Villarreal (far right) and his hardware design colleagues pose for a picture taken with a Google Pixel phone.

Mexican designer behind Google's Pixel smartphone discusses the company's hardware push

Mexican designer behind Google's Pixel smartphone discusses the company's hardware push

Taking veiled swipes at Apple, Pixel designer Alberto Villarreal says he wanted to avoid 'last-year tones' like rose gold and make the camera fit in the phone's body without a bump.

Villarreal (far right) and his hardware design colleagues pose for a pic...
Villarreal (far right) and his hardware design colleagues pose for a picture taken with a Google Pixel phone.

SAN FRANCISCO — When Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a host of new hardware products earlier this month the star of the show was its Pixel smartphone, intended to be fierce competition for the iPhone.

What most people in attendance that morning didn't know is that a Mexican industrial designer led the team that created the Pixel's sleek body, which Google senior vice president Rick Osterloh made sure to point out has "no unsightly camera bump" in an obvious reference to the new iPhone 7.

Creative lead Alberto Villarreal works as part of a new hardware group led by Osterloh. The new division signals a big bet on consumer products in the physical world for a company that's made its name on algorithms and cloud-based software.

"We are at a unique moment," Villarreal says of his role in the larger strategic context. Google promoted its product launch under the social media hashtag #MadeByGoogle and called the Pixel the first phone it has made "inside and out."

Lea esta nota en español

Villarreal previously had his own studio in Mexico, but took the job at Google after an invitation from a former colleague at a San Francisco design firm.

"To be an industrial designer at a company that's pouring so many resources into hardware is unique," he added during an interview in Spanish. "Especially when you have the added value that comes from the product's soul."

Villarreal is referring to the fact that the Pixel is the first phone that incorporates Google Assistant, the company's artificial intelligence-powered bet on the future of search: a constant presence across devices that jumps into chats and queries to provide answers and accomplish tasks related to what users are discussing. This is an area where a few tech giants – including Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft – find themselves converging and competing.

Rick Osterloh lidera la nueva división de dispositivos de Google, la gra...
Google aimed for a sleek and comfortable design on its new Pixel phone, Villarreal says.

The Assistant "follows" users as they engage with various Google apps and devices. Between Assistant and the recently-launched Google Home talking device, the company aims to make itself even more of a presence in people’s daily lives. And Google is banking on almost two decades of accumulating data on users’ information needs and custom preferences to provide a personalized service edge over its rivals.

“There are few companies, I doubt there’s more than two or three, that can do this," Villarreal says. "It is a privilege.”

The Pixel phone sports a brushed aluminum body with a Gorilla glass back and it comes in three colors: Quite Black, Very Silver and Really Blue. Google claims it created the latter.

In keeping with the tone of the launch's thinly veiled swipes at Apple, Villarreal points to the bright blue option as a way for Pixel users to have their phone stand out among the crowd.


"We were a little tired of the rose gold and other very last-year tones that you can see in the industry," he says. "We wanted to do something bold that no one else was doing and show Google's playful, young personality."

Apple calls the pink hue it introduced on its iPhones last year "rose gold."

Making the camera fit in the phone's body without a "bump" was a big challenge, Villarreal says: "It's hard to design a product with such a big component inside, while at the same time trying to make it slim and comfortable to hold." He is very pleased with the result, since the flat back of the phone prevents it from rocking when left on a desk (unlike you-know-who's phone).

His overall goal, he says, was to make a comfortable and "approachable" phone, with no sharp angles on its body.

This is a key project for Google. The company has launched smartphones before, like the Nexus, but had never actually branded them with its own logo. Companies like LG and Huawei manufactured the Nexus, which has had mixed reviews.

Villarreal – who moved to California's Bay Area from Mexico City when he joined Google in 2013 – was in charge of that project as well, but he says the Pixel was extra special.

"It carries Google's logo," he says. And also because of the importance of a phone (in people's lives,) it is the most important product today. You have it with you all day."

