Google is once again planning to release its own line of smartphones in a move calculated to challenge Apple and their dominance of the smartphone market with the iPhone, according to a story from the International Business Times. The new handset is, according to a senior source, expected by the end of 2016, and will be launched in direct competition with the iPhone.
Apple typically launches its new devices in the second week of September, and it’s a safe bet that the new Google phone will be launching in and around that time as well.
According to The Telegraph, Google is already in discussion with major mobile operators about a Google handset; presumably, they will be offering similar exclusive deals and contracts as Apple.
Although Google has always been the official name behind the Nexus smartphone, the devices have traditionally been designed and manufactured by other companies, including Motorola, Nokia, and HTC, and the Nexus has typically been a mid-range smartphone. While Google’s Android operating system dominates the market, they aren’t especially present in the hardware, and Apple’s iPhone absolutely dominates the high-end device market.
The new phone will see Google taking control of the manufacturing process themselves, and as Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight put it, “They are concerned that Android is fragmenting, that it needs to become a more controlled platform. I think they’ll seek to control it more, more like Apple.”
He’s not wrong. While Android is a pretty good operating system, every manufacturer has their own take on it — it’s an open, Unix-based system — and if anything goes wrong with an Android device, the end-user pretty much has to be a developer before they can attempt to fix it. And things do go wrong on a regular basis.
The Apple iPhone has a total global market share of around 20 percent, but according to the Wall Street Journal, they account for an incredible 92 percent of the smartphone industry’s profits. In fact, Apple and their current leading competitor, Samsung, technically account for more than 100 percent of the industry’s profits, because other companies in the market, almost all running Android, either break even or lose money.
A new handset straight from Google will allow them to take total control of the hardware and build a version of their software around one specific device, from the ground up. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow them to apply their financial and advertising might to the marketing of a new high-end device backed by a name consumers already know and trust.
It will also address another underlying issue with Android phones. Google has struggled to ensure consistency with the Android OS. Many Android users have to wait for months past the official release of a new version of Android to get it on their own device — if they receive it at all, something typically up to the whim of the manufacturer. Sufficiently skilled users can sometimes update to a newer version of Android by hand, but it’s very much up to chance whether each device will support it or not.
According to CEO Sundar Pichai, Google still intends to support the Nexus handsets, and plans to work with failing former smartphone giant HTC on the Nexus devices. He said that Google will be “investing more effort” into smartphones, but that “our plan is still to work with hardware partners.”
The biggest problem with the move may be the European Union, which accused Google of monopoly abuse in April. A new device is not likely to discourage them in that thinking.
In the meantime, though, the new Google phone is exciting news for Android fans.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]