Google is buying its way back into the smartphone business, almost four years after selling its stake in Motorola Mobility to Lenovo.

It's a sign that Google is committed to tighter integration between the Android operating system and specialized smartphone hardware. That could be good news for app developers and Android phone buyers alike: As Apple has shown with the video processing and artificial intelligence features of its iPhone X, there is much to be gained by tightly coupling software and hardware.

Google never entirely quit the hardware business. Since selling Moto, it has continued to release smartphones and tablets under its own brand, but these were designed and manufactured by other companies, including LG and HTC.

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