Android graffiti at MWC

Google's reported introduction of more manufacturers into the Nexus fold could be a stroke of genius, but it’s not without its risks.​

We don’t often present entire articles of opinion on unconfirmed rumors here at Android Central, but the report this week concerning Google’s Nexus plans is a doozie. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is dramatically altering the nature of its Nexus program, bringing up to five manufacturers on board this year, with the aim of launching multiple Nexus devices with the next version of Android in late 2012. Oh, and this lineup will apparently include tablets as well as phones.

Google isn’t commenting officially, and the reports will likely remain the focus of fervent speculation as we approach Nexus season later in the year. But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume they’re true, and that Google will indeed work with different hardware partners in order to launch up to five Nexuses around Thanksgiving. 

To Android fans, it sounds like a dream offering -- more variety and choice in hardware when it comes time for a new version of their favorite OS. And more opportunities to get the very latest version of Android -- pure, vanilla Android, unmolested by custom user interfaces or carrier-mandated crapware. And as Android users ourselves, we’re sure that if this does come to pass, it’ll be an overwhelmingly positive development for everyone who buys an Android smartphone. It’s an opportunity for Google to get new versions of its OS out to consumers faster than ever, on varied hardware, in more markets than would be possible with just one hardware partner. And having multiple phones in different markets with the same excellent vanilla Android experience will help Google to better establish stock Android among the other major flavors of the OS.

But a multitude of challenges will face Google and its new Nexus partners as they prepare the next generation of Android phones and tablets. First of all, let’s look at why Google’s (probably) doing this. The original WSJ article points to concerns from manufacturers that Google may look to prop up the loss-making Motorola, which it's nearly done acquiring, by giving it privileged access to Android code at the expense of other phone-makers. (For its part, Google's Andy Rubin has said said this wouldn't happen.) Google’s desire to placate its hardware partners is undoubtedly a factor. As are the company’s ambitions to establish itself as a hardware vendor through its “Play” Store. But it’s also a way for Google to remedy some of the ailments currently afflicting its mobile platform.

Galaxy Nexus updates

Fixing the broken updates process

The first of these is the Android updates situation. As you may have noticed if you’re among the almost two-thirds of Android owners running Gingerbread, manufacturers suck at pushing out updates. Maybe it's solely their fault, or maybe the blame falls on the carriers (especially in the U.S.). Regardless, we’re almost halfway through 2012, more than six months since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was open-sourced following the international Galaxy Nexus launch. And yet the latest and greatest version of the OS languishes near the bottom of the Android market share charts with a dismal 5 percent of active devices.

That’s partly down to the slow arrival of new phones running ICS out of the box -- we’ve really only seen the first wave of proper Android 4.0 phones in the past month or so. But updates to ICS have been even slower -- delayed rollouts and broken promises leave many 2011 flagships on the rapidly-aging Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Both issues can be attributed to the huge amount of time and effort it takes to update a phone -- customized features and all -- from one major version of an OS to another. This is exacerbated by the fact that if you’re not the Nexus manufacturer, you don’t get Android code any earlier than the general public. That means work on ICS updates (or ICS-based firmware for upcoming phones) can’t start until the Nexus has already shipped.

Google can’t fail to have noticed that Android phone owners are crying out for updates -- its many enthusiasts’ number-one gripe with the platform. And it’s easy to see how bringing the big five Android manufacturers (say, HTC, Samsung, Sony, LG and Motorola) into the Nexus program could allow them to work on pushing new versions out faster. The manufacturers would have access to the code during development, allowing software engineers to get their heads wrapped around the major changes months in advance of the Nexus launch. This extra time getting to know the new Android code base could be invaluable in reducing the 5- to 8-month waits faced by owners of existing devices. The counter-argument here is that Samsung, as a two-time Nexus-maker, still struggles to get updates out in an acceptable period of time. But we think that the natural competition among the members of team Nexus will lead to a faster roll-out of updates regardless.

