New premium Android devices with Google-controlled software and fast updates could arrive next year
Google could be preparing sweeping changes for the Android ecosystem next year, according to a report from The Information. The site has published details of what it calls the Android "Silver" program, a new lineup of premium Android smartphones it says will replace the current Nexus line. Silver, the report claims, is intended to combat Apple's iPhone and allow Google to assert more control over the high-end Android market, currently dominated by Samsung.
'Silver' partners could include LG, Motorola, T-Mobile and Sprint.
Under the "Silver" program, Google would pay manufacturers and carriers to produce phones designed to its specification, with a limit on the number of non-Google apps pre-installed, and a promise of speedy Android updates. In addition to running Google-controlled software, The Information reports that "Silver" devices would support premium features such as waterproofing — already present in many high-end Android phones, notably the Galaxy S5 — and "personal voice recognition." The report points to LG, Motorola and Chinese manufacturers as likely "Silver" partners, along with carriers T-Mobile and Sprint in the U.S., and Telefonica, Telstra and Softbank overseas. Launch countries could include established markets like the U.S., Germany and Japan, as well as developing markets like Brazil and India.
Google is reportedly prepared to spend as much as $1 billion promoting "Silver" devices through traditional advertising and and in-store kiosks manned by those trained in the art of the Google. Whereas the Nexus program focused on online sales directly to consumers, "Silver" would be backed up by a considerable retail presence.
Separately, The Information's sources say Google has previously considered offering financial support to manufacturers struggling to compete with Samsung's vast marketing budget, with HTC named as one of the first to ask for such assistance in 2013.
A post-Nexus world raises many questions for Android.
Today's report echoes rumors from Android Police from a few weeks back, as well as tweets from Russian rumormonger Eldar Murtazin back in January. Murtazin claimed that the Nexus line would be discontinued in 2015, to be replaced with Google Play edition-style devices under a new brand.
A transition towards multiple "Silver" devices raises questions over what might replace Nexus as the go-to Android developer phone. It's also unclear how tablets might figure into a post-Nexus world — Google and ASUS have had success with the affordable Nexus 7 series in recent years. And it makes the relationship between Google and Samsung, the world's biggest handset maker, all the more intriguing. Earlier this year reports from re/code suggested Samsung had agreed to pare back some of its Android customizations, and give prominence to Google's Play Store at the expense of its own content ecosystem.