The Nexus line

What would be better than a new Nexus phone each year? How about several Nexus devices, built by multiple manufacturers? According to the WSJ (and their confidential sources) that will become a reality in the near future. According to the Journal, Google will be working with as many as five device manufacturers to build Android lead devices, which they can then sell directly to consumers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia from their online device store. This is Google's way of exerting a modicum of control over Android, without stepping on the open-source toes at its roots. 

Right now you can walk into your carrier store and buy a great phone that runs an Android-based operating system like Sense 4, or the new TouchWiz, complete with full carrier support and customer service. With this news it sounds like those of us that aren't concerned with carrier subsidies or support may be able to shop at our own Android store. It's an answer that many of us have been looking for.

The devices are expected to run Jellybean, be completely SIM unlocked, and available near Thanksgiving. Start saving your pennies. 

I think this is a long time coming. It sounds like what Google was trying to do in 2010 with the Nexus One, but back then they didn't have the foothold (or is it stranglehold?) on customer mind-share that they do now. Two years later, and I'll wager a good many of us would jump on this opportunity, including some that didn't when the Nexus One was released.

If Google wants to pull this off, they will need to offer quality hardware at a reasonable price (I'm thinking under $500 per unit), and convince customers in the U.S. to switch away from Verizon and Sprint to GSM carriers. If they can manage this, they will have finally changed the mobile world, like they wanted to do all along. They certainly have my support.

Source: WSJ

 

Reader comments

Google bringing multiple manufacturers to the Nexus line, WSJ reports

104 Comments

That shouldn't be a question at all- it won't be an option. "unlocked devices" are for the rest of the world not using CDMA.

So do you think Google will continue to also sell Nexus devices through CDMA carriers in the manner currently being done by Verizon and Sprint with the Galaxy Nexus, or are they just going to say "Sorry, CDMA carriers, no more Nexus devices for you"?

maybe they get a variation of the phones on cdma carriers, stock android but dont carry the Nexus name to avoid the mess that Verizon customers are going through.

a lot of hiccups but they seemed to have moved a lot of units. Considering they spend more on advertising the Rezound and even the Spectrum, I see far more GNex than any other new android phone on Verizon, after the RAZR.

I think it was very successful in that it was an investment in a way stall Google Wallet. With Verizon scoring an exclusivity deal it ensured that no other carriers or devices would have what will be their direct phone (Isis) payment system competitor, Google Wallet. Not necessarily a head start but at least a way to catch up with what Google Wallet is doing.

With Verizon having a 5 month exclusivity deal on the Galaxy Nexus, no other phones other than the NS4G had Google Wallet. This gave Verizon a way to catch up with Isis. Like I said it was a way to stall Google Wallets adoption.

Well considering how shitty of a situation the Verizon Galaxy Nexus ended up being, I doubt Google will be going out of its way to put another Nexus on VZW.

Verizon will allow any compatible CDMA device on their network. So yes you could bring an open phone over. If imagine the same is true of LTE.

Technically it is an option. CDMA has the option for "SIM" cards (I don't recall what they are called), which allows you to switch CDMA carriers on a phone. As I understand this is quite common in countries like India. The problem is unlike GSM which requires the existence of a user accessible/replaceable SIM card as part of the license, CDMA does not and there is no incentive for Verizon and Sprint to include them.

I'd love this. Pick your preferred design. It will make the manufactures really concentrate on a stellar design and build. I assume that everything else spec wise will have to be the same as to not delay updates between the different manufactures?

I'm so over Verizon, I'm willing to go get a Straight Talk SIM and say eff it. This will be so awesome if this is true!

No theories you'll like :-/

Verizon and Sprint will have to bend and allow "unlocked" CDMA devices on their network, or you'll have the same situation you have now with carrier branded Galaxy Nexus phones. My theory is that Verizon and Sprint will carry Sense and TWiz instead.

True, but the alternative is nonexistent for some of us. Verizon's signal is the only one that reaches my office and several of my preferred recreation spots.

Depends on what you mean by "dead end". As I understand CDMA has a larger coverage area per tower making it more ideal for rural America.

good move Google !!
but, when is jelly bean ?
just after the manufacturers are familiar with Icecream sandwich !! lol

I wonder how LTE factors into this. I wouldn't imagine the carriers wanting unlocked Androids running arpund on their shiny new networks. And I guess it also would be difficult to make various.Nexus devices compatible with all the different bands of LTE the carriers use. As badly as I have been wishing for an HTC Nexus device, after getting the One X, I don't know if I can go back to HSPA+.

