Yikes, there seems to be a lot of confusion about the rumors surrounding Google’s event tomorrow. It stems from a report in the Financial Times over the weekend that was written under the title “Google set to launch branded smartphones.” That much is true, but it doesn’t mean that Google is building its own devices, which seems to have been mentioned in plenty of, I suspect accidentally, misleading headlines.
I think some of the confusion may have stemmed out of the Financial Times‘ note that Google is launching “the first smartphones that carry its own brand and design.” That’s not really true, though the brand is indeed changing. The news outlet correctly notes that this isn’t the first time Google has ventured into hardware, at least.
Google, as far as we know at this point, is going to announce two new smartphones dubbed the Pixel and Pixel XL. They might be sold as “Google” smartphones, using the Pixel branding, but they aren’t built by Google any more than other phones that the company has sold, or any more than Apple “builds” its own smartphones.
Word on the street – and it seems nearly confirmed at this point – is that HTC built Google’s new smartphones. That, too, isn’t new. HTC built the very first Android phone, in fact, the G1, which was dubbed a “Google phone” of sorts at the time. Google’s Lary Page and Sergey Brin actually rollerbladed into a T-Mobile press event in New York City to help launch that device. HTC also built the original Nexus One, the first real “Google phone,” if you want to call it that, though other manufacturers, including Samsung, Huawei and LG, have carried the torch since then.
What we’re seeing now is a transition of branding from Nexus to Pixel, perhaps as Google continues to try to attract consumers to its devices. But, and I may be corrected tomorrow, I don’t think it’s really more than that.
We might not hear that HTC built the Google Pixel and Pixel XL as often as we heard that Huawei built the Nexus 6P or LG built the Nexus 5X, for example, and it’s possible, perhaps even plausible, that HTC won’t sell them directly to consumers. It’s also possible Google had more control over these devices than it did in the past; in fact, rumor has it Huawei backed out of building the devices for this very reason.
But the phones aren’t built by Google, they’re built, almost certainly, by HTC. What might seem like a huge shift on the surface actually probably won’t mean much to consumers. Until now, we’ve called Google’s smartphones “Nexus” devices. If, in a few weeks time, we’re instead simply calling them “Pixel” devices, then what has really changed?