New phone launches these days is quite darn consistent. All in all, they are about the hardware and why this latest model is bright years better than the one you saw last year: the smarter design, the smaller edges, the sharper screen and so on.
On this week's Pixel 3 launchapalooza, Google took a completely different approach. Of course, their presenters glowed over some of the common hardware heights – physical niceties that set the phone apart from its predecessor, giving this newest model a reason to exist – but the real focus, and selling to most, was a little less palpable. Cementing and Strategy The company started with its first Pixel two years ago, and then refined with last year's second-generation model, Google initially told us: Hello, hardware is good and everything but everyone has the same things ̵
Not only software by itself, but it's software that significantly improves the real phone experience – and software. It does not stop developing the minute you open the box, but it's getting better over time.
The core is a good strategy. I have said for many years that smartphones themselves have become clean vessels in our mobile tech adventure: the phones are simply framing for the more effective software, ecosystem and overall user experiences that exist inside – and the last pieces of the puzzle are those that affect most of us on a daily basis over the life of a modern mobile device.
And Google, like a hardware, has some unique resources that it can mobilize in these areas. No other Android manufacturer has incentives and ability to match its commitment – or even close to match its commitment – to provide timely and continuous updating of existing devices. And delivery speed aside, only Google's phones come with a guaranteed three all year with regular OS updates. For a device, you spend hundreds of dollars to own, which means your investment will last 150 percent longer with a Pixel than any Android device, which at best will have a two-year software support window (and usually with many associated stars.]
Google also gives Pixel owners free and unlimited full-resolution backup to Google Photos for the entire device's three-year life – an advantage whose value can not be overestimated at a time when most of us take hundreds of photos and and the company provides regular improvements to areas outside of the operating system as well – as the laundry list of enhancements announced for the Pixel 3 camera and the super-interesting robot calling screen feature launched next to the phone, both of which will come to previous Pixel models soon.
Google vs everyone else
So why can Google do all that other phone builders can not? Well, it's two times: F Or first and foremost, Google is the only company in Android to fully control both hardware and software – including the most important, its front-facing and back-scenes services. That alone opens the door for some levels of integration, support and ecosystem-wide consistency that is not possible in minor arrangements.
But beyond that, Google is the only answering machine for whom hardware sales are, but a small and relatively insignificant part of the company's bottom line. For Google, you're getting an ever better device in a few years, perfect business sense: You have a great phone with an outstanding user experience, and it encourages you to use it more often. The more you use it, the more you use Google services – which, of course, are as front and center as possible on a Pixel phone, even more than on most Android devices – and the more you use Google services, the more Data Google can collect to provide you with more effective targeted ads (across both Google Apps and the Internet on the Internet, which you will also use most often thanks to your ever better device).
And where does Google make the lion's share of revenue? Yes, you guessed it: From its advertising business.
Compare it to another phone manufacturer and the difference is striking: Everyone else earns money for most of the hawking hardware. This means that the less you upgrade the device, the less money your company enters. Google aside, every phone manufacturer has essentially an inherent motivation to encourage you to purchase new devices as often as possible – and guess what? To give you an experience that becomes meaningful and consistently better over time actively works against that goal.
And yet – the ever-existing conflict in the scenario software is increasingly playing the most important role in our day-to-day use of user experiences. Software is the part of a phone we interact with most intimately and often. It's the area that has the potential to keep these little pocket watches our computers felt fresh and convincing year after year, if the manufacturer is so inspired.
And let's not forget mentioned before: The most common complaints about Android – the messy user interfaces, overlapping services, confusing inconsistencies, performance hiccups, slow and unreliable upgrades and resulting dated devices – only about software . Pixel is essentially the only high-end phone where none of these issues apply.
For all Pixel plan positives, three main questions remain – and they should be quite familiar to frequent Google observers at this point: Will Google first find a way to convince regular consumers if their value suggests ? I'd say it's a pretty big "if," given the company's shaking past in the marketing department – but hey who knows? Perhaps one of those years, it will figure it out.
Secondly, can Google actually make the product available big enough for ordinary people to see it, remember it and then buy it actually? Considering that Verizon is the only US carrier selling Pixel 3 and the fact that the American mobile market, crazy as it sounds, still revolves around mobile operator sales, it does not appear that this will be the year we will see it happen.
And finally, will Google stick to this strategy and remain fully committed long enough to give it the opportunity to thrive? It is perhaps the most pressing question of all. I really think having their own proprietary hardware has become too important to Google's future to give up and that the company deliberately has planned this to be a long-term slow-release strategy. But we all know that commitment has never been Google's greatest strength.
For now, what we can say is: Google clearly plays its own game with its Pixel phones – and if you play your own game and still lose, you have nobody but yourself to blame.
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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]