Finally!!! Sick to death of watching phones like the HTC One X get delayed and watered down to suit the Carriers tastes. Let Hardware makers focus on Hardware....and let Carriers focus on delivering Service! I am more than Happy to pay for my Choice of Hardware....and then deal with the Best Carrier for access. May the Best Designed Hardware win!

I get that this will only be for gsm and not cdma but what about LTE?(that is the future, right?) If I understand correctly, LTE has similar proprietary standards as what's keeping cdma networks from being able to have a "real" unlocked nexus. Will we ever see an unlocked gsm + LTE nexus that can be used on multiple networks worldwide? I know I would like to use one on ATT's growing LTE network and tmo is said to be launching LTE next year...

As I understand there is nothing proprietary on CDMA networks that prevents having "real" unlocked phones. As part of the license GSM requires the ability to have an unlocked phone (carriers are allowed to lock the phone so long as it is subsidized and your contract isn't up, but afterwards they are required to unlock it if you ask them to), on the other hand CDMA has no such requirement and there is no incentive for American carriers to unlock their phones (or allow other phones on their network). If you check with the tiny little local CDMA carriers they will allow any CDMA phone on their network and flash the right drivers on there.

I half agree but these last two half baked sammy phones i've had have made me upset enough to consider leaving VZ. I also have a 20% discount through my buddy so I have a great deal going and grandfathered to unlimited data.

But what's the point of unlimited data if I have a data drop a couple times a day and i can't make a phone call without screeching in my ear?

>"and convince customers in the U.S. to switch away from Verizon and Sprint to GSM carriers."

I don't think it is reasonable to simply ignore Sprint and Verizon and only use GSM carriers in the USA. If you did that, you are pretty much stuck with AT&T and T-Mobile!

It would be far better if consumers could buy devices that would work on ALL networks. I can't believe it is technologically that difficult to do. The problem is one of law and politics. And to make it happen might require the FCC to force it to happen.

"I don't think it is reasonable to simply ignore Sprint and Verizon and only use GSM carriers in the USA. If you did that, you are pretty much stuck with AT&T and T-Mobile!"

How is that unreasonable? That's how the Nexus One and Nexus S went down.

And you see how they ultimately threw themselves at Verizon. They just didn't sell well on AT&T and T-Mobile alone so they had to get Verizon involved. It wouldn't make sense to drop such a heavy weight like Verizon, but that's where I feel the relationship between Motorola & Verizon will come into play. Call me crazy but I feel a monster of a phone from Moto coming to Verizon this Fall.

Verizon and Google's motives are at odds with eachother. I'm not at all surprised to see Google leaving them. They really don't care.

The problem isn't Google, it's Verizon and Sprint. CDMA is causing the problem and Google shouldn't at all be required to deal with the BS it brings.

YES! I think Google can do wonderful things with T-Mobile. Pump some money into their network, and sell the phones both in store and online. One thing I'd love to see, on any national carrier really, are cheaper plans for people that bring their own phones, and for people whose contracts have expired but choose to remain on that carrier.

Cheaper if you bring your own phone? You are looking in the exact opposite direction. They will charge more if they aren't selling you a phone.

Yes! I wish they would also follow the payment model European carriers use. I would gladly give Sprint a $200 etf if this ever happened.

Great move Google. Anything Google I'm all for it. Having a choice in which carrier and manufacturer to pick your new Nexus device will just be heaven. Best news all week.

Would be the perfect solution for everyone. Just hope that the people in US will wake up and take the chance to buy those free devices instead of extending their rip off contracts.

Let's see:

Pay ~$70 a month for 2 years and get a ~$500 phone for ~$200
Total outlay after 2 years ($70 x 24 + $200): $1880

Or

Pay ~$70 a month for 2 years and pay ~$500 outright for a phone
Total outlay after 2 years ($70 x 24 + $200): $2180

Hard to see how carrier subsidized phones are necessarily a ripoff considering most carriers don't reduce their monthly charges when not subsidizing a phone. We can already buy unlocked phones outright, and carriers don't discount monthly plan fees, it's hard to imagine they'll willingly start doing so, especially with the recent examples of "we're going to slap on an upgrade fee... because we can and there's nothing you can do about it".

