With Pixel Google Aims to Exert Greater Control Over Phone Support

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-10-05 Print this article Print
Google Pixel Blue

This meant people who wanted to run an iPhone on other carriers' networks had to buy the phone at full price from Apple and then ask their carrier to support it.

Still, the obvious market for the Pixel is existing Nexus owners who want something new. Many of those owners chose the Nexus because they wanted to surety of updates and the support of Google in making sure their phones weren't abandoned. So, I went looking for a Nexus owner to see whether the Pixel would make a sensible upgrade.

The answer is, maybe not. I asked my neighbor, a retired tech executive and a Nexus aficionado, whether he'd buy a Pixel. The neighbor, who declined to be identified in this piece, said the answer was no. The reasons he gave were instructive and probably apply to other would-be adopters.

First he didn't like the fact that the pixel has moved to USB Type C connectors, of which he has none. The Pixel also does not support wireless charging, unlike the Nexus 5, which did. The Pixel also costs nearly twice as much as the Nexus, which is a deal-breaker for him.

This all leads to the big questions 'hanging over the Pixel: Will anyone buy the new phone, and, if so, who?

The answer is that Google will sell some Pixels, but it's not clear how many. But it may not matter. That's because the Pixel is really Google's first effort to market a broad range of devices, which is why the company also announced a few other hardware products, including a virtual reality headset; Google Home, which is a smart speaker similar to Amazon's Echo with Google Assistant built in. There's also a WiFi router and a new version of Google's Chromecast.

What's really going on here is much more than a new mobile phone: Google has introduced an entire device ecosystem in one fell swoop, and it's planning to use it to take on Apple.

The result will be that Apple is going to have to ratchet up its game to stay ahead of Google. This means Apple's devices will have to be better than they might be otherwise; they'll have to be more broadly useful; and Apple is going to have to offer more to stay ahead of Google's Pixel as well as the rest of the competition.

Meanwhile, over in another corner is Samsung, which until now has been the premium seller of Android devices. Samsung's Galaxy S7 series of phones has been giving Apple a run for its money, interrupted only by the sound of explosions from its big-screen Galaxy Note7 devices. Once Samsung gets its act together and its batteries replaced, it will remain the third competitive force in the smartphone market.

While Samsung doesn't make an entirely separate version of Android, it does have significant influence on what is included in the OS. This means Samsung's version of Android is different enough to be effectively a third player.

In all, this nexus (pun intended) of forces could produce a really competitive market for high-end phones, lowering prices, raising the quality and generally making things better for smartphone buyers.



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