Skip to main content

Google’s Pixel Release Is A Pivotal Moment For Android


As seems to be the current modus operandi, another new flagship smartphone will arrive in a couple of weeks, fully leaked and completely exposed. In this case it is the HTC-made Google Pixel device that will allegedly replace the Nexus range.

The leaked spy shots are totally underwhelming. The Pixel will be a fairly close match to HTC’s current product line and, as a result or by design, will visually twin the iPhone 6 / 6S / 7. I’m not going to get into the who copied who argument here, but I can’t help but feel that HTC is flogging a dead horse here, by sheer volume of sales Apple has taken ownership of that design. If this is a new flagship device for Google I would have thought something a little different might have been in order.

Of course looking underwhelming doesn’t mean the device is going to be underwhelming. Yet I’m looking at the Pixel and wondering what it is Google is trying to do here. The Chromebook Pixel was a high end device at a time when other Chromebooks were cheap (and in a lot of cases quite nasty too). It was a statement device which said that Chromebooks can be this too.

Is there a need for this in the Android market? I would say not. In fact there are too many OEMs fighting for too few premium device sales. And let’s be honest does Google really need to position itself to compete with partners that are already struggling to make a profit?

The rumours suggest that the Pixel will be the most expensive Google phone yet. Given that the last round of Nexus devices weren’t bargain basement devices this would suggest that Google doesn’t intend to battle the Samsungs and Sonys of this world.

It wants a slice of Apple. And to do this the Pixel has to go beyond the Nexus and delight customers for more than just being stock Android. Getting speedy updates to the Android platform was about the only reason to buy a Nexus last time out. In return customers were forced to give up all of the tweeks, advances and niceties that the competition had brought to the market.

The Pixel needs to be more than just a HTC built Nexus, it needs to have the clever cameras, the additional features, the OEM skins that persuade customers to buy a hundred times as many premium Samsung phones as they did Nexus devices. And it need to do this without dropping any of the advantages of the Nexus line.

Already the Pixel appears to be lagging behind, missing the dual-camera setup of the iPhone 7 Plus that has been making the headlines and appears to be the only thing driving iPhone 7 sales right now. That’s intensely ironic given HTC’s past history with multiple camera setups, without forgetting that last year’s Nexus OEM, Huawei has integrated dual cameras into its current range with some success.

Without this headline feature Google is going to have to have something clever hidden up its sleeve to draw the media attention away from the iPhone 7. Could that be new software or perhaps a Google skin for Android to create a more consistent Google experience?

This isn’t a battle for sales volume (Android has already won that) or even for profits (Apple has won that) it’s about stealing mindshare from Apple, both in the media and with customers. Because as long as the media is on Apple’s side (and where it matters, there’s no question that this is the case) Google is at risk from Apple’s slow but steady encroachment into its markets.

The conversation about music streaming is illuminating here. The battle between Spotify and Apple Music has been intensely played out across the technology pages. When was the last time anyone mentions Google Play Music or YouTube Red.

I believe that’s the battle Google is seeking to win here. And if Google wins so does Android. And if Android wins then Android OEMs might just find business a little easier in future.



Popular posts from this blog

F1: Robert Kubica Impresses In Renault Test Run

The car may be old but its the performance of the driver that's the story here. Robert Kubica returned to F1, after a fashion, earlier this week with an extensive test run in a 2012 Lotus Renault F1 car at Valencia.
The age of the car and the circuit were likely determined by F1's current rules which ban testing, but the reason for Kubica being in the car is far more interesting. Considered by many to be a potential World Champion and certainly one of the fastest drivers of his generation, Kubica's F1 career seemed to be over after a 2011 crash whilst driving in the Rally of Andora. His Skoda Fabia was penetrated by a guardrail in the high speed accident partially severing his right arm.
Up until last year Kubica has been competing in rallying, with the expectation that the limited movement in his repaired arm would prohibit a return to single seater racing.
So this week's test is both interesting and confusing. Interesting because Kubica completed 115 laps of the ret…

F1: Robert Kubica's Williams Test Asks More Questions Than It Answers

Comparing driver's times at a tyre evaluation test like last week's Abu Dhabi event is difficult at the best of times, but when trying to assess the performance of a driver who has been out of the sport for six years, that difficulty level is raised even higher.
On the face of it Robert Kubica's test for Williams was a success. Fastest of the three Williams drivers present the headlines look promising. However, taking into consideration the different tyres used to set those times muddies the water considerably.
Kubica ran a three lap qualifying simulation on the new 'hyper-soft' tyre - which should have given him a two-second advantage. Correcting for tyres it would appear that Kubica was significantly slower than Sergei Sorotkin - who was on the harder 'soft' tyre - and marginally quicker than Lance Stroll, the team's only contracted driver.

Stroll's family fortune currently funds Williams, so there' no chance that he will be anywhere but in a…

Panos Panay's Defence Of Microsoft Surface Hardware Sounds Eerily Familiar

This weekend I went out with my ten year old daughter to select a laptop for her school year beginning in January. The schools requirements are quite specific, requiring a Windows 10 device, with a preference for a touchscreen and a stylus. She chose a Surface Pro, after trying a large number of different options. Having seen the way I use my own Surface Pro - and tried it herself there was only ever going to be two options - and the other was a Surface Laptop.
I tell you this so that you understand I am a buyer of Microsoft's products through choice, not compulsion. I'm on my third Surface device now. 
So when Panos Panay dismissed reports of the death of the Surface hardware line, I was very interested to see exactly how strong these denials were. Especially how they reflect what has gone before. To whit: Windows 10 Mobile.
Panay claimed that Microsoft is in hardware for the long haul. Almost exactly mirroring the words of Terry Myerson, when he claimed Windows Mobile was g…