The Google Nexus program is a line of smartphones and tablets that run Google’s stock Android operating system. Unlike every other Android smartphone that flood the market such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One, Nexus products are designed, developed, and marketed solely by Google. The only thing that Google outsources is the manufacturing of the products, which have been made by LG, HTC, Samsung, and ASUS. What’s most enticing about these devices is that they’re fully supported by Google and receive updates faster than any other Android device.
The beauty of Android is that Google released it under open source licenses that allow technology companies to run it as their platform’s OS that is very cost effective and highly customizable. One of the biggest downfalls to Android is with this highly customizable and open source platform, comes the ability for manufacturers to put their own UI on top of the pure OS that Google intended. While not inherently a bad thing, the added UI often serves to bog down the device, take up precious storage space, and creating lag during use. This is where the Nexus line truly shines, as they do not come with any manufacturer or wireless carrier modifications to the OS, similar to Apple’s iOS platform.
With a device that has been all but manufactured by Google, comes a piece of hardware that supports Android the way Google intended: vanilla and unrestrained. The near uninhibited customization that Android allows has attracted many developers to use the open-use code to create custom ROMs, new features, and a slew of apps that have grown to rival what iOS has to offer.
Apart from having a device free from third party modifications and being the first to receive updates, the Nexus line offers top of the line software that won’t break the bank. Google’s latest smartphone offering, the Nexus 5 retails for $349.00 off contract, whereas a device with near identical specifications (LG G2) will add another $250 to the price tag.
For the past four years, Nexus devices have been essential components for developers who require frequent software updates and minimal third party modifications. While still considered a budget device, the Nexus 5 took the biggest step towards flagship status by offering a phone that could only be knocked on their camera quality and battery life. But despite CFO Partick Pichette acknowledging that the Nexus 5 being a very strong performer, Google will be canning the Nexus program for a new line of devices under the Android Silver name.
Google is company that can sell mobile devices at cost and still make a mint. According to their annual earnings report, Google “generates revenue primarily by delivering relevant, cost-effective online advertising,” with as much as 96% of its revenue coming from AdWords and AdSense. So why would Google cancel the Nexus program for Android Silver if the user experience will be the same?
There are multiple reasons why Google would want to create a more premium line of Android devices besides increasing profit margins. The most apparent reason would be for Google a chance to command greater control over the android market. Despite the success of the Nexus line, the Android market has been dominated by several third party manufacturers over the past few years.
While the source code for Android is open source and members of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) agree to abide by the standard set by Google, there are manufacturers that take liberties to their software that don’t adhere to Google’s standards. Back in 2012, Google ceased production on a device Acer manufactured that ran Alibaba Group’s Aliyun OS, as it was regarded as an incompatible form of Android.
Currently, Samsung manufacturers the majority of mobile devices running Android and while they do abide by the OHA, their UI, Touchwiz, creates an user experience that only slightly resembles true, stock Android. This poses a problem for Google because as much as Samsung propels Android to a larger market share every year, more of the market is growing to understand Android as an OS that Google didn’t intend it to be. Regardless of increased profit margins, if Google can amass greater sales with their Android Silver program, it can regain control over what the Android OS is supposed to be: reliability with a buttery smooth interface that doesn’t rely on gimmicks. This will also allow Google to prevent update delays that users often experience with third party Android smartphones and better compete with Apple and their immediately available updates.
With Android Silver aiming to deliver premium handsets to the general consumer, Google could be aiming to lead a full-fledged campaign to bring Android Silver to the top of the mobile phone market. With the power and disposable income to run marketing campaigns that rival the likes of Samsung and Apple, Google may also set up kiosks similar to the Galaxy Experience that floods the mobile sections of Best Buy and other retailers to help expose customers to the Android experience.
One of the pitfalls of Android is that it takes patience and ingenuity to master, especially to first time smartphone users. This is where Apple cleans up. The intuitive UI and unrivaled reliability make it leading choice for many users, leaving an opening in the market for Google to take advantage of. According to AndroidPolice, Google plans to bring more unity to the Android experience by providing a 24/7 customer service experience via Google Hangouts similar to that of the Mayday service provided by Amazon on their Kindle Fire tablets. With a service not provided by any other mobile provider, Google could entice casual users and smartphone junkies alike with a top-notch customer service to go along their ever-encompassing ecosystem.
While we don’t understand the full vision Google has for the new Android Silver program apart from speculation, we do know that it plans to pair up with multiple companies such as LG and Motorola for manufacturing these devices. With the strict guidelines Android Silver will require, these companies will collaborate with Google to develop a more premium handset that will deliver the stock Android experience we’ve come to love with the Nexus devices. This, along with an aggressive marketing campaign could provide a flagship handset that could take its place amongst the top of the Android smartphone ranks over Samsung, HTC, and even LG to regain regain full control of Android.
It is unfortunate to see an end coming to the Nexus program. For the past few months, we’ve seen countless rumors and leaks of Google making the final Nexus iterations coming by way of the Nexus 6 and Nexus 8. These two allegedly being made by LG (6) and HTC (8) were awaited with bated breaths after the success of the company’s previous Nexus 5 and 7 smartphone and tablet. But according to the ever-accurate @evleaks, Google will not be unveiling the Nexus 6 at all this year, working with LG to bring the first Android Silver phone in early 2015 instead. While sad news, rumors have it that the new phone will run Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon 810 processor, which would be Qualcomm’s first 64-bit processor to compete with the likes of the 64-bit one found in the A7 of the iPhone 5s.
Whether or not we see a Nexus device again, Google has no plans on leaving Android to be run by third party manufacturers compromising the OS for their own software additions. Expect to see big things from Google in the coming months as they attempt to regain control over Android and make a push into the premium smartphone market.