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Pixel phone: Google, are you having a mid-life crisis?

Pixel phone: Google, are you having a mid-life crisis?

It was to be the largest Google event in the past eight years. An event the world would talk about for years to come. The expectations from Google were high in anticipation of the event. But what, exactly, did Google really deliver?

If Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome OS & Play at Google should mysteriously tweet that in the future, starting 4 October 2016, people would no longer be using Android, well, of course the world would perk up its ears.

But did this Google event change anything? The Nexus, beloved by many Android fans, seems to already have been buried. In its place, the Pixel has been named as the successor for those who want to access the web on a smartphone. Additionally, shortly before the actual launch, several media reported that Android would be phased out, and henceforth be replaced by Andromeda.

Our editorial team was, appropriately, in turmoil.  After all, we are AndroidPIT! The Google OS is in our DNA and we display it even in our name. If Google were to make a major announcement like this regarding the most successful mobile operating system worldwide, it would be analogous to Apple announcing it would ditch iOS and replace it with a Mac-based system.

What can one expect from a Google show?

Google events are always humorous. A little geeky, playful and never too commercial. One might get the impression that a couple of crazy yet ingenious guys are taking to the stage and presenting the “craziest shit ever.” Things that are sometimes economically questionable, don’t necessarily look great, but are simply a technological beacon.

But this Pixel show was different. It had its funny moments. The location was absolutely Google-like. It almost looked like the group had rented a university cafeteria and used the chairs that were there. Initially, it was acceptable – but it was not to be so for the entirety of the show.

This was not what we expected from Mountain View. It felt like it was trying to copy Apple at every nook and cranny. Superlatives were not spared on this day – neither in the descriptions of the Pixel phone (“amazing,” “beautiful,” “the best”) nor in the price. Prior to the event, prices of about $400 or $500 had been predicted. Ultimately, it was revealed that the Pixel phone would be offered in the US at a price of $649. The most expensive option is on the market for over $850!

Google was not singing to its own tune.

Purely in terms of content, the show was not Google at all. Without wanting to make comparisons here: it looked, somehow, like how Sheldon Cooper might look if he had to sell life insurance. Or Yoda as a greasy used car salesman.  Or just an Android DIY-er’s iPhone.

And so, a number of unusually uncertain Googlers blustered to a handful of journalists and (at peak) nearly 300,000 live-stream viewers in Apple-esque superlatives about “the most awesome” and “beautiful” smartphones. Unfortunately, the prices were also cribbed from Cupertino, starting at $649 and nearly ranging into the four-digit range.

Google, WTF?

Have you forgotten who your customers are and who your target group is? Do you think it’s that important now to be Apple?

I realize that this appears to be quite desirable, in view of stock market value. A few days ago, I even suggested that the Pixel phone was an attack on Samsung and an attempt to position itself as a flagship in competition with the iPhone. I stand by my words now more than ever. But can this strategy and this approach succeed?

Google’s image is dominated by a love of technology.

This remains to be seen, of course. However, my impression is that Google is playing with fire and there are many reasons why it might get burned. Relations with ancestral Android partners such as Huawei, Samsung & co. likely are to eventually feel threatened by the new flagship. But Google will find its own image on the test bench. An image that was once dominated by a love of technology – and less of marketing superlatives.

It just doesn’t suit you, Google. We’re not buying it! In the same way that your geek friend suddenly becomes a loudmouth, just because he wants to impress a pretty girl. Namely, the way you, yesterday, stepped before the cameras and wanted to flirt with Apple fans.

However, they will probably blow you off. Despite a big mouth, you’ll always remain the friendly – and maybe a little timid – geek. The one who had so many friends precisely because he was a good guy. Because he did not throw around superlatives but let his actions speak. Because he brought us all these technological advances and reinvented himself over and over again.

What opinion have you formed of the Pixel event?

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  • I hear they're coming out with a midrange Nexus replacement next year. Give it some time.

  • Excellent article and agree with almost all the points you raised. Google with its pixles is heading towards a disaster.