Android phones at the Google booth at MWC

Getting 'Pure Google' into more hands

Another significant issue for Google is that so few Android users get to experience the software in its true, untainted form. Sure, we’ve talked at length about how some manufacturer UIs build upon the vanilla Android experience in a very positive and tangible way (hey there, HTC Sense 4). But the work of Matias Duarte and his team shouldn’t be confined to just one phone per year -- Google’s put a lot of effort into the sleek, sumptuous minimalism of stock ICS, and it deserves to be in front of more consumers.

HTC has countless phones running its Sense software. Samsung has TouchWiz, Motorola has Blur, and so on. By bringing multiple vanilla Android phones to market, Google can establish the stock experience as major player alongside all those manufacturer-customized handsets. Right now it struggles to do that, because aside from a few budget devices, everyone wants to put their own spin on Android. Nexus phones will continue to be the handsets of choice for hardcore smartphone nerds, but more variety in hardware will help bring in more mainstream buyers, and that can only be a good thing.

But if Google wants its multi-Nexus plans to succeed, it’ll have to pull off a fine balancing act. Too many restrictions on hardware, and the choice between devices becomes meaningless. Too few, and the process of pushing out updates and maintaining parity across the Nexus line becomes a logistical nightmare. We think it’s most likely that Google will limit upcoming Nexus phones single chipset -- Snapdragon and OMAP are both good bets, but don't forget that Intel's lurking, as well. Other internal hardware will probably be subject to a looser set of guidelines. (These kind of hardware rules would also deny critics an opportunity to play the “fragmentation” card.)

If it were to go about things this way, Google might end up taking a page from Microsoft’s playbook. Many contemporary Windows phones sport very similar, if not identical internal hardware. The main differentiators in the Windows Phone world are size, screen, camera and build quality. The software is virtually identical across the entire product line, which is presumably what Google’s aiming for with its upcoming Nexus phones. It’s true that in doing this Google would be exerting stricter control over Android, by dictating who gets early access to code and what they can do with it on their Nexus. But it’d do so in a quintessentially Google way, by giving consumers more choice, and open-sourcing the final product for developers all over the world.

Just like community developers, manufacturers won’t be limited in what they can do with the code for Android “Jelly Bean” (or any future version) once it’s open-sourced. So we’ll still get new Sense and TouchWiz phones in the months after the Nexus releases. But a multi-manufacturer approach could be restrictive in other ways. In developing Nexus devices with the big five Android manufacturers, Google effectively creates an elite club of approved OEMs. And this in turn could further entrench the big five’s position within the Android pecking order.

Nexus phones

Early access to Android code could give those top manufacturers an unfair advantage over smaller players, as they prepare both legacy and next-gen devices for the next version of the OS. Take Huawei, for example. Assuming it's not in the Nexus club, it'll get the code once it’s open-sourced, just like amateur devs. At that point the Nexus manufacturers already have months of experience with the new version of Android, giving them crucial time to prepare the next year’s flagship products with Jelly Bean in mind. By contrast, non-Nexus OEMs would be left playing catchup.

In addition, Google would sacrifice the idea of a single “hero” phone for the Android platform. For each version of the OS since Eclair, there’s been a clear choice for those looking for the latest updates and a true Google experience, fresh from the kitchens of Mountain View. But imagine if alongside your Galaxy Nexus II (or whatever it’s called), you also have a Sony Xperia Nexus, Motorola Droid Nexus, LG Optimus Nexus and an HTC Nexus One X. The result could be (even more) bafflement among consumers, particularly if they all launch around the same time, sporting identical software. I can tell you right now that if this all pans out, you’ll find a “which Nexus is right for me” article here on AC within days of the launch. And we’d expect some vigorous forum discussions about which one is the best. The trick for Google will be selling the Nexus line as a whole to the average consumer, while dealing with individual Nexus partners who’ll want to champion their own device.

Or in a single sentence: If everyone has a Nexus, what makes it special?

