The Internet was abuzz for weeks ahead of Google’s October 4 hardware reveal where the leaked phones, Pixel and Pixel XL, were finally revealed. What surprised people the most about these phones, despite information provided through leaks, was the pricing of the devices. At $649 for the smaller 5″ screen Pixel and $769 for the larger 5.5″ screen Pixel XL, Google was pricing itself with the expensive top of the line flagship phones of Apple’s iPhone line, Samsung’s Galaxy line, and LG’s G and V lines. Long gone were the competitive pricing of Google’s prior Nexus brand with its previous Nexus 6P starting at $499 and offering many of the bells and whistles that other top tier phones had. Many fans called foul because the Pixel lacked some of the features that are standard in other flagships such as waterproofing and dual cameras and were missing some of the features that the Nexus line was pushing for such as front facing speakers and smaller bezels. Despite these shortcomings, the Pixel’s release marks a sea change for Google as Google takes on hardware design, production, and supply chain.
Google in the long run will be able to capitalize on the optimization owning both the hardware and the software will provide similar to Apple’s success with its iPhone and Macs. As Google’s hardware matures, it will eventually begin to create custom processors that will be designed to do exactly what is needed for the AI future it is trying to build. This is no different from why Nintendo continues to create its own consoles and portables instead of capitalizing on its popular franchises on other consoles. Nintendo has a unique vision of what their games will be and needs to create the hardware that will support that vision. Google is doing no different by entering the hardware business.
There is no doubt that the current Pixel phones are a little lacking for the price, but it is the beginning of Google’s path to creating a more integrated hardware and software experience. I fully expect future Pixel phones to have more mature designs with features like waterproofing, front facing speakers, custom processors, and maybe even dual cameras and better camera software – Google has taken the camera criticism the Nexus phones had prior to last years’ phones seriously and continues to iterate on the improvements. Paired with updates straight from Google, these phones will have a chance of upending the high end Android market as we know it. In the past, there was always a compromise between updates and features. Samsung and LG often brought fantastic features and build quality but lacked the quick updates the Nexus line would have.
Give Google a couple of years to mature – Apple and Samsung did not start where they are today (it took 9 years for Apple to create a waterproof phone). Google is a little behind but hopefully its years of experience with Nexus (and large revenues) will allow Google to move from walking to sprinting to running quickly. If you’re a fan of Android and a fan of the smooth, optimized experience Apple is known for, then you’ll want to keep an eye on Google’s Pixel efforts and how it evolves. I for one plan to support Google in this endeavor, partly because I’m just a huge fan of Google, but also because I really want to see what Google can do when it can create the right hardware to match all the innovation they are doing on the software side.