  • Here is the release date and Specifications of Google pixel techindroid.com/google-pixel-price-release-specifications/

  • The importance of VR to Google cannot be underestimated, with Pixel being the first Daydream-ready phone.
    Google realizes that only premium Android users are currently willing to pay for the VR experience. Facebook through their Oculus partnership (Gear VR) with Samsung means that every Samsung Galaxy premium phone sold will grow their VR initiatives at the expense of Google’s Android. Facebook has used Samsung as an effective trojan horse to skim the best Android customers and provide a head start for their VR ecosystem. Developers tend to migrate towards the LUCRATIVE marketshare and that market share in Android is controlled by Samsung via their Galaxy S and Note offerings. Google needs Pixel to thwart Facebook’s growing VR ambitions and reman relevant for the next major computing platform. In the end Google wants Daydream, not Oculus, to be both distributed and synonymous with Android.

  • Every tech company is chasing both Apple's profit and marketshare. They own the wealthy well educated customers in every market in the world ( these customers are worth ~$1.00 a day to Apple in perpetuity). Those customers are also much more willing to buy ancillary services and hardware accessories related to their ecosystem. Google knows that shipping premium smartphones to their established market of spendthrifts will not provide Android with the premium feel it will need to enter other hardware categories. An easy example is the FAILURE of Android Wear, the Android ecosystem lacks the economics to purchase these "high end " accessories and even worse they complain about the prices that routinely undercut the Apple watch by hundreds of dollars. Apple watch has sold over 12.8 million units through its first 4 qtrs with an average selling price of $480.00. How can Google introduce new platforms for both their OS and services if their ecosystem cannot or will not financially support it? Google wants to shed the budget or poor man's smartphone perception about Android and start going after the LUCRATIVE market share no longer just the largest one. Google's approach going forward will be premium hardware, exclusive services, a proprietary "skin", and MOST importantly premium pricing.

    Android OEM's especially Samsung will be screwed hence their recent purchase of Viv to create their own smart AI assistant to compete with Alexa, Siri, M, Cortana, & Google assistant. Samsung is preparing to leave and their escape plan is unfolding right before our eyes.

    • Which is not wrong per se. Look people aren't mad because Google is a for profit. Anyone with a brain can accept this. It's just that it hurts a bit when Sundar Pichai himself preached his "next FIVE BILLION users" Android One battle cry 2 years ago (yes it's been that long) and amounts to what exactly now? This initiative was supposed to close the everyman gap while providing them a cheaper Nexus-like xp. Hell I'm betting that not even half of Nexus users are clued in about Android One themselves.

      Is it wrong to have both "premium" and mass market in a parallel?

      If the whole tech world moves the Apple way, then the bigger bleaker picture of the future draws a huge digital divide between the rich and poor. I'd rather not be one of the contributors to this.

      Deactivated Account

      •   31
        Deactivated Account Oct 8, 2016 Link to comment

        I remember the Android One announcement, and really had a lot of respect for Google at the time.. and yea 2 yrs later.. ? what a shame, and right now it seems we are a long long way from anything reasonable...
        just Google doing a very good (for all the wrong reasons) impression of Apple.

      • The entire tech world is following apple's ethos of being completely vertically integrated. The tech world looks at Apple's premium customers with envy, they look at their record setting profits with envy, they look at their $220billion in cash on hand with envy. The goals of all these cash poor OEM's is to make money and trying to service both poor and wealthy customers doesn't allow that to happen.

        It's simply a matter of economics and that's why all of these OEM's are struggling or starting to go out of business. You cannot provide a premium experience on a discount revenue. Samsung is the only exception as they are also a component manufacturer and are better able to manage the cost of their middle and low tier phones. Google also subsidizes its phone interest (Pixel & Nexus) using its advertising revenues therefore their phones do not have support themselves in the smartphone market place.

  • Having watched a number of hands on videos and having read several articles about the Pixel phones, I see nothing that would entice me to "upgrade" my 6P - even if the price were reasonable. Charging Apple / Samsung-like flagship prices for these devices, which lack IP67/68 ratings and have bottom firing speakers, is hard to swallow. I can't see this working well for Google or for those of us who bought Nexus phones. Sad.

