Anonymous rumours about a Google-made, non-Nexus smartphone, dubbed the Pixel phone by many, are once again doing the rounds online. Plenty of people appear to be excited by the prospect, which could lead to the death of the much-loved Nexus brand, despite nobody being entirely sure how exactly a homemade Google smartphone would be superior to its existing line.
Besides the fact that ‘Nexus’ sounds better than ‘Pixel’, here’s why Google’s rumoured move doesn’t make any sense.
1) The King Hasn't Fallen
Nexus ain’t broke. Yes, we’ve heard reports of complaints from OEMs about how Google takes a 15 per cent cut of the retail price from online sales, but it’s earned the right to do so. Android is far and away the most popular mobile operating system in the world and, frustrating as the situation may be for some of Google’s hardware partners, they need Nexus more than it needs them.
There’s a reason the likes of Huawei and HTC have been scrapping for this year’s Nexus duties: the brand is incredibly strong, and can only help them increase their reach.
2) Android > Windows 10 Mobile
There’ll be no holding Google to ransom either. Though Huawei’s spoken of developing its own OS in case its relationship with Google goes downhill, that would be an incredibly risky move. Also, could you imagine the scenes if HTC was to threaten to switch over to Windows 10 Mobile? There’d be tears of laughter.
3) Money, Money, Money
At the same time, however, Google would also suffer from the termination of one of its Nexus partnerships.
The company formally established a hardware division back in April, with former Motorola president Rick Osterloh in charge of proceedings. CEO Sundar Pichai has also dropped strong hints about Google-manufactured products in the recent past, saying that the company would be 'investing more effort' into phones and becoming more 'opinionated' about the design process.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Google wants to expand its hardware operations, and it’s already proved on multiple occasions that it’s got what it takes to build a brilliant smartphone. The Pixel C is a fantastic bit of kit, while the 2015 Chromebook Pixel is the best Chromebook ever made. It’ll almost certainly keep that crown until the next one comes out.
Unfortunately, they’re both extremely expensive, a description we wouldn’t dream of using for any Nexus device. While it’s admittedly become less core to the brand over time, affordability has always been key to the Google line’s success.
A Pixel phone would not come cheap. It would rank alongside the Samsung Galaxy S7s and iPhone 6S Pluses of the world and, though there would absolutely be great interest in a top-spec smartphone that led the way on Android software updates, a huge number of loyal Nexus customers would simply be priced out.
4) Sketchy Ideas
Besides, how superior an Android phone could Google actually make? The S7 is widely considered to be the best on the market right now, with the considerably cheaper Nexus 6P right behind it. The LG G5, meanwhile, is the alternative Android pin-up, while there are countless brilliant mid-range, budget and supersized models on the market too.
People excited by the prospect of a Pixel phone say that it would allow Google to assume a leading role in smartphone design. Details about what fresh ideas Google could bring to the table are currently thin on the ground, with vacuous words and phrases like ‘standardisation’, ‘consistent hardware’, ‘new experiences’, ‘optimisation’ and ‘innovation’ being aimlessly banded around.
5) Together, Not the Same
The argument is that manufacturers would draw inspiration from the Pixel phone and subsequently produce their own handsets in the image of Google’s own divine creation.
But wouldn’t that be boring? Part of the lure of Nexus is variation, seeing the ways in which different manufacturers decide to dress Android up. There’s the odd miss mixed up with the hits -- is the Nexus 6 too big or a perfect phablet? -- but the uniqueness of each and every Nexus (5X aside) is something that’ll be sorely missed if and when it goes.
Though Google is undoubtedly capable of producing a homemade knock-your-socks-off smartphone, the Pixel phone in all likelihood wouldn’t develop at the same speed as the Nexus line has and almost certainly will continue to. Instead, it would be like any other flagship.
6) Project Wotsitsface
At the moment, the fabled Pixel phone sounds like Project Ara-lite. The modular concept is still in development and, though it’s been ridiculed in some circles, would actually demonstrate what Google thinks Android could be much better than the Pixel phone. Or at least what we imagine the Pixel phone to be.
7) Bigger Fish to Fry
The company’s also got much more pressing issues to address in the form of Android fragmentation. The long-standing problem is worse than ever, and the only way the Pixel phone would remedy it is by outselling all of its rivals so significantly that it turns the smartphone market on its head. We’d be talking iPhone figures, and that’s not going to happen.
It goes without saying that the Nexus line doesn’t have a chance of fixing fragmentation either, but consumers know that it’s their best bet for getting their hands on stock Android at an affordable price. What makes a lot more sense is the introduction of a Pixel phone alongside Nexus. That could see the existing brand’s prices dip once again, while Google’s own creation aims for the top end of the market.
I’m as excited as anyone to see what Google can do with a Pixel phone. Just don’t take Nexus away.
Image: Droid Lessons