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Is the Google Pixel phone going to go upmarket?

Google has unveiled its new set of phones, called Pixel, and left a lot of people wondering why. Not that Google has a bad track record in launching phones and tablets. The Nexus range has done well and been popular.

The question is whether we actually need a new premium phone, and whether, if we do, it should come from Google.

Swish phones

Other commentators have outlined the features of the new phones, prime among which is the more conversational style of voice control. Shouting “Hey Google” at your phone is going to start looking out of date very quickly (and since it’s one of the functions that gives up to preserve power when your battery is low this is probably a good thing; I can vouch for the fact that it makes your family laugh at you when you speak to the phone and nothing happens).

The handsets are indeed swish and because they’re from Google they are likely to carry the latest version of Android at all times. Some of this will depend on the contract you have with your carrier – there is talk on a number of US sites about an uneven spread of upgrades. The Android community will be used to this.

The quality of the materials has also received a fillip. This means there will be fewer of these gadgets than Google is used to for a while, and this will have its impact on the price. This is where the trouble starts.

Next to Nexus

Google’s previous hardware foray has been branded as Nexus. This was often seen as a cheaper alternative to the higher-end lifestyle brands like Samsung and of course Apple. The new brand is going to go head to head with the iPhone 7 instead.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Nexus were continuing as a budget alternative, but this doesn’t appear to be the case. If you want a phone from Google it’s now going to cost a premium price.

Which is an odd decision when the company’s greatest hits have always appeared to be either free at the point of purchase (of course we pay in other ways by accepting ads and soforth, but you don’t have to pay directly to search for something or to watch a YouTube video) or on the cheaper side, such as the Nexus range.

This new phone is Google as a lifestyle statement. It’s a complete re-tooling of its market and the company is doing it with handsets that might be swish on the inside but which will look like any other Android phone on the market.

IT professionals used not to have to worry about the handsets their staff used, of course, but this is no longer the case. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies mean that colleagues will often bring their own phones in, and the corporate apps had better work on them.

Pixel is actually good news from this point of view, as it is bound to carry “pure” Android straight from Google rather than any of the additions and tweaks other manufacturers offer, Support should actually be simpler.

Nonetheless it’s another new entrant in a crowded market, and many of Google’s customers are irate about the lack of clarity over the future of the Nexus range. Google wants to go upmarket, that much is clear: less clear is whether the brand will actually be able to make the transition.

The picture on the front of this article illustrates the phones that will be available in the US