Google just released its new phones, Pixel and Pixel XL. Exclusive to Verizon for now. Moving away from the Nexus range which started in 2010 as a reference platform to run the stock version of latest Android OS.
Nexus was never a huge success and it was never meant to be. Just taking the flagship devices from other top smartphone makers and rebrand or cobrand them as the Nexus range.
But with the new Made by Google and Phone by Google range, it is directly positioning itself against other top phone makers. Samsung and Apple are the main money makers from smartphones and with Google now trying to get a piece of it, you won’t be able to blame Android phone makers to start moving away, or just have their own version of Android.
Can it be done? Yes, Amazon is using a fork of Android in all their Kindle and the failed Fire Phone. Samsung is using Tizen in some of its phones and watches rather than Android Wear. And most Chinese devices are using Android with any Google services.
What will further fragmentation do to the industry? It will slow down the adoption of latest technologies in Android and fall further behind iOS in providing a totally seamless platform of computing.
No one is scared of Google for hardware, they are unlikely to make a dent in the next few years. In fact, the impact is mostly caused by Google choosing to tightly integrate their new Google Assistant into their new phone, rather than using the hardware to show off their reference platform like what they did with the Nexus range. Handset makers will have to question if there is any point in making Android phones whilst there is no way to compete fairly with such integrated software solution. Or they will have to write more apps and divert from the standardized experience which Android was trying hard to achieve with its web services.
Isn’t Microsoft doing the same? Making their own phones? Key difference is that they don’t have many active 3rd party making their phones. They had no choice but to make their own. But it is hard to imagine at this stage that Google will be more successful than Microsoft at hardware. How long can Google pump money into this project? Will it last as long as the Nexus? Or just another project that they kill off after a few years?