When Google curtailed its Nexus program last year in favor of the Pixel, many commentators dismissed that as merely a rebranding exercise to make the latest thing feel fresh.
I was in the minority that bought into Google’s promise of a fundamentally different approach that would signal a direct challenge to Apple’s iPhone, but the Pixel was still just the beginning.
What we’re seeing in recent times, in the ever-swirling rumor mill and through Google’s hiring of new engineers, indicates the depth of Google’s commitment to taking on Apple at its own game.
GOOGLE wants to own its supply just like Apple does
Apple’s hardware lead is built atop a tight control, often monopolization, of its component supply chain. That’s exactly where Google looks to be headed, with recent rumors and leaks indicating that the Mountain View company is working hard to secure a reliable source of OLED displays for a presumed Pixel successor with minimal screen bezels in the same vein as the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
That’s why indications of an LG-produced Google phone for later this year make so much sense: it’s not impossible for Google to still use HTC as its manufacturing partner and source panels from LG Display (which is nominally independent from LG Electronics), but it’s more complicated than just going all-in with the Korean supplier.
Just like Apple, Google commands vast reserves of cash that it can deploy to help smooth out its supply deals, and that’s exactly what its reported investment in LG Display is building toward. If the original Pixel was a trial run to test out what it’s like to source and assemble all your own components, Google’s big lesson from it was that demand for its phones will be high and disappointment in the event of shortages would be even higher.
Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t yet have the promise of enormous unit sales to dangle as a carrot in front of potential suppliers, but that is liable to change dramatically with this year’s Pixel, which would presumably enjoy much wider distribution and marketing than the original.
GOOGLE is literally hiring Apple engineers to build its mobile processors
Two things were revealed yesterday: one is that Google is designing its own system on a chip (SoC) for future mobile devices, and the other is that the lead architect for that project is a man named Manu Gulati, who, until very recently, had been a senior engineer at Apple.
Both of these are massive developments, showing that Google won’t be content until it has maximum control over every aspect of its smartphone exactly the same goal that Apple pursues with every new generation of iPhone and furthermore underlining the level of ambition by poaching away someone who would surely have needed a lot of incentive to leave a job at Apple.
The current Pixel is built around the Snapdragon 821 chip its speed and feature-rich architecture contribute to the excellent Pixel camera — but the instructive example for Google to beware is the Snapdragon 810.
Qualcomm had a ton of overheating issues with that piece of silicon, sufficient for Samsung to skip using that chip at all in its Galaxy S6, and Google can’t afford to find itself in a similar situation with the Snapdragon 845 or whatever there is down the line. So Google is now building its own SoC, as fully evidenced by its litany of job listings attesting to that ambition.
We don’t know what difference a Google SoC would make to future Pixel phones, but it’s obvious that Google is determined to find out.
It’s probably safe to presume Google is doing similar work to lock down its supply chain for less glamorous parts, like batteries and vibration engines and so on, and not all of it will be ready to debut by this year’s end when the Pixel successor comes out.
In fact, it’s a practical certainty that Google’s mobile processor is years away from making its debut in a consumer product, but that just goes to underline that Google is in this for the long haul. The Android maker has decided that building its own version of the iPhone is the best way to compete with the iPhone.
—The Article is originally published at The Verge