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The beauty and the shame of Google’s Pixel 5 gamble

What is a “Google phone”? That’s a question I’ve been trying to wrap my moist mammal-brain around for many a moon now, and the answer has rarely stayed still for long.

Early on, back when the “Google phone” concept first came around with the Nexus line of devices (pour one out, everyone), the idea was meant to represent a dramatic shakeup of the phone-buying experience. The first Nexus phone, the now-classic Nexus One, had not only high-end hardware (for the time) but also a wild-seeming web-based sales model where you’d buy the phone unlocked, direct from Google, and without any carrier involvement. (Things were pretty different back in the prehistoric time of 2010 — as this Nexus launch video will quickly remind you.)

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