More than just handsets

Beyond smartphones, it’s worth considering where “Nexus” tablets will fit into the equation. Rumors of a Google-branded, vanilla Android tablet are nothing new, and in recent months these have crystallized around a likely low-cost, 7-inch tablet from ASUS (and a likely announcement at this year’s Google IO). But with reports of code for a dual-core Exynos 5 tablet from Samsung appearing on Google’s git repository, it’s possible we may see more than one Nexus tablet in San Francisco next month. And this would fit perfectly with the wider Nexus strategy that the WSJ is reporting. But questions remain about how Google plans to tempt buyers away from the undisputed tablet king, Apple’s iPad. Will it compete on price, specs or functionality? If ASUS’s 7-inch tablet is to be the budget offering, could we see something a little more high-end from Samsung? And what will Google offer on the software side besides “just another Android tablet?” We’ve raised this question before, and we’ll have to see what answers Google offers later in the year. We'll also be watching to see how the efforts to reboot Google TV play out, and how the "home entertainment" device that's rumored to be in testing extends this connected experience beyond the TV.

Following the launch of the Galaxy Nexus on the Google Play Store a few weeks back, we’d have been surprised if future Nexuses weren’t immediately offered for sale online, as it was back in the days of the Nexus One. So we fully expect unlocked Nexus phones and tablets to appear for sale on Google Play, just as the WSJ claims. And we certainly hope that Google’s competitive pricing of the Galaxy Nexus is a taste of things to come.

Galaxy Nexus presentation

The WSJ article also indicates that Google wishes to claw back some control from the carriers (particularly U.S. carriers) with its new Nexus approach. But the company can’t afford to cut traditional retailers and network operators out of the equation -- it learned that lesson with the Nexus One, and the failure of the original Google phone store. So networks and brick-and-mortar stores will continue to play an important role. We'll certainly find some of these upcoming Nexus phones offered on-contract, just as they always have been. If Google and its partners do offer up to five Nexus phones, though, it might be overly ambitious to expect every variant to appear in every country. But at the very least you’ll have a choice in how your take your Nexus. And that’s got to be an improvement upon last year’s shambolic U.S. Galaxy Nexus launch.

So there's plenty to get excited about. More vanilla Android devices from different hardware partners. The potential emergence of a proper Nexus tablet line-up. As tantalizing as all this is, however, let's remember that we're still speculating here. Nevertheless, a write-up in the Wall Street Journal is a far cry from your average Internet rumor. And if even half of this stuff turns out to be true, 2012 is going to be a very interesting year indeed for Android -- perhaps a year that will change the way people think about the platform.

 
There are 65 comments

crowordove says:

Well if this plays out (which in my opinion would be great!!!) the only foreseeable downside is that I'll have to switch to a gsm carrier...... Hmmmmmm well at least I'll get to play with my Evo 4g LTE until then....... (maybe lol)

Also: First!

frozndevl says:

That was my first thought as well, though I don't think that will be the case. Verizon and their Droid branding are what helped to catapult Android phones into mainstream in the US, so it would be doing VZW, and Sprint (who had the first/best Superphone in the original Evo) disservice to not offer CDMA variants.

Methinks that this Nexus shift is also for global brand awareness; many if not all official Android devices will carry the Nexus name. (think Maps, Plus, Play, Nexus, etc.) Shorter than iPhone, less of a tongue twister than WIndows Phone 7, BlackBerry 10, Tizen, etc. So will a Nexus be special? well, you decide

Android isn't as well known as a brand to the general public, supposedly there are lots of users unaware of that name despite it powering their phones. Some people call them Droids, but that name is a ™ of LucasFilm licensed to VZW in the US.

DWR_31 says:

Nexus breakdown :

Sprint gets HTC Nexus
Verizon gets MOTO-NEX
AT&T gets Sony Xperia-Nexus and Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Tmobile gets LG-NEXUS

Google PlayStore gets them all.... (GSM of course)

Poor T-Mo lol, for their sake I hope not. I'm still not quite sure I see LG fitting into this whole "top tier manufacturer" role. Their history is...less than stellar, even with vanilla devices.

foxhead128 says:

I agree. LG, as hard as it might try, still does not strike me as a "top tier" manufacturer.

