Google pits design teams against each other to create next winning Pixel phone

Google Pixel 3 XL review
Julian Chokkatu/Digital Trends

Google is rumored to have at least three design teams working on its future smartphones, and it’s a competition between them all to produce the final design. This comes just days before Google is expected to reveal the new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL devices, which leaks show to be midrange smartphones with designs that are similar to the flagship Pixel phones released at the end of 2018.

The similar designs may turn out to be a disappointment to some, as the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are hardly regarded as the most attractive devices of their time. Google’s apparent plan to have multiple design teams working in competition could be a reaction to the lukewarm reception to the controversial design decisions taken to create Pixel phones up until now. When we say controversial, we’re really talking about the notch, and the bezels.

It’s further evidence Google is working to alter its hardware divisions. In March, rumors spread it had asked members of its Create hardware team to find alternative roles, potentially for a temporary period of time, due to alterations to upcoming product plans. More pertinently, Google parent company Alphabet’s earnings for the first quarter of 2019 showed demand for the Pixel phones was low.

Exact figures were not stated, but Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s CFO, said there had been lower year-on-year sales of Pixel devices, and mostly laid the blame at the door of an overall drop in premium smartphone sales globally. However, the increase in focus on design across the industry marks the Pixel 3 devices out as being visually lacking, despite the technical prowess inside. The internal competition could help give it an edge, and avoid repeating the perceived design errors of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Google does understand design, but has struggled with consistency. At the beginning of 2018, Google acquired HTC’s design team that had worked on Pixel devices already, with more than 2,000 engineers and designers joining the team. Its home hardware, including the Google Home Mini and Google Home Hub, are minimalist and attractive, with a focus on using tactile fabric to enhance them. This was part of an effort to create a consistent design language. In a recent interview, Google’s hardware design vice president Ivy Ross said, “It’s important that we keep the same language and signals up until such time where there’s a reason to evolve. I think we will evolve; we’ll keep our values but we’ll evolve. But really we’re just getting started.”

Three competing design divisions could be the start of that evolution, but it’s unclear whether we will see the results for the Pixel 4, or devices after that.

Mobile

As stock Android spreads, is it time for Android manufacturer skins to die?

Many Android device manufacturers seem to be moving towards a stock Android look and ditching separate skins, but there are a few notable exceptions. Do manufacturer interfaces for Android still add value, or is it time for them to die?
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Mobile

Prevent a broken screen with the best Google Pixel 3a XL screen protectors

The Pixel 3a XL is a solid choice if you're looking for a midrange phone with a large screen and a great camera. But it still needs protecting. Here are the best Pixel 3a XL screen protectors to keep your big display safe.
Mobile

Some Pixel 3a owners say their new phone is randomly shutting down

Some owners of Google's new Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL smartphones are complaining that their devices are randomly shutting down. The mid-range handsets hit the market just two weeks ago.
Gaming

These are the 20 best Android games you can play offline

Even in our increasingly connected world, you don't always have an internet connection on the go. To help you pass the time when you're disconnected, we compiled a list of the best Android games that can be played offline.
Mobile

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.
Product Review

Oppo’s cutting-edge Reno has a shark fin pop-up camera, and plenty of bite

The Oppo Reno has a very cool shark fin-style pop-up camera to make it stand out in a crowd, and a rear camera with a 10x zoom, plus there’s a 5G version coming soon. It’s truly up-to-date, with plenty of cutting-edge tech inside.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Deals

Qustodio drops prices 10% on premium parental control software plans

With school almost out for summer, now is a prime time to keep your children's content consumption in check and protect your own peace of mind with Qustodio's premium parental control software plans, now available at 10% off.
Mobile

Guard your Galaxy with the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors

The Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are two of the best phones to ever grace this planet -- but the screen still isn't brick-proof. Here are the best Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus screen protectors to keep yours safe.
Mobile

Huawei's situation in the U.S. may improve when trade war is resolved

The U.S. Commerce Department has added Huawei to its "Entity List." Google, Intel, and ARM are all confirmed or rumored to be ceasing business with the company, which may have disastrous effects on Huawei.
Deals

Best Memorial Day sales 2019: Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart deals

If you're looking to save big on some shiny new stuff for Memorial Day 2019, we've gathered everything you need to know into one place. Find out where to save the most money before the summer hits its stride.
Mobile

OnePlus 7 Pro plagued by ghost touch issues: Here’s what might be a quick fix

Some OnePlus 7 Pro owners have complained about ghost touches, which are non-existent taps triggering the device's touchscreen. There may be a quick fix, but it remains unclear if the problem is caused by a hardware or software issue.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Tricked-out e-scooters and bike lights that lock

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!