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[SAN FRANCISCO] Google plans to add new features to the Android operating system to better differentiate its Nexus mobile devices from those offered by Apple Inc.
The company, a unit of Alphabet Inc, plans to "put a lot more thought" into its Nexus devices, which could entail customising the Android software that runs them, Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said at Recode's Code Conference Wednesday.
Google licenses Android, the world's largest mobile operating system, for free to handset makers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Lenovo Group.
This gets its money-making web services, such as search, onto lots of mobile devices, but also means there are many different phones with varied software and apps that work in different ways.
These fragmentation issues mean Android phones are often harder to use and sometimes less capable than iPhones, which have software and hardware designed only by Apple.
Nexus devices are designed by Google to tackle this problem. They also highlight the best new features of Android and encourage manufacturing partners adopt them in their own devices.
However, creating a new version of Android just for Nexus devices would give Google more control. It's a big new step for the company and a signal that Google is getting more serious about competing with Apple in the high-end of the smartphone market.
The company has signaled more appetite for hardware in recent months, first by hiring Motorola veteran Rick Osterloh to unite its hardware divisions, and then by announcing plans to have partners create a range of high-end Android phones to support its virtual reality efforts.