From now on, Villarreal and his fellow hardware designers will have plenty of products to work on, including the Chromecast wireless connector for TVs, the Home assistant, the new Google Wifi router system, and others.


Villarreal thinks Google has one clear advantage: artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise, accrued over many years of providing search and other web-based services.

That's the "soul" he believes will make Google's hardware product the winners against some impressive opposition.

"It allows for the products to offer this unique proposition," he says. "It's not only hardware of the highest quality, but also this magic that comes with Google's products."

Univision got exclusive access to the Border Patrol's only facility in the country where agents train to search for tunnels used to transport drugs and other illicit materials, in Nogales, Arizona.
Although the deportation numbers for Donald Trump's administration have kept pace with the Obama administration, images of operatives and arrests, hate attacks on different minorities, and the President's own pronouncements have triggered alarms in the immigrant community ... and fear. One of Trump's most vocal campaign promises has begun to come true. And we are not talking about the physical wall, but a deeper, taller and more effective one: the wall of fear.
Jose Castillo's fear since Donald Trump became president turned into terror. The man who lived in the U.S. for more than 15 years fled his home country after gangs threatened to kill him. A few months ago, he stopped driving and sought shelter at a church in New York. From there, he asked the Canadian government for asylum.
The young White House adviser who is one of the president's preferred spokesmen once ran for election at his California high school. His stump speech was found racially offensive by many students as you can see in this video obtained exclusively by Univision. He was escorted off the stage by high school staff.
This is the story of how land along the frontier between the U.S. and Mexico passed through Spanish and Mexican hands before becoming part of the United States. In those days there was no wall.
In the dairy industry in Wisconsin, at the heart of the Rust Belt where Donald Trump won by a landslide, more than half of the workers are immigrants and most of them are undocumented. No American citizen wants to do the hard work they do.
The U.S. Senator is in a close race for re-election in Florida. Now comes new revelations about the cocaine smuggling house Rubio briefly shared with his brother-in-law. Prize-winning journalist Tim Elfrink with the Miami New Times explains the significance of the court papers.
Artist Enrique Chiu is trying to transform the U.S.- Mexico border one paint stroke at a time. Eight years ago, Chiu started inviting people to paint the wall with the aim of uniting people at the border.
The evidence against El Chapo: undercover recordings, intercepted communications, protected witnesses’ declarations, drug seizures, and a confession. As U.S. prosecutors prepare their case against the world's most feared drug trafficker, this is what the government's case is built around.
Family, friends and fans turned out on Wednesday to pay their last respects to Miami Marlins pitching ace, José Fernández who died in a boating accident early Sunday.
Machado was crowned Miss Universe in 1996. A few months later, she gained weight. As a result, Trump planned a media event for journalists to watch her work out, she told Ramos.
The Rio 2016 Paralympics are underway in Brazil. Univision takes a look at real people who have overcome life-changing obstacles. This series is about their power to defy the odds and shatter preconceived notions of their limitations.
Exercise or stay inside. This is the dilemma that the inhabitants of Wilmington, California face everyday. The air quality is among the worst of the United States due to the closeness of 5 refineries, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as well as several highways. “We go out running, and after a few minutes my nose hurts and it’s hard to breathe”, said Jhovana Ruelas.
Yaxeni and Ricardo, from the Houston-based Los Luzeros de Rioverde, denounce deportation in their new song "El Descendiente." The duo hasn't yet graduated from elementary school, but they've already put out two albums.
