at do xel phones mean for ’s Android partners?

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 6 Oct 2016

’s xel namesake has long been associated with premium devices sold at higher price points; its existence was primarily to inspire its Chromebook partners.

Now that the xel line has exped to smartphones, ’s positioning of the xel line has shifted. The xel is a direct competitor to Apple’s ione, thus by extension, it has to compete with ’s Android partners, such as Samsung, , Huawei, Motorola, Sony, HTC.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Osterloh, head of the newly formed hardware division within , made it abundantly clear the company’s xel xel X/a> phones were designed built by , for .

Technically, the xels are built by HTC, who is acting as a contract manufacturer, much in the same way Foxconn builds Apple’s ione.

The real question is, what kind of impact will the xel have on ’s longsting partnerships?

Nexus is dead. ng live Nexus.

is done with the Nexus line, forgoing any future partnerships to “showcase the best of Android” (as Nexus devices were often framed). Nexus was known for affordability, developer friendliness, guaranteed updates directly from .

oking at the Android market, it’s clear the Nexus program worked. Oneus ZTE are just two examples of device manufacturers who adopted the Nexus-approach, producing high-quality devices at a low price, with a nearly “stock” Android experience.

had previously flirted with the idea of competing on the high-end of the smartphone market. Two years ago, the Nexus 6 was priced to compete with the ione Samsung’s Galaxy line, but failed to make a dent on the smartphone market. It was far too big, had a mediocre camera, for starters.

th the xel line, is adding features exclusive to their own smartphones—such as Assistant right in the launcher, unlimited otos storage, built-in customer support—with devices unapologetically priced at the high end.

Retail availability hurts

In the U.S., you can purchase the xel through three different channels: Verizon reless, Best Buy, or the Store.

Not to take anything away from Verizon’s influence on the wireless industry, but the lack of wide carrier availability is going to hurt the xel’s adoption.

“The introduction of the xel phones will not significantly affect ’s Android partners, such as Samsung,” Gartner analyst Hung told in an email. “Given that the only carrier partner is Verizon, the phones are going to see limited channel coverage,” Hung continued.

y? The majority of consumers purchase a smartphone in a carrier store.

cking shelf space marketing dollars from three out of the four major U.S. carriers, the xel is at a disadvantage compared to any smartphone available in all four carrier stores. (READ: Samsung Apple.)

ed, Verizon will likely put a lot of money behind marketing the xels ( already is) , but upgrade purchases inside a carrier store just won’t be possible for those not on Verizon. It’s not hard to imagine a customer deciding between the Galaxy S7 ge the xel X seeing a demo of Assistant, being swayed to the xel. Not having shelf space in AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile stores is only going to hurt the xels.

ucating consumers about Assistant isn’t only going to sell more phones, but it’s going to push artificial intelligence even further into the mainstream—if Assistant lives up to ’s promises, that is.

Microsoft is doing the same thing… kind of

’s approach of designing high end devices, in turn competing with its partners, isn’t new.

Microsoft is already doing it with its Surface lineup, framing its Surface line as something ndows’ partners should strive to replicate, not as a direct competitor to its partners.

Hung agrees, telling : “The xels represent more of a reference design for ’s partners to emulate, similar to Microsoft with its Surface os in the tablet market.”

though, Microsoft isn’t keeping a headlining feature to itself, in the way is currently limiting Assistant to the xels. Android partners will gain access to Assistant at some point in 2017, but until then the xel exclusive is a distinct advantage for partners.

At the end of the day, is putting pressure on the entire Android ecosystem, forcing its partners to innovate beyond refreshing hardware designs throwing in a couple custom apps for good measure. Arguably, it’s the best thing could be doing for Android at the moment.

Ideally, the ability to buy a premium Android phone at retail or carriers with no bloatware timely updates would force other makers to deal with these two common frustrations.

However, Until pushes its xel lineup into all major carrier stores, in front of more consumers on a daily basis, its partners don’t have too much to worry about.