Here’s how Google plans to fight iPhone 8

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Google Pixel
It's in talks to buy HTC, maker of the Pixel lineup.
Photo: Google

Google plans to step up its fight against the iPhone 8 by taking a leaf out of Apple’s playbook.

A new report claims the company is in talks to buy HTC’s struggling smartphone business, which would give it near complete control over future Pixel devices.

HTC has made some of the finest Android-powered smartphones. It was one of the few companies that matched the iPhone’s premium design aesthetic back when Samsung was still churning out tacky plastic. But design isn’t everything.

Although HTC handsets have always looked good, they were often flawed. Their cameras were disappointing; they failed to deliver features like water-resistance and wireless charging; and HTC made some strange decisions that didn’t pay off.

As a result, its smartphone business has been nosediving. In August, the company posted its lowest monthly revenue figures in 13 years, despite the launch of flagship devices like the U11 earlier this year. The company just cannot catch a break.

But HTC’s smartphone business may live on.

Digitimes reports that the company is in the “final stage of negotiation” with Google, which could see it selling off its smartphone division in its entirety. It would give the search giant complete control over both the software and hardware of future Pixel smartphones.

Google has attempted something similar before. You may remember that it acquired Motorola’s smartphone business in 2011, before selling it to Lenovo less than three years later at a loss. But the company’s approach to mobile devices has changed a lot since then.

Google’s pure Android handsets used to be aimed primarily at app developers. They offered fairly decent hardware without any frills at an affordable price. But in recent years, those devices have become fancier (and more expensive), and they’ve been marketed at consumers.

By buying HTC’s smartphone business, Google would be getting its hands on a company that already knows how to make high-end smartphones. HTC was actually responsible for manufacturing the Pixel lineup — Google’s best and most complete smartphones to date.

If Google doesn’t buy the business in its entirety, it is claimed the company could instead make a significant investment in it that would allow HTC to fight on — presumably under the condition that it continues to make Pixel devices for the foreseeable future.

HTC has already agreed to make Google’s next-generation Pixel handsets, according to recent reports. However, the company has been taking steps to find success elsewhere; it has recently made a major push into virtual reality with the excellent Vive headset.

Obviously Google and HTC won’t comment on this report for now, and as it comes from Digitimes, it’s one that should be taken with a pinch of salt. But it certainly makes some sense.