  •   31
    Deactivated Account Oct 6, 2016 Link to comment

    A very definite moment in time when the whole world changed..
    This is THE Most powerful data rich company, a wealth that is the sum of all who interact with GOOGLE.
    Now finally taking control of the whole user experience end to end.
    A live Ai empowered assistant in every pocket and every home ?! lol...
    who's gonna have the keys to this priceless kingdom..

    we've all actually paid good money for this to happen.

    hope it's worth it.

  • I love the Pixel, I love the concept, I love the integration with Google Home (although options are still limited for now), I love being able to buy a flagship phone with a decent size...... I do *not* love the price and I absolutely do not accept paying 20% more in Europe than the price being asked in the USA. I'll wait for the prices to drop to around 400 euros. That's an acceptible price. No more.

  • Totally agree with this article, I'm not excited at all by the new Pixel and will probably buy a Nexus 6P instead, which will go on sale as soon as the Pixel hits the stores. Really, this pixel phone and the new Google Style event makes me feel no excitation at all. Few months ago one of the most innovating projects, Project ARA, was shut down, I was hoping for something much more exciting for the oct 4th event, Google is not that exciting anymore i guess. Fortunately now we have new game players such as OnePlus, Honor, Nubia, Nextbit...

  • "Relations with ancestral Android partners such as Huawei, Samsung & co. likely are to eventually feel threatened by the new flagship."

    Few issues with this excerpt:-
    1. Huawei's the one opted out of Pixel. Currently I don't think they got any rights to hold any hidden grudge save for probably later. They got their own SoC game now and seemingly are comfortable enough on home turf.

    2. Samsung was one of the primary reason that made Google sold Moto off in the 1st place and that's among other big concessions made for their sake. If I were that guy in charge at Google right now I wouldn't give 2 shits about how Samsung gonna handle this right now.

    3. ALL of Android partner OEMs has been and still are guilty of 2 cardinal tech sins:- 1. parasite leeching off AOSP while not contributing much back (maybe except for Samsung by just a bit) and 2. slapping their own poorly optimized UIs on top of Android base as an excuse for SLOW firmware/software updates.

    There's a Nexus user base for some reasons over these years and one of that is the lot of them just can't deal with "stock" OEM shenanigans with their hard earned and paid for expensive flagships.

    • While I do agree with most of what you said, Google is still at least to some extend reliant on Samsung. It is the one OEM using Android as an OS who is actually selling at lot of phones. If Samsung is about to switch to Tizen, and yea that is still a thread to Android IMO, Google does have a problem. It is a tricky situation, because on the one hand you don't want to piss off your most successful partner (Samsung) but at the same time you know that that partner is going to leave at some point anways.

      • Samsung has been wanting to ditch Google and Android. Google knows this too. Only reason they haven't is it will be a big undertaking to take on Android and iOS on their own. Likely a failed one..It's not because they're loyal to google. I'm glad Google is taking control but it will require marketing like they've never done to get it done..if they want to have Samsung's impact

    • Chon Oct 8, 2016 Link to comment

      Bro are you drunk, plenty almost most features currently in AOSP were first introduced in a skin. That later got Incorporated into AOSP. Split screen is just one of the latest feature that FINALLY made it into AOSP after how many years Samsung and custom roms have been doing it. Yea Google is only as good as their suite of apps. Nothing more. This was a huge mistake by Google. Next year I can see it working better for them but definitely not this year with these pixel devices. They're at best eh. Had it been an Apple phone with the huge bezels, thickness and boring UI tbh we would be laughing at them but because it's Google we give them a pass?? Naw not this time. They're not Apple and they need to stop pretending. And lastly I'm sure them becoming Alphabet with money hungry investors in the seat driving now is the sole reason for this move to a more Apple like approach. Bad move..

  • ... and they are saying "people will soon forget about the name Nexus" I don't think so!

    • Depends on who "people" are. Tech enthusiast will not forget about Nexus anytime soon, most not-so-techsavy-people won't even know what Nexus actually is. I worked at a Vodafone Shop for quite a while, the Galaxy Nexus was the last Nexus we actually sold. Most people never heard of Nexus after that, whenever I got to ask someone.

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