There’s no doubt about the fact that Google will have to launch at least one new Nexus smartphone this year. It’s the only way for the company to show what Android N can do – to customers, developers, and OEMs. In fact, at this point, there’s no way for Google to launch a major Android release and not make a Nexus phone. But unlike in previous years, 2016 might mark the year when Google launches both Nexus devices and a Google-branded phone that wants to be an iPhone killer of sorts. The device would go head-to-head against Apple’s iPhone 7.

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Sources familiar with Google’s smartphone plans told The Telegraph that Google is “is in discussions with mobile operators about releasing a Google-branded phone that will extend the company’s move into hardware.” It’s not clear what these devices will be called, or how they would differentiate themselves from Nexus handsets, but the paper says the phone will launch by the end of the year, at least according to a senior source.

Google has had a hard time dealing with carriers when it comes to selling Nexus handsets in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see whether this new effort will yield better results.

Google is said to be taking more control over design, manufacturing and software with this device. Google CEO Sundar Pichai dispelled such rumors a few weeks ago when he said in an interview that Google will continue to make Nexus handsets with partners, revealing that it will pay a lot more attention to them in the future. Pichai even said that the next Nexus handsets will not run pure Android anymore. But he seemed to indicate that Google isn’t interested in controlling the hardware side and making a new Google-branded handset.

“They are concerned that Android is fragmenting, that it needs to become a more controlled platform,” CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood told The Telegraph. “I think they’ll seek to control it more, more like Apple.”

Google is also reportedly “annoyed” that customers see the iPhone as the only premium offering on the market, according to a tip received earlier this year by 9to5Google. It’s worth noting that a premium Google device would not only compete against the iPhone, but also against high-end handsets made by Google’s partners.

Ultimately, even if Google decides to can this iPhone killer, the 2016 Nexus handsets already sound very exciting.

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