Lomax says:

I'm actually all for this - as long as the internals are all the same. That way, I can choose between the OEM that has the better camera (IMO), better screen (IMO), bigger battery and better design (IMO). If there are, say, 3 phones and 2 tablets then it seems like that shouldn't be an issue, especially since we are expecting tablets to be included in Nexus devices. BUT, if there are 5 phones (hypothetically), then we really dont want 5 different phones with the next OS but having 5 different sets of internals too. Then it goes back to partially what we have now, which is which device will get the updates first. I know they would all be Nexus devices, but expecting Google to update 5 phones at the same time and have the same deployment date seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Don't think we should be ignoring the advent of VoLTE.

Mr.Froyo says:

I just want another HTC nexus. the Nexus One was one of the best Android phones. Imagine a one X with stock android? It'd be the fastest phone out there.

crxssi says:

You *can* imagine it, and probably have it too. I am pretty confident that stock Android ROMS will be available for the One X and Evo LTE. The problem is that it takes so much time before they are available, and rarely are all the hardware on the devices fully and correctly supported.

Jimmy_Jo#AC says:

Exactly... expect HTC's awesome camera sensor. But don't expect ImageSense. That's only for Sense UI enabled One Series phones.... Boooooo!!!

This sounds interesting. Hopefully one comes to AT&T.

RamboDroid says:

Ahhhb what is with the font change!!! You all get paid by font makers dont you! I knew it....makes me sick!

:^) Just having so fun given the day Phil and the boys have had. You guys are doing great keep up the thankless work.

virus786 says:

Well written article, Alex.
This step from Google would be a game changer for a lot of folks. Too many times have I seen people's phones being slow and laggy because of the Manufacturer bloatware and interface.

Totally keen for this (if it ever comes to light)

DEman19901 says:

Being currently on Sprint after being on Verizon, I see this as being huge for GSM carriers. I will be definitely buying an unlocked GSM Nexus. I could see this being a Major game changer. AT&T, Tmobile, Straigt Talk, and others have to offer something else(pricing maybe) to lure customers. Puts a strain on carrier specific phones as being an advantage.

crxssi says:

There are only four major players in the US cell market- Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Most other players are either regional or just subs of one of the four (for example- Boost and Virgin and several others all use the Sprint network).

Being restricted to GSM only doesn't give consumers much choice at all, not in the USA. Most customers would be restricted to just the #2 largest carrier and #4. Not a good business plan.

BarneyDroid says:

I have been considering changing from a CDMA carrier to GSM for this very reason. I really don't see Google launching a store to support CDMA devices. I like the network reliability and speed at 4G only considering 3g speedson VZW sucks now. The contract will be up on VZW in Jan, I guess we'll see what happens.

crxssi says:

I don't see the game changing unless these phones are available with a carrier subsidy, like all other phones. Sure, there will be a market for them, even at full price, but the masses will simply not plop down $500 to $600 on a phone. To add insult to injury, US carriers will not offer any discount for the service if you buy an un-subsidized phone.

Don't get me wrong- I *hate* the whole concept of subsidized phones. I think it is HORRIBLY anti-consumer, anti-competition, anti-innovation, anti-choice, and pretty much all-around unfair. But as long as they exist, it will damage any possible "unlocked"/unsubsidized market. When consumers are faced with choice between a set of high-end, non-Nexus Android phones running at $100 to $200, and a set of Nexus ones at $500 to $600 (with nothing different to offer except stock Android), what do you think is going to happen? I think we all know the answer- perhaps 95% or more of the sales will be the subsidized phones.

As for CDMA/GSM: If the plan calls for not supporting two (Sprint & Verizon) of the largest four US carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) because of not offering CDMA phones, I think the plan is also doomed to fail.

nimer55 says:

But devices only cost 500-600 because carriers want to force people into contracts. I don't believe companies such as htc or samsung get more than 400 (apple does more or less get what the consumer would pay for an unlocked device, but they are the exception.) Sprint has said they are subsidizing $200 more per iPhone than they did for android devices, which is why I think they are no longer doing yearly upgrades.

I live in Canada, home of 3 year contracts.If I could renew my contract, then at the 1.5 year mark sell my phone for like 150 and buy a new one for 400, I'd definitively go for it. It Would mean I would be spending about 400-550 every 3 years on a phone. I'm okay with that.

