However in Europe, where many Chinese makers rule the roost with affordable and top-spec powerhouses, the phone didn't seem as good value.

With Chinese brands' dominance in Europe only growing, with Xiaomi recently overtaking Samsung as the top dog on the continent, Google probably (and rightly) recognized it couldn't compete as well there.

We wouldn't expect the Google Pixel 6 to be region-exclusive, due to the fanfare around its first tease and the hype around its proper launch. But Google hasn't officially commented on this, so we can't know for sure.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more. Outside of work he's an award-winning filmmaker, trained mixologist, expert baker, keen runner and okayish gamer.