I pay 30$ a month for tmo's walmart prepay plan, and was paying 60$ for a phone on contract with tmo.

Are you getting the same features and limits - talk, text, data, that you were on a contract? If not, you're comparing apples to oranges. I do believe T-Mobile is the only carrier who will charge less for an unsubsidized phone, all other carriers don't.

So you can walk into Verizon, ATT or Sprint with a phone in hand, sign up without any multi-year agreement and you'll still be paying the same monthly fees as someone who gets a subsidized phone with a 2 year contract. Given that even high-end phones drop to about $100 within a few months after release, and subsidization isn't that bad of a deal.

Now IF carriers would, or would be forced to specify and not charge the subsidy once the phone was fully owned, or not charge it if one supplies their own phone, then we could judge the value of purchasing a phone outright.

As it stands now, all it gets you is the option to switch carriers without an ETF, and even then, it's only to a compatible carrier.

As Evan correctly points out, you don't use a standard carrier based plan if you're buying an unlocked device. It simply makes no sense because the carriers exist to rip you off. Why do I say that? Because they don't offer a discount for non-subsidized devices; everyone pays the same monthly fee whether they're subsidized or not. This is how your example would play out using AT&T and T-Mobile's current plans:

AT&T: $90.00/month = $40 (450 Minutes) + $30 (3GB Data) + $20 (Unlimited SMS)
2 year contract = $2160 + $200 Subsidized Device = $2360

T-Mobile: $30/month = 100 Minutes + Unlimited Data (5GB @ 4G) + Unlimited SMS
2 year contract = $720 + $500 Unlocked Device = $1220

Need more minutes?

$50/month = Unlimited Minutes + Unlimited Data (100MB @ 4G) + Unlimited SMS
2 year contract = $1200 + $500 Unlocked Device = $1700

Need more minutes and more data usage at 4G speeds?

$60/month = Unlimited Minutes + Unlimited Data (2GB @ 4G) + Unlimited SMS
2 year contract = $1440 + $500 Unlocked Device = $1940

$70/month = Unlimited Minutes + Unlimited Data (5GB @ 4G) + Unlimited SMS
2 year contract = $1680 + $500 Unlocked Device = $2180

Anyway you slice it, going with an unlocked device and T-Mobile is cheaper than going with a subsidized device and AT&T. Not only that, but you're not stuck with a contract or hit with an ETF should decide you want to buy a new device. Getting an unlocked device to use on one of the big 3 carriers doesn't make any sense unless the T-Mobile coverage in your area sucks.

As to the topic at hand, I for one hope the rumors are legit. I would be fantastic to see the manufacturers actually compete on hardware design and aesthetic instead of gimmicky software tweaks and skins. I think Google could also easily solve the CDMA issue: take a page out of Apple's book and include both radios in the phone, a la the iPhone 4S.

A comment here: When you buy an unlocked GSM device, the best solution is to simply skip the main carriers altogether and instead go Straight Talk or RedPocket.

The calculation will be as follows:

*Unlocked device: $500
*Unlimited talk, text and "unlimited" data: $45/month
*Total for 2 years: $1580

It is possible to buy packages with 3 months, 6 months or 1 year that is a bit cheaper than the 1 month version.

RedPocket Mobile is something similar, $60 per month with the same offer but 2 GB of data.

With Straight Talk, it is possible to use either AT&T or T-Mobile depending on what SIM card you choose.

I left Verizon for Straight Talk and pay half the bill and have a better device (Galaxy Note N7000 unlocked).

I am certain that Google will be able to shake up the market with those new Nexuses and they could even team up with one of the prepaid carriers and then put in the heavy argument that you save in the long run even if the device seems to cost more initially.

Edit: It is important to note that the taxes and fees that hits postpaid plans doesn't apply to prepaid. So $45 on ST is really $45 - the only tax that can apply is the sales tax depending on state where you refill.

With the postpaid plans, you always have an "unspecified" amount of governmental taxes and fees that makes the bill higher. There are a disclaimer in the contracts that it can make it "6-40% higher".

I know you probably won't see this but maybe someone else can answer, do you have get access to HSPA+ with straightalk? It says unlimited web access for $45 which is awesome, just wondering if it's smartphone data unlimited or more like a dumbphone unlimited and they'll boot you if you use a lot.

"I think Google could also easily solve the CDMA issue: take a page out of Apple's book and include both radios in the phone, a la the iPhone 4S."