Ps: In Canada phones with no contracts are like 650. 1 year = 625 and 2 year often =600 or like 575 and 3 year is 150-200. They do this so you are more or less forced to go with the 3 year contract.

crxssi says:

I am not sure about all that, just not enough data. But even if it were true, it might just have the effect of the carriers lowering the initial price further of the subsidized Android devices. And even if I do knock off $100 as you indicate, it still doesn't change things that much for the majority of US customers who would be faced with something like $100 to $200 vs $400 to $500.

matrix1234 says:

I bought an unlocked Galaxy Nexus from play store($443) and have a AT&T pre-paid plan with unlimited voice/text/data (3G) for $50 a month and if I buy a Nexus from Verizon for $199 with a 2 year plan with somewhat similar plan as I have for my pre-paid phone I'll be paying them around $2000 for 2 yrs whereas in my current plan I'll be paying $1200+443 for two years, now do the math. Prepaid plan with nexus device is a much better deal in my opinion .

crxssi says:

Prepaid plans like the one you mention and others have zero roaming agreements. If you are outside the native network, you will have no voice, no text, and no data (or you can be billed for it) This is a well-kept secret that burns a lot of people badly.

When something sounds too good to be true, there is usually a catch.

But more importantly, your coveted $50/mo prepaid AT&T plan *EXCLUDES SMARTPHONES*. You didn't read the fine print:

"Smartphone users must purchase a data package to use data services on eligible plans."
"$25 for 1 GB"

Doesn't sound like unlimited data, now does it? So now your plan is $75 a month with no roaming AT ALL, and only 1GB of data. I can get plans with a subsidized phone, much more data, and full no-cost roaming for almost that much.

matrix1234 says:

Thanks for pointing out the roaming plan, I had no idea about that but I'd believe that AT&T network covers almost whole of US (I might be wrong) and I haven't bought any data plan to use with my unlocked GN and data works just fine. My regular data consumption is about 1-2 GB per month and I believe that's sufficient for a user who doesn't stream youtube videos a lot.

crxssi says:

According to their site, a data plan is mandatory for smartphones. Not sure how you are getting away with data without a plan. Maybe it is an error and you are slipping under the radar. 1GB = +$30/mo, 2GB = unknown, but assume +$60/mo, on top of the $50/mo for the base plan.

matrix1234 says:

I just walked-in the AT&T store and bought a SIM card and a plan($50/mo). I haven't bought a prepaid phone from them, so I assume that's the reason I have this plan. Earlier I had a Nokia phone (unlocked) and data used to work just fine on that as well.

hongcho says:

As to the CDMA AOSP issue... I don't think it matters in this context. I think this rumored plan is more to appease OEMs (with the Motorola purchase and the Samsung "preference") than winning service providers.

Ardrid says:

Quite simply, they're doing it wrong.

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. They don't offer a discount for non-subsidized devices; everyone pays the same monthly fee whether they're subsidized or not. So, instead of locking yourself into a contract just to save a $200-300 upfront, it makes more sense to go with T-Mobile or Straight Talk. Example:

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 Text
2 year contract = $720 + $500 Unlocked Device = $1220

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

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

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

Straight Talk
$45/month = Unlimited Minutes + Unlimited Data + Unlimited Text
2 year contract = $1080 + $500 Unlocked Device = $1680

Anyway you slice it, going with an unlocked device and T-Mobile/Straight Talk is cheaper than going with a subsidized device and AT&T/Verizon. Not only that, but you're not stuck with a contract or hit with an ETF should you 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/Straight Talk coverage in your area sucks.

As to the CDMA issue, there's a very simple solution: make Nexus devices world phones like the iPhone 4S. Done deal.

crxssi says:

Sorry, you made the EXACT same mistake.

The Straight Talk plan *DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY DATA* and includes NO ROAMING AT ALL. Apparently you are not used to analyzing plans. You have to read ALL the fine print and exceptions:

"Smartphone users must purchase a data package to use data services on eligible plans."
"$25 for 1 GB"

So now the plan is $75 a month with no roaming AT ALL, and only 1GB of data. I can get plans with a subsidized phone, much more data, and full no-cost roaming for almost that much.

