Tech breaking news site The Information has floated a widely-shared rumor that Google may be bringing design and production of a new Android phone entirely in-house. I’m not clear whether this is genuinely likely, or just clickbait designed to lure people inside The Information‘s paywall. But I’m happy to discuss the points it raises for more perspective on Android’s current market position, and where it might go in future.
The Information‘s report states that “executives inside Google are once again discussing whether to build an Android phone from scratch.” Discussions about contingencies and potential new business approaches are pretty much par for the course in any large corporation. Will they translate into actual new strategies at Google?
That question comes down to whether a fully own-brand Google Phone can bring anything truly new to the table. Google hasn’t exactly done badly in building market share with Android. IDC data puts Android market share growth on a continuing upward path, with almost 83 percent share as of 2Q2015 – down two percentage points on the same time a year ago, but hardly in crisis.
Furthermore, the series of Google Nexus phones has set a pretty enviable benchmark in price and quality performance for Android, while maintaining partnerships with HTC, Samsung, Huawei, and other manufacturers who also produce their own Android smartphones. The likes of the Nexus 6P, illustrated above, are pretty serious kit – where’s the sign that Google itself could do any better?
None of this suggests that Android’s market position is in any serious danger, or that Google has a strong need, as The Information declares, to go one step further than the Nexus platform “in its continuing effort to make Android more of a robust competitor to Apple.” Google has succeeded precisely by not being like Apple, and opening its church to all followers, instead of keeping hardware and software entirely in-house.
Maybe this kind of reporting still comes from those influenced by the Apple Reality Distortion Field, implying that Apple has the one business model worth emulating. Apple may be still top dog in market cap, at Number One worldwide versus Google’s lowly Number Four. But add Samsung to Google? Huawei? Motorola? HTC? Then the total dollar value of the respective ecosystems starts to look very different. And I don’t see any reason for Google to pull away from all those other partners in order to try to out-Apple Apple.