They already have. For example the HTC Droid Incredible 2 and now the new Incredible 4G LTE. Works on CDMA network as well as any GSM network.

I'm a happy CDMA Nexus user and this is great news if it happens. Hopefully Sprint and Verizon will continue to offer at least 1 choice for a Nexus phone, if not I'll be seriously considering the unlocked GSM route.

Also if Sprint kills my unlimited data plan I'm out in a jiffy. Still worried about possible changes once they get LTE going.

Yep- I am with you. Sprint has some of the best phones, lower prices, and unlimited data. But also a smaller footprint, much slower 3G, and no 4G for the majority of customers.

If they were to drop the unlimited plan OR raise prices, even with LTE being present, they will lose a LOT of customers... probably me too.

yeah.. i am with you there. my contract is up and i REALLY want a phone but just want to see what happens when they flip the LTE switch first.

I really hope this is true, it would change the mobile world for the better! And multiple nexus phones to choose from...awesome.

Most honest people would agree that over 90 percent of the people with smart phones do not visit these forums and could care less about a google type phone. And I would bet the vast majority of these people pick the service provider and then pick out a phone that they like and will fit their needs.
So, if google decides to leave out Verizon and Sprint it could hurt them in the long run.
Verizon will continue to push their android phones and possibly even a new iPhone (if the new iphone 5 releases with LTE).

And why is everyone discussing CDMA...what about LTE?

My thoughts exactly. Most of the discussion is still the old Coke vs Pepsi argument that CDMA and GSM has become, when let's all face it they're both going to be replaced with LTE. So maybe Google is a bit early but they've got it right and when LTE is universal then the unlocked model will truly work well. In the meantime I'm sticking with Verizon, because quite frankly in the US they still have the largest network and when it comes to an all LTE network they're going to get there first. When AT&T, Sprint and T-Mob catch up then it'll be game on.

Hopefully we will have voice over LTE soon so we can eliminate CMDA all together. If that becomes the case, wouldn't the only thing we'd have to worry about are the frequencies/bands each carrier uses? Please let me know, anyone.

THIS I agree with! With VZW planning on having their entire 3G footprint blanketed in LTE by the end of 2013, wouldn't this change the game entirely?

For all those saying CDMA is a dead technology, it is still alive and well here in the US. I will not argue that it shouldn't have been laid to rest years ago, but the fact is that it is still used by one of the largest carriers in the US. Google is still a US based company, so they should take this into consideration. What I would really love to see would be for Google to sit down with VZW and explain to them how allowing Nexus devices on their network, as well as loosening the reigns a little bit, would be very beneficial to BOTH companies. Android has already proven that it is going nowhere but up. Maybe its time for certain VZW executives to re-visit their stance on devices of this nature. Are you really going to suggest to millions of potential customers that they look elsewhere for service?

My BB Storm from Verizon had CDMA and GSM. It would be nice if Google made a world phone that supported both technologies. Then you don't have to commit to one carrier or the next, buy your phone an pick a carrier

wow.. i wanna live in your dreamland. I would kill to see this but US carrier as fn A$$holes and really would never let this happen. they want you to be locked into them and that is it.

Also, i am just not sure there is a radio chip that would allow that to happen. Seems like it should be possible, but i would think that someone would have already done it ya know?

I would actually switch from sprint if there was a decent GSM carrier in the US. AT&T is the devil and i just fn hate those bastards. Tmobile is.. OK, but there is a reason they are the smallest of the big 4 and things are just not looking good for them right now (they just laid off another 900 employees). Thats a bummer too cause i would jump on this bandwagon in a heartbeat!

So you're saying you'd rather use SPRINT than AT&T or T-Mobile (or probably one of their MVNOs)? Sprint's 3G coverage is terrible...

I can't see how Google can hope to revolutionize how phones are sold, at least in the US, if they are leaving over half of the subs out of the equation. There will have to be some reckoning between the cdma carriers and Google for this to work as planned. I expect it to take years to happen though, look how long it took for them to bend to the will of Apple.
I think for the most part that changing networks for a phone is like getting married to a supermodel. At least out here in rural America. Perhaps in the cities coverage is more equal, but it's EDGE vs 4G in some places where I live.

