Is HTC Google’s (GOOGL) Pixel Silent Partner?

Google confirms HTC not part of the creation of its flagship smartphones Pixel and Pixel XL. But, there’s evidence suggesting otherwise.

Google GOOGL Pixel

The new handsets Pixel and Pixel XL could pave the way to Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) success in the smartphone area. However, the search giant is not the only company that is counting on the favorable outcome of these new handsets.

During Google’s special Oct. 4 event in San Francisco, company executives went over a selection of new offerings including the Pixel phones, the new VR accessory Daydream View headset and the AI assistant upgrade Chrome Ultra. But as they strutted their new products, there seemed to be something amiss – there was no mention of HTC.

While earlier reports reveal that the veteran Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC worked closely with Google in developing the new Pixel and Pixel XL phones, Google is pushing so hard the “Made By Google” initiative, concealing any signs of HTC’s participation in Pixels’ design and manufacturing. Google even called HTC the Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) instead of co-engineer of the devices, which is questionable considering Google’s many failed attempts in the area for 6 years after launching the Nexus One.

On the contrary, however, there are doubts surrounding Google’s influence over the Pixel and Pixel XL phones. Before the release of the Pixel models, there was a leaked photograph showing a large bezel design which some claim to be inspired by HTC’s “One A9” phone. Google denies the claim though, and is backed up by iFixIt’s teardown of the two Pixels showing that apart from the battery, there is no evidence in the phones’ HTC manufacturing origin. But, that’s only in the hardware aspect of the phones though.

In a report in XDA Developers, there was a commit in Marlin’s source code submitted in August, which shows the removal of “htc_cerberus” label in one of the files under sepolicy. “At the very least, the existence of the commit by an HTC engineer suggests some level of involvement in the software between HTC and Google,” reporter Mishaal Rahman concludes. He further reports that there were 363 additional commits to the Marlin’s source code, which came from e-mail addresses of HTC engineers.

Despite Google’s strong denial of HTC’s involvement in the creation of Pixel phones, HTC still seems pleased being relegated as a silent partner. In fact, according to a CNet report, HTC spokesperson Jeff Gordon said, “We’re proud that when Google needed an industry-leading partner for the Pixel, HTC was the clear answer,” which might mean that this kind of partnership is symbiotic for both Google and HTC.

Perhaps Google wants to position itself as a serious competitor to the likes of the iPhone since the concept is the same as Apple’s relationship with Foxconn – Apple creating the software, Foxconn doing the dirty work with the hardware. On the flip side, this is good for HTC, too, which has fought hard to revive its standing as a maker of Android smartphones. According to Digitimes research, HTC is likely to sell 6.5 to 7 million non-Google related units, which means that the Pixel phones could fill 46% of HTC’s production for the second half of the year.

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