Kingzoidberg says:

I am on the Straight Talk BYOD plan, have been for several months with my Unlocked GNex. *Data is included*, just as fast as AT&T (speed tested it with a bunch of AT&T people at my house). As for roaming, I haven't run into any problems but I haven't roamed that I know of. Not too worried about it though. It may not work for someone living out in the sticks but for me in Detroit everything works fine and my wallet loves me for it (Used to be on AT&T). Did the Virgin mobile $25/month thing for a year but data was abysmal at best (.7mbps max), I think ST is a great balance of value and speed (and I love the no contract freedom).Also I'm about to hit the 2GB mark this month with no throttling yet, but I hear tales of throttling at 2.5 GB. Not too worried about it though, I'd rather have the money in my pocket and download the AC podcast on wifi.

vtpmt81 says:

Actually, you are wrong. The $45 Straight Talk plan DOES include data. However, you are advised not to stream music or movies.

Secondly, T-Mobile offers competitive prepaid plans for 30, 50, and 60 dollars a month.

Stop spreading misinformation.

crxssi says:

Sorry to both of you, I was accidentally mixing up "Straight Talk" with AT&T's "GoPhone" plans from another thread! Data does appear to be included on Straight Talk.

I was correct that none of the prepaid plans I have seen, including GoPhone, include roaming. And that is going to be a major problem for many people.

r1fo says:

I have to admit that though I am currently one of the patient people waiting for an HTC EVO 4G LTE, I would want to get one of these Nexus phones. It's a tough jump to go from Sprint to T-Mobile or AT&T, but for this it may be worth it... I could deal with some data throttling on T-Mobile if I had to.

nimer55 says:

This is great. With the exception of Matias (ics) and Chrome, this is most likely the greatest thing to happen to android.

I really hope atleast one of them makes a device with a gigantic battery. Though I really hope it's not motorola, because I really dislike their design style (and the screen on the latest razer was terrible). I'd rather have a 4.3 inch -sized device (4.4-4.5 but with galaxy nexus type screen/buttons would be better) with a 3000-4000mah battery that has the performance of a One x running theJelly bean. I don't care if it's 12-14mm thick. I'm a power user. I like to have downloads going, being listening to a podcast and playing a game all at once. Unfortunately that kills my nexus s' battery in less than 4 hours.

Litt says:

I hope that a possible outcome of this is that hardware companies make more phones with vanilla Android on them and give you the option to add their skin later. This would give people the choice to run vanilla or add the "HTC Sense Pack" (or Touchwiz). I don't want it, but some people would. This gives all customers more choice and doesn't penalize the manufactures for creating UI updates ore additions.

omar300i says:

Why don't All brand stop making their own high end phones and make google's nexus, thats less complicated when it comes to buying an android high end phone. It's like high brands making unique version of nexus. People who hate Samsung for plastic use would have option to go for htc and people who don't like fat htc can go Motorola.

AdamOutler says:

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Ive torn down quite a few devices. None touch Samsung in quality. Im serious. Motorola, HTC.. those guys build a board. Samsung builds a servicable device with more durability features than you can imagine.

dazweeja says:

That doesn't make it a bad idea. You can still choose the Samsung version of the Nexus if that's what you want. Others may prefer the polycarbonates that HTC uses as opposed to the particular plastics that Samsung uses.

Ardrid says:

I'm sorry but associating quality with Samsung is an oxymoron. Have you used the US variant of the Galaxy S? It's anything but quality.

486sx33 says:

I think contrary to popular belief, this would help the cdma side of the nexus line.... If you are a mfg creating a nexus phone, knowing there are other companies making nexus phones, an easy way to differentiate yours would be to make it with a cdma radio. Especially moto (the 1 major USA mfg) could have the "Droid nexus" on the #1 carrier in the USA and the "photon nexus" on the #3 USA network with no "nexus" competition meanwhile att users gotta pick from the other 4 nexus'. Still nicer to have the choice the gsm carriers have but a new nexus in your hand on international nexus day will be a nice change regardless.

bnrbranding says:

Yes please! I have too good a deal with Sprint and I have to have unlimited bandwidth, so getting the opportunity to get a Nexus (hopefully HTC too!) would be fantastic. This would be a great move for Google and Android.

crxssi says:

Unlimited BANDWIDTH???? LOL I think you mean no data caps, shaping, or throttling.

