Google has always been a reluctant hardware maker, even though its Android operating system powers more than 80 percent of smartphones around the globe. But next month it plans to launch two new "Made by Google" smartphones running a unique version of Android with new features unavailable on any other phone.
Google's hope is that by producing unique phones — and selling lots of them — it can take back control of Android, which is used freely by smartphone manufacturers from Samsung to Huawei which barely mention Android and are increasingly adding their own apps and services on top to stand out, and diluting Google's vision of Android in the process.
With reports suggesting Huawei is secretly preparing its own operating system as a possible replacement for Android, and Samsung openly developing its Tizen operating system, Google knows it needs to change the way Android works, and for now it appears that making its own smartphones with unique software features is how it want to do this.
A teaser video released by Google gives little away about what it will launch on October 4 beyond the fact that it will be a rectangle, but widespread leaks and reports suggest the search giant will introduce two new smartphones, ditching the Nexus branding in favour of the "Pixel" name.
While Taiwanese electronics firm HTC is expected to manufacture new smartphones, according to the official website for the October 4 event, the new devices will be branded as "Made by Google."
Google typically launches its new smartphones with the latest update to Android, which this year is called Nougat and which was released with little fanfare on older devices last month. This year however reports suggest the company is looking to add new features to the software which will be exclusive to its Pixel smartphones.
These reports are given added weight by Google CEO Sundar Pichai's comments earlier this year, saying the company would be "more opinionated about the design of the phones," and would "add more features on top of Android on Nexus phones."
While the latest version of Android is as good as, if not better than, Apple's iOS 10, the problem is that very few of the Android smartphones in use today will ever get to take advantage of its new features.
The figures speak for themselves. Just 15 percent of active Android smartphones and tablets are currently using Android 6.0, which was released in October last year. In comparison, Apple's iOS 9 which was released just one month earlier, is being used by 88 percent of iPhone and iPad users according to Apple's most recent figures.
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