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Google is building a phone for this year, says unlikely report

It's no secret that Google has ambitions to build its own Android phones, but a new report from The Telegraph today suggests a much more aggressive timeline than we've previously heard. Anonymous sources at mobile operators have told the Telegraph's James Titcomb that Google is preparing to release "a Google-branded phone," and a senior one among them has said that the device "will be released by the end of the year." This handset is said to be distinct from Google's branding endorsement of Nexus phones manufactured by its partners, though no details are given as to why and how it'll be produced.

Google's official timeline for the release of its first smartphone is for 2017 via its Project Ara modular phone initiative. There's zero chance of Ara being ready for the market before 2016 is through, which suggests that this report, if it turns out to be accurate, is concerned with a more regular Nexus-class device. It's tempting to think this could point toward the mythical Pixel phone, which is more a fan fantasy than an established project within Google, though that also seems extremely unlikely. Google boss Sundar Pichai told us during Code Conference that the company would be more assertive and "opinionated" about Nexus phone design, which would still be the product of collaboration with its hardware partners.

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The Telegraph's story doesn't really add up. It's pinned on the idea that Google wants to ensure greater control over Android and guarantee that its Google Play Services are installed on every device, but the company already achieves that goal effectively through its control of the Play Store. Every Nexus phone is already running the precise software that Google wants, and if Pichai's desire for greater input on design is accommodated by hardware OEMs, what conceivable reason would Google have for producing yet another phone? Rick Osterloh may be booting up a new hardware division within Google, but he only just rejoined the company and wouldn't be able to produce anything for this accelerated 2016 timeline.