Eight years after the first Android device Google has finally decided to lead the crusade against Apple itself, to the likely detriment of other Android phone makers.
This escalation took the form of the Pixel smartphone. Google made frequent veiled references to the iPhone during the launch, including a barbed comment about not removing the headphone jack. The Pixel comes in regular and XL sizes, just like the iPhone, and Google seems to have taken extra care over the design – indulging in protracted, Apple-like musing on the almost erotic beauty of what, let’s not forget, is just a phone.
Google reckons five key things, apart from its innate sexiness, make the Pixel special
- Google Assist built in – the company spent a long time talking up how handy its digital assistant is with an extended monolog on how AI will soon free us thickies from the burden of having to make decisions or even think for ourselves
- Top camera – featuring things like HDR+ which make taking good photos really easy
- Google Cloud integration – featuring unlimited cloud storage for Pixel owners
- Integrated OTT comms – such as Allo and Duo
- VR optimised – to play nice with the Daydream VR platform
Pretty much everything announced, bar the handset itself, was the realisation of the product mega-launch at Google I/O back in May. Providing a platform for all that other Google geekery seems to have been a significant secondary purpose of this launch.
Google has been involved with the design of smartphones from the start, of course, via the Nexus programme, but this is the first time it has taken the whole process in-house, presumably utilising the blood it sucked out of Motorola before flogging the withered husk to Lenovo. Google has got so carried away with actually making tangible things that it has branched out into cases, streaming devices and VR headsets, all of which were unveiled at the same time with an air of dry-mouthed gadget lust, and which you can see adult videos of below.
This renewed desire to simultaneously take the smartphone fight to Apple, promote its latest apps and services, and become a gadget giant in its own right has caused Google to push Android partners such as Samsung very much into the background. Starting at £600 the Pixel is squarely in iPhone and Galaxy S territory and even the VR headset seems positioned directly against the Samsung Gear VR.
Google has never been shy about trampling on its partners when it sees fit – it even tried to cut out the operator channel with the first Nexus phone – but this seems to be taking things to the next level. EE has already announced it is the exclusive UK operator partner for the Pixel and it seems likely that the new GooglePhone will steal at least as many sales from Samsung as it does Apple.