Why Google's Pixel Phone Is A Big Deal
Google on October 4th announced a slew of hardware that it was releasing as its own. Before that point, every hardware device (except for Chromecast) that Google made was in partnership with a manufacturer. Its OnHub routers were in partnership with Asus, its Chromebook laptops with HP & Lenovo, and its Nexus line of phones with Huawei, LG and others.
The 4 products Google announced this Tuesday may not seem important to most who aren’t tech nerds, but if you know anyone who is a tech nerd they’re likely freaking out.
What’s most important about this new Pixel line of phones is that this is the first time Android will be able to compete with the iPhone on a level playing field.
Apple has been able to make the iPhone what it is today by having complete vertical integration. They have control of the creation of the chips, they have control of the design of the phone and how it’s built, they have control of the operating system, and practically every step of the process.
Conversely Google, until this point, has had nearly no control on the hardware. The way it’s worked is Google puts out the source code for the Android operating system (since it’s open source) and manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and HTC take the code and do with it what they will on whatever devices they want. If the analogy of the Apple ecosystem is that of a walled garden, then the Android ecosystem has been a bit of the wild west that Google’s had to come in and clean up the best it can.
Because of this fragmented ecosystem Google has sometimes been at odds with manufacturers like Samsung. They see the Samsung iteration of Android as mucking up the waters and confusing consumers as to what Android really is.
Now, Google has for years sold their Nexus lineup, which would automatically ship pure unadulterated Android to these phones as soon as it was made available. Even still Google couldn’t control the hardware on these devices too much if at all. These phones were always in partnership with a manufacturer like HTC or LG and Google was only really responsible for the software. Furthermore, these phones were meant to be on the budget side compared to the premium phones Apple and Samsung were offering.
So, what to do? It seems that Google has decided for the first time ever that designing these things 100% in-house was the best thing to do. And it surely was. Now because Google has more vertical integration than ever before, they can make their phone lineup a more complete, top-to-bottom product. It can finally start to work at what Apple’s been doing for years.
This is the first time that we can compare apples to Apple (pun intended) because there’s finally an Android phone made by someone who has control of the process from top to bottom. This vertical integration is what made the iPhone great over the years and it can only mean good things for Google’s Pixel. Ultimately it means good things for the iPhone too, from the consumers’ point of view. It means that Apple will have to compete head-to-head with Google for the first time and we’re likely to benefit from this competition.
Now we just lay back and watch what happens. Even if this first version of the phone doesn’t sell well, it’ll only be a matter of time before people catch on to them.