Sheldon PintoSep 26, 2016 11:47:47 IST
Every single time one compares an Apple iPhone with an Android device, there's this one topic that always comes up, and that's fragmentation. So what if Google built an iPhone? What if Google built a premium smartphone (price no bar), which ran Google's own software and was loaded to the brim with hardware that was designed specifically for it? Well technically that would be an Android smartphone built using the Apple formula. And it may work wonder for Google's Android.
Let's face it! Apple iPhones with every new update have been growing more and more powerful. We saw this happen with last year's iPhone 6s and even this year with the iPhone 7 that packs in plenty more power with the right software on board. iOS 10 too has not been much of glutton and is not hogging into too many resources, which means that we are beginning to see how Apple with lesser hardware is outdoing even the most powerful Android smartphones on the block (including the recently launched Note 7 by Samsung) as shown in the video below.
Unlike Pixel devices in the past, you will still see smartphones that are manufactured by HTC this year, but things could change in the coming years. Plenty about the Google Pixel and the Pixel XL has leaked out so far, except for one important bit and that's hardware.
Daydream and the Custom Chipset
The currently available Pixel C is powered by an Nvidia X1 chipset and it is a pretty capable one, that supports Vulkan and Direct X12. From the little that we know about Google's biggest VR push called Daydream, we do know that none of the currently available smartphone chipsets fit the bill. They can power Daydream, but will not be able to sustain the experience. So our best guess is that Daydream and the Google Pixel smartphones could be powered by a brand new processor.
Google has been working with Nvidia over the years so surely there is not much to be surprised about if Google announces something new from Nvidia or simply goes the Qualcomm way but with a custom chipset.
This is a big deal as a custom-made chip would be needed to match Apple's formula. Apple's current A10 Fusion on the iPhone 7 is running circles around Qualcomm's current 820 on Android flagships. So far the only evidence we have seen online is a leaked GeekBench result of the Pixel XL and it does not look too convincing as Samsung's S7 performs better. Since it too is not enough for Daydream, a new chipset could be the only way out.
3D Touch for Android?
With this out of the way, it all boils down to software and Google's Pixel smartphones, are expected to pack in something extra compared to the stuff that is already running inside the Nexus 5X and the 6P.
Google is expected to pack in some more software tweaks to make its Pixel special and worthy of the premium price tags that is expected to demand (this ain't no Nexus). Reports so far point to a special new launcher, that should provide a slightly tweaked UX for Pixel owners. Add to this Android Nougat 7.1 that is expected to bring other goodies. According to Pixel launcher teardowns by Android Police, we have new rounded icons for Pixel devices along with Launcher Shortcuts.
Launcher Shortcuts is something similar to Quick Actions from Apple's iOS 9 (Apple's iPhone's currently run iOS 10). We aren't sure how Google plans to activate the same (a new display with Force Touch or a long-press) but we do know that they do work on current generation phones, so Google will need a big excuse if it wants to make them Pixel exclusive. This is because teardowns have revealed that they can work with a swipe or a long-press. Will Google's Pixel devices feature pressure-sensitive display's? Well, we will know soon enough.
A new Google?
Right now there are no hints as to whether Google will cull or retain the Nexus brand, post the Pixel smartphone launch. If Google kills Nexus, we could be looking at a new Google with a new image that seeks to build premium products and leave behind manufacturers to deal with the fragmented mess that it has created.
Not killing the Nexus brand would leave them in the same spot that they have been in for years because this would mean that Google is with fragmentation and variety but it also wants control over hardware and software at the same time. Pixel would be the search giant's first attempt at controlling both with a smartphone (think what Microsoft did with Surface) after the Pixel C.
If Google goes with Pixel and kills Nexus, we could finally be seeing a smartphone from Android that will have no excuses about fragmentation, hardware and software irregularities, and for the first time, 'Android perfection' that should be able to take the Apple iPhone head on!
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