Google has announced a new set of devices branded Made by Google, including a premium smartphone called Pixel (priced upwards from $649), a mobile VR headset called Daydream View ($79), a Wi-Fi home access point called Google Wi-Fi ($129), a new 4K compatible Chromecast stick ($69), and a smart home speaker called Google Home ($129). However, don’t be fooled by the lovely design, high-end hardware specs, and low price points of these products: Google is not about to transform into a hardware manufacturer and compete head-to-head with its OEM partners. Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) service, Google Assistant, is at the core of its new branded venture.
Google’s new devices will make up for Android’s shortcomings
Wearables and TV devices contribute to less than 10% of the overall installed Android base and capture less than 30% market share in each segment. Google has mistakenly been relying on Android’s large smartphone app ecosystem to drive the adoption of its TVs and wearables when in fact these devices are limited to a handful of use cases.
Where Android is successful – namely smartphones and tablets – Google has been increasingly losing control over the consumer experience. Only 18.7% of Android customers are using the latest version, Marshmallow, a year after its release. In addition to this, the pace of innovation from premium Android smartphone models has stalled.
The Pixel will help Google gain more control of the premium end of the market than Nexus did, thanks to operator partnerships and a marketing strategy that seeks to go beyond tech-savvy Android enthusiasts. For these reasons – and because Google Assistant and other features will remain unique to the Pixel until the end of the year – Ovum expects Pixel to outsell previous Nexus models by the end of 2016.
Daydream View will need more Daydream-ready phones before it can find buyers. Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus, and Alcatel were announced as Daydream-ready OEM partners at the Google I/O conference. However, these partnerships are only for the next generation of phones, significantly limiting the addressable consumer base when compared to alternatives such as Samsung’s Gear VR and other mobile VR headsets.
Google Home’s Voice Cast and $129 price point will set it apart from the competition. Entertainment is at the core of the smart home experience and the integration of the Google Home speaker into Chromecast will be a significant differentiator, removing the need for a remote or a smartphone. Google Home will also be a great catalyst for Chromecast sales. In addition, the technology behind Google Home and Google Assistant brings a more human feel to virtual assistance compared to competing products such as Amazon Echo.
Google’s ultimate goal will always be to maximize the use of its services and grow advertising revenues. Not only will the new devices help Google achieve this in new segments where Android is lagging or simply not present, they will also showcase and promote the use of Google Assistant, enhancing the stickiness of Google services.
"Google’s Daydream View is a good, if tentative, step forward for mobile VR headsets," ME0002-000714 (October 2016)
"Google to push AR ambitions with its own smartphone," TE0004-001093 (July 2016)
Ronan de Renesse, Practice Leader, Consumer Technology