The former US president signed the 1977 Canal treaties that gave control of the strategic waterway to Panama in 1999.
It has been a year since the real estate magnate announced his presidential bid. Here is the best (and worst) in a year of Trump.
Guatemaltecos, otra cara de la tragedia de inmigrantes en el camión hallado en Texas
Frank Fuentes, un deportado de 20 años de edad y quien estuvo amparado bajo DACA, es una de las 10 personas que perdieron la vida por presunta asfixia y deshidratación en el contenedor. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Guatemala comenzó un proceso para repatriar el cuerpo desde San Antonio. Darío López y Gaspar Alonzo sobrevivieron a las condiciones en el tráiler y están hospitalizados.
Del sueño a la pesadilla americana: relatos de sobrevivientes del camión hallado en Texas
Adán Lara Vega, un mexicano de 27 años de edad que permanece en un hospital en San Antonio, manifiesta que despertó en un centro médico tras perder el conocimiento por las condiciones que vivió en el vehículo. Una mujer, también de origen mexicano, cuenta lo que experimentó su hermano en el tráiler. Al menos 10 personas murieron en el camión hallado en la madrugada del pasado sábado al domingo en un Walmart de la ciudad texana.
¿Jennifer López y Alex Rodríguez estarían planeando su boda en secreto?
'El Gordo' descubrió a Alex Rodríguez en una prestigiosa tienda de Nueva York mandando a confeccionar varios 'tuxedos', ¿para qué ocasión los utilizará?
¿Romance en puerta? Neymar y Demi Lovato publican una foto que levanta sospechas
La cantante estadounidense aparece en una fotografía junto al jugador de fútbol, donde luce la camiseta del actual equipo del brasileño.
¿Qué piensan los colombianos del sur de Florida sobre el partido político de las FARC?
Las FARC, que firmaron recientemente un acuerdo de paz con el gobierno colombiano, anunciaron que el próximo 1 de septiembre lanzarán su partido político para continuar su lucha por la vía democrática. Expertos, analistas y residentes del área de ese país tienen opiniones divididas respecto a la noticia que se conoció este lunes.
Gobernador de Texas cree que todas las personas detenidas por ICE son criminales
En entrevista con Univision 45, el republicano Greg Abott dejó claro que se mantiene firme en su decisión de establecer la ley SB-4 y justificó que los operativos de la agencia federal en el estado son para erradicar las pandillas.
El Distrito 40 se prepara para las elecciones primarias del Senado de Florida
Los candidatos republicanos, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, José Félix Díaz y Lorenzo Palomares, y las candidatas demócratas, Ana Rivas Logan y Annette Taddeo, se preparan para enfrentarse en las urnas este martes tras una intensa y polémica campaña electoral. Los ganadores de cada lado se enfrentarán luego entre ellos.
En video: El robo de más de 16 armas de fuego en una tienda de Dania Beach
Cuatro sospechosos quedaron captados en cámara en el momento del crimen y son buscados por la policía. Las autoridades lograron recuperar 16 armas, pero piensan que faltan dos más por salvar y piden la ayuda de la comunidad para dar con el paradero de los responsables.
Sergi Roberto, sobre el Real Madrid: “Nunca es amistoso, siempre queremos ganar”
El volante del Barcelona aseguró que su equipo no entiende de amistosos cuando enfrente está su gran rival. El encuentro contra los merengues en la International Cup, es otra oportunidad para demostrarlo.
Jorge Hernández se mantuvo en la línea de sus compañeros y asumió la culpa de la eliminación
El volante aseguró, al igual que otros jugadores del Tri, que el equipo tiene culpa en la eliminación y que no es solo responsabilidad del DT colombiano. “Ahora a trabajar por una nueva oportunidad”, dijo.
Enner Valencia, con paso firme a demostrar que las segundas partes si son buenas
El delantero ecuatoriano fue el héroe del triplete en el estreno de Tigres en el Torneo Apertura 2017 frente a Puebla. “Espero lograr esos campeonatos que no pude con mi equipo anterior”, aseguró.
Así fue el primer día de ‘Chicharito’ a su llegada a Inglaterra para firmar por el West Ham
La agenda del delantero mexicano a su llegada a Londres fue muy activa. Pruebas médicas, firma de contrato y visita a la sede deportiva del club, son algunas de las actividades que realizó en su primer día.