The Apple Inc. iPhone is facing a serious threat from Google as the search engine behemoth sets out on a total revamp of its mobile phone strategy. Google will be debuting a pair of powerful and slick devices that for the first time will compete with the iconic iPhone. On Tuesday, the search giant revealed the Pixel and larger Pixel XL, the first handsets engineered, designed, conceptualized and tested in-house.
Pixel – why Apple should be concerned
The Pixel handsets will have flashy camera features, and will feature a Siri-like virtual assistant. In addition, the Pixel phones are the first to boast the new Nougat 7.1 Android. The debut of these devices indicates Google’s push into the $400bn smartphone hardware business. Further, it shows that the search giant is willing to risk alienating partners like LG and Samsung that sell Android-based devices, notes Bloomberg.
When the Pixel phones were demonstrated by Rick Osterloh – chief of the company’s new hardware division – at Google’s California headquarters, it became immediately clear that the craftsmanship is way ahead of the $1,500 plastic Chromecast media players of yore and Google Glass headsets, says Bloomberg. The Pixels, which come in black, silver and limited-edition blue, are more similar to the elegant gear from Nest with their precisely honed bezels and edges and metal frames.
The phone features cameras that can click photos faster than the blink of an eye. The battery life is better than the Nexus phones. Also, other features include a fingerprint scanner that doubles as a trackpad and software-enhanced gyroscopes that decrease shakiness in recorded video. Google has contracted HTC for assembling the Pixel phones. As per Osterloh, the approach is no different than Apple Inc. ’s partnership with iPhone builder Foxconn.
Google – getting into hardware from tip to toe
So far, Google was happy with the six-year-old Nexus program, but now, it wants to dip more than its toe in the smartphone market. Nexus phones were mostly just a way for Google to experiment, but along the way, Google’s executives saw the benefits of the Apple Inc. approach – “a unified portfolio of consumer electronics products that show off its services better than partners can,” says Bloomberg.
Osterloh said “Google is now the seller of record of this phone.” Osterloh, further, notes that the search giant is managing inventory now, sourcing components, building relationships with carriers, managing distribution and making supply chain deals. The tech giant is making accessories as well, including cables and cases.
CEO Sundar Pichai approved the Pixel project in the summer of 2015. The development of the project started last fall. Dave Burke – who runs Android engineering – says the difference with this handset is that they began from scratch. The designers and engineers from Chromecast, Pixel and Google Glass all work together. Osterloh says keeping them separate made it difficult to “drive toward the goal of portfolio strategy and focus.”