Google is working on a cheaper new smartphone that could rival the iPhone XR, report says

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • Google is working on a new low-cost smartphone that would be less expensive than the $US749 iPhone XR, according to a new report.
  • It’s said to be part of an effort to lure new users into Google’s software and services ecosystem.
  • The launch would come as Apple grapples with slowing iPhone sales.

When Google launched its first Pixel phone in 2016, it was largely perceived as being the search giant’s first premium-grade smartphone that put the company in direct competition with Apple’s iPhones. Now, more than two years later, Google is reportedly planning to launch a lower-priced smartphone that’s expected to be less expensive than Apple’s own low-cost offering, the $US749 iPhone XR, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The cheaper smartphone is said to be part of an effort to entice more users into Google’s ecosystem and leverage its software to expand its hardware lineup. It’s a sensible approach for Google given the fact that services like Google Maps, Google Search and Gmail are among the most popular apps used by smartphone owners. The phone will be aimed at budget-conscious consumers and those in emerging markets, while a new premium Pixel phone is also slated for this year, the report says. Google has not immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

The report doesn’t share many details about the phone itself, including whether it will be branded as a Pixel phone or how it will differ from Google’s current and future Pixel phones. But if this low-cost phone does end up being a cheaper Pixel device, it will likely compete directly with Apple’s iPhone XR, which includes some features found on the pricier iPhone XS but not all of them. Like the iPhone XS, the iPhone XR is powered by Apple’s A12 bionic chip and includes its Face ID facial recognition system, but lacks the more premium model’s OLED display.

The report comes after multiple leaks have indicated that Google is readying a cheaper Pixel phone called the Pixel 3 Lite. That phone is expected to look similar to Google’s high-end Pixel smartphones, but with a plastic body and headphone jack among other changes, as a reportedly leaked video from last month suggests.

Google is also reportedly working on new smart speakers, wearables, and web cameras as part of its effort to expand its hardware lineup, which comes just after the search giant made a splashy appearance at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in January. The company heavily flaunted the Google Assistant during the annual tech conference, its rival to Amazon’s Alexa that powers Google’s smart speaker lineup and other third-party gadgets.

Google is also said to have poached hundreds of hardware engineers and supply chain specialists from Apple over the last two years, further expanding the hardware talent it bolstered in 2017 when it acquired 2,000 engineers from rival Android smartphone maker HTC.

The news comes amidst a slowdown in Apple’s iPhone sales as owners are holding onto their iPhones for longer periods of time. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company’s revenue for the quarter that ended in December would be lower than expected largely due to disappointing iPhone sales in greater China.

The report doesn’t specify when Google plans to unveil this cheaper smartphone, but the company typically debuts its new Pixel smartphones in October, while Apple usually unveils its new iPhones in September.

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