According to The Telegraph, Google is developing its own phone which it plans to release later this year. Unlike the Nexus phones, which have been designed and manufactured by partners such as Huawei, HTC, LG, Asus and Motorola, the report claims that Google wants to have complete control over hardware and software. Also see: Nexus 5X review and Nexus 6P review.
Clearly, the prospect of a Google-branded flagship Android phone is an exciting one. Currently, Nexus phones enjoy swift (or at least relatively swift) software updates when new versions of Android come out. Manufacturers of other Android phones can be slow to roll out new versions of Google’s software and often overlay their own interfaces and demote Google’s apps and services in favour of their own.
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With a Google-designed phone, buyers can expect a seamless iPhone-like marriage of hardware and software – i.e. the best possible experience you can get from Android. With the Nexus 6P and 5X, Google was vocal about its involvement in the development of the camera, and it was a good thing. Extend that to the rest of the phone, and there’s great potential for an exceptional device.
It’s unlikely that the move would have Apple worried, though. Far from eating into iPhone sales, Google would be in direct competition with its partners, including Samsung. It will have to tread carefully to avoid alienating Samsung and others, and not – for example – holding back future versions of Android and making them exclusive to its own phone(s) for a time.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about a Google phone project, of course. Project Ara, which is currently delayed, is Google’s modular smartphone that allows you to upgrade only certain components.
But while Ara seems as if it was too ambitious and has been scaled back, a Google-designed Android phone isn’t far-fetched. Google won’t manufacture the phone itself of course, just as Apple doesn’t. It will use a third-party that has the capabilities to mass produce the phone at the quality Google demands.
We’ve already seen this in action with Google’s own Android tablet, the Pixel C, reviewed. Could Google use the Pixel name on a phone too? We’ll have to wait and see.
As rumours are already rife for this year’s Nexus phones, this presents a rather odd situation. Traditionally Google has used the Nexus phones (and tablets) to launch the next version of Android, and everyone is expecting Nougat to appear on one or more Nexus-branded phones around September time.
If the Google phone is real and won’t launch until November or December, it won’t be the Android Nougat launch device. It will also compete with the Nexus phones, and potentially cannibalise their sales as buyers hold out for the Google-designed device.