Google has plans to launch a 'lite' variation of its top-tier Pixel smartphone lineup and a new smartwatch in 2019, in order to grow the use of its ecosystem, based on statements from industry sources reported by Tokyo's Nikkei newspaper. The sources claim that the company will launch its standard premium line, as normal, suggesting that the handsets likely won't arrive until Google's annual hardware event in October.
Details about the devices are relatively slim but the overview of the search giant's plans are fairly in-depth. The sources claim that the new hardware direction from the company has been behind Google's hiring activity all the way back to its deal with HTC in 2017. That deal saw Google absorb approximately 2,000 engineers from the once-prominent smartphone manufacturer. Well over a thousand new job listings associated with hardware have been posted by Google in the interim as well.
The company will purportedly not be abandoning its premium line and will launch premium variants of the Google Pixel 4 as normal. That seems to suggest that previously rumored 'Pixel Lite' handset is coming but shouldn't be expected to arrive until Google's annual hardware event much later in the year.
Beyond a smartwatch and new smartphone
Apple's struggle in the premium segment and Google's comparatively lackluster Pixel smartphone sales are cited as direct reasons for the decision to push forward with the products. The Google Pixel family has grown in terms of market share over the past year by approximately 0.13-percent, the source says, citing IDC. Meanwhile, Apple's premium lineup has failed to meet expectations, with consumers opting for more affordable devices.
Google will, the sources claim, aim to launch its Google Pixel Lite at a price point much lower than Apple's least expensive iPhone in a bid to convince on-the-fence buyers over to its ecosystem. Its new smartwatch will be a direct competitor to the other OEM's offering.
Google allegedly isn't stopping at a new Pixel-branded smartwatch and 'Lite' smartphone to drive up the use of the Google product and service ecosystems, either. Industry insiders say that the search giant is looking to leverage its gains in the smart home industry too, which rose in 2018 by approximately 187% from the previous year according to Canalys. To that end, Google plans to launch a brand new version of its popular Google Home speaker this year as well as a new Nest-branded security camera.
Other indicators of growing ambitions
Industry insiders also point to a growth in Google hardware-specific activity at Foxconn as a further indication of Google's forthcoming hardware ambitions. Notably, the company's FIH Mobile division has reportedly increased the number of production lines associated with the search giant.
A new Pegatron facility said to be associated with Google products has been built in Vietnam which could employ as many as 20,000 workers. Similarly, a third manufacturer, Quanta, is said to have expanded its plant for cloud-computing products in Taiwan. The new facilities are, at least in part, claimed to be part of a bid by Google to avoid tensions between the Chinese and US governments.
Every implication, according to reports, seems to suggest that Google has substantial plans for 2019 in the hardware space that could not only grow its hardware business but also improve its standing in its primary market — namely advertising.