As of now +HSPA is fine for most things. Yes LTE is better but there are something like multiple variations of LTE that are all incompatible. Until the manufactures can settle on some standard that the operators have to use. VZ, ATT and the rest will still be able to restrict who can use the network just with that. The FCC had a chance to fix this but they are all bought and sold by the very people they are supposed to keep in check. More power to Google but this is an uphill climb.

Its not different variations of LTE, its that the different carriers run LTE on different frequencies, making them incompatible. Think about how 3G bands on AT&T and T-Mobile in the US are different. Both still GSM/HSPA+, but different bands.

If that's the case why can't you use an ATT LTE on VZ? They use the same frequency (700). The differences come in how they use LTE and specific implementations of it. This is something that the FCC needs to address. But as I said earlier with them bought and sold we have a snowballs chance in H3LL of that happening.

Awww man!!! Well there goes my unlimited data for VZW!!!! Oh well.......big fan of the nexus line and will jump ship to keep it up!!!

Wow this is an Android fan's dream come true. CDMA/GSM....it doesn't matter. I already planned to get the next Nexus this fall and by the looks of it, I'll have more than one choice. Until then, I'm still planning on getting my new EVO. And for all those joking on CDMA, grow the fuck up. Thanks.

if this turns out to be true (ihope it is) itll be a pure win for us consumers! ive been waiting for google to go this route for a long time

imo,i think thats a good thing ONLY if they keep the same design with VERY small changes .. that way the accessories will be easier to choose from and there will also be more choices to choose from :)-

“...and convince customers in the U.S. to switch away from Verizon and Sprint to GSM carriers."

Im already convinced but the problem is GSM doesnt work everywhere very well. What good is it to be on a GSM metwork and be in 2G 95% of the time (work and home). I live in major city and would love to get back on tmobile but i was kinda forced to switch to VZ.

If one of the new Nexus phones has a hardware keyboard definitely count me in. Otherwise, I might check out Google's tablet offering(s) even though I just ditched my unloved Toshiba Thrive for a 10.1 Galaxy Tab 2.

if there is no sequel to the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, I will simply get the iPhone for my next upgrade. At least Apple are not a slave to carriers when it comes to OS updates and bloatware.

If this happens, it should be for GSM and CDMA....maybe devices that are capable of running both??

here's the companies I'd like to see in the next nexus line if this rumor is true:

samsung
htc
asus
sony

(....and definitely NOT motorola...screw them!!! they couldn't make a proper nexus if google planned the whole thing for them lol)

if we see these 4 manufacturers all making nexii at the same time, then I think the line can really start getting some recognition. I think people are deterred right now because of the fact that there's only one carrier at a time and they don't know if they'll be choosing that carrier again next time. People don't like to buy into a product they can't upgrade...and unless the same carriers are making nexus devices every year, it's not really an upgrade. For example, n1 to ns...not an upgrade. ns to gn...now that's an upgrade ;)

"This is Google's way of exerting a modicum of control over Android, without stepping on the open-source toes at its roots. "

This is a false dichotomy. Google provides not only the source code, but ALL of the backend cloud services as well. There is nothing in the GPL about providing free cloud services to anyone who wants to copy your source code. Google could easily say that as a requirement to be eligible for cloud services via android, the mfrs and carriers need to abide by specific rules of engagement regarding rebranding and altering the UI.

As hardware designers, Apple have a major advarntage. One phone and one tablet per year (set about 6 months appart) with variations for specific markets, running ONE consistant OS. Samsung, HTC, Moto and the rest have to do that about 4 times for each market (and they design more carrier variations as well)!

The Android way means much more work and fewer items sold (per deisign) plus each team also create and maintan their own variation of the OS. Talk about hard work! TouchWiz and Sense are a big deal to these companies, as differentiators, but they pay a huge price. The problem is, if Google "somehow" force them to use nilla Androd - will that also kill some of the inovation that leads to faster OS and hardware evolution?

Are we, as users, demanding too much?

I just want there to one or two keyboard options, and not ones with crapy screens either. I'm talking 4" minimum, with 4.5"+ preffered. I know it makes the device thicker, but that's not the priority. 4.5" and a 5 row keyboard would be amazing.

I have AT&T and Verizon accounts in the house, different people, different accounts, and the AT&T coverage seems ok in my area so it might not be too much of a problem to switch to AT&T and make it a family plan, but right now I am grandfathered into Verizon's unlimited 4G data. I don't use it that much mostly use Wifi.

Has anyone done a real speed comparison? Which is really faster... Verizon 4G LTE or AT&T LTE?