Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is planning to launch its own phone later this year in an effort to take more control of its Android platform, The Telegraph reported this morning.
The U.K.-based news outlet said the internet giant is in talks with carriers about the Google-branded device, citing "sources familiar with the discussions." The report offered no details about features the device might offer or what markets it might be available in.
Google designs its Nexus phones, but the handsets have been manufactured by multiple vendors including Huawei, LG and Motorola Mobility, which Google acquired in 2011 for $12.5 billion in what looked to be an aggressive move into the mobile hardware market. But Google's device manufacturing effort foundered, and the company sold most of Motorola to Lenovo in 2014.
The company recently hired former Motorola chief Rick Osterloh, however, to lead the company's effort to unify its hardware line. Osterloh was tapped to oversee a new division that will manage the Nexus line of handsets and tablets as well as Chromebook laptops and other Google gadgets.
Interestingly, Google's sale of Motorola excluded the team working on Project Ara, which develops an open hardware platform for building modular smartphones. Project Ara has since been folded into the Android business but is being managed by Osterloh.
Google hasn't been shy about its ambitions to increasingly focus on hardware in an effort to leverage Android's position as the world's most popular mobile operating system. CEO Sundar Pichai said recently that the company planned to "be more opinionated about the design" of Nexus handsets, and a Project Ara phone is expected to come to market next year.
As The Verge noted, though, there are reasons to be skeptical that we'll see a Google-branded phone this year. While Android remains an open source platform, Google retains a tremendous amount of control over the platform by prohibiting access to its popular mobile apps to manufacturers that don't conform to its policies.
And by partnering with manufacturers for its Nexus devices, Google can offer stock Android phones free from the customized skins and bloatware manufacturers and carriers use to differentiate their Android gadgets. Google is clearly honing its focus on mobile hardware, but whether that means we'll see the company start churning out phones this year is far from clear.
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