Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices has over a billion users. But the first company in Google’s alphabet isn’t stopping there. The search company that recently surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable wants to add even more users to Android. Mainly by taking back control of the operating system by making its own smartphones.
One of Android’s greatest strengths is also its greatest weakness: for better or worse, Google’s smartphone OS is free to install on any device. But in a recent report, the company wants to begin crafting its own Android hardware—controlling the mobile Google experience from top to bottom.
The Information reports that Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and his team have told colleagues that the company would like to take greater control over the Nexus smartphones, which are made by third-party manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Huawei, but run Google’s software. An official Google phone could lead to fewer sales for them all.
Google’s strategy is not a new one by any means. We’ve seen it employed in all of Apple’s products, but most notably the iPhone, and the folks at Google have no doubt heard just how much money the iOS smartphone rakes in on its own for the company. When a product starts entering the “billions per quarter” mark, competitors are sure to take notice.
And Google has, even in the past. The search company’s initial attempt could be seen in the Nexus program. Nexus phones are meant to showcase the capabilities of stock Android—a pure version of Google’s software with no carrier or hardware-maker bloatware. The devices, made by select hardware partners, were marketed as phones for developers to test their apps on, though many saw the phones as Google’s flagship handsets. The most recent releases include LG’s Nexus 5x and Huawei’s Nexus 6p.
More recently, the rumored Android Silver was meant to address the issue of Google not making its own hardware. The Silver phone was meant to provide a premium option to take on Apple’s iPhone. While the smartphone would present a higher admission price, it would—presumably—offer a more premium experience via build quality, high-end specs and the stock Android experience. Unfortunately, the program has been scrapped.
With Google revisiting its plan to put together its own phones, there’s a chance it could sour relationships with their current Android hardware makers. But, it could mean to an overall greater experience for users of Google’s smartphone platform. As we’ve seen with the iPhone, having control of both hardware and software can lead to a reliable and fluid phone experience by cutting down on bloat and making sure each piece of the software works well with the rest. Now that Google has surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable corporation, there may be no better time for Alphabet’s standout company to start competing with Cupertino at its own game.