Whyzor says:

According to the actual WSJ article, there's not a whole lot to go with. This may only mean that more carriers get early access to the next Android version instead of the current one at a time favorite manufacturer. The other new part is Google selling devices directly, maybe providing front-line support and warranty to the manufacturers that currently rely on carriers. There's also the advantage of older generation devices going for less as new ones are introduced so it's more affordable to buy a phone without subsidy (i.e. Galaxy Nexus dropping to $200 as new devices are priced at $300, $400, $500+.

Future LTE may unify the current GSM/CDMA split, not all carriers will use the same LTE frequency (like GSM currently), but it would still be easier to put a single chip supporting LTE just with different frequencies (quad-band or penta-band LTE), than separate GSM & CDMA chips.

vinny jr says:

Being a Nexus freak and owner I can only hope that Google does take this route, the more different Manufacturers that get involved can only push the creativity of the future devices, this will force the other makers to go over the top and the end products will be fantastic. Great move, please make it happen. I will buy one from every manufacturer.

blackbyrd says:

I think one of the companies listed may be a mistake. May! What did the article say, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, & Sony, right? I'm thinking one of the last two will be replaced by Asus. Goog seems to be building a relationship with them.

piizzadude says:

2 things

First off, there is no way they cut Verizon out of the loop again. If Verizon doesn't want it because it cannot put the crapware on it, then so be it. There will be a CDMA version

Next, right now there is so much crap in the forums about who has a nexus and who doesn't, now we could add my nexus is better than yours to the equation?

BONUS: I think the difficulty here is who is going to buy a "skinned" phone when you can have pure Google? I think the handset makers might take a hit from having this around, which is kinda bad for business....

dazweeja says:

I think they *will* cut Verizon and Sprint out of the loop. They can't provide a CDMA version without help/interference from carriers.

Jimmy_Jo#AC says:

With this many options I doubt most enthusiasts, myself included, would by a custom UI phone again (Sense, MotoBlur, TouchWiz...) but PLENTY of average users would. Most of them just want a pretty phone. They don't really care how powerful it is. They just want it to look "fast" which is why the love iOS which hides slow background processing with animations and front loading webpages while data is still being gathered.

hinds2009 says:

Anyone ever wonder why launches happen over seas first way before North America. Us carriers suck! Crapple is blocking the one x from reaching stores in where America! Can't get away with that crap anywhere else. Oems know to launch elsewhere before North America. at least with these nexus devices the American carriers all have to compete for you dollars!

Fumetsu says:

I'm sure it would raise antitrust issues, but Google should buy Sprint. Their market cap is only 7 billion, and with Sprint's Network Vision and LTE plans, their service can only get better (it sure can't get worse). They won't have to worry about carrier impediments if they are a carrier themselves, although this might piss off the other carriers enough that they start stocking more WP7 phones instead of Android.

On second thought, Google has its hands in so many different industries that it is earning them a lot of enemies, and this would just compound it. And Sprint needs a LOT of work.

Ardrid says:

Extremely well written and insightful article. I think this is a fantastic idea and I truly hope it comes to fruition. Competition is a good thing and I would love to be able to pick a Nexus device based on hardware design, feature set, and aesthetics, rather than being stuck with whatever chosen manufacturer gives us. I think the positives will far outweigh the negatives here.

Honestly, it's about time Google exercised more control of Android relative to the Nexus brand. It's the one phone that can deliver Android as Google intended. And why shouldn't Google exercise strict control over the hardware/software of a Nexus device? That's the great part about having an open source OS: Google can dictate terms relative to its in-house brand (Nexus) and the manufacturers can tweak the OS to their hearts' desire with their own brands (One, Galaxy, etc.)

Waiting for a Motorola Nexus device...

ringoh says:

...and who knows, maybe a Nokia Lumia Nexus...

ramonm2 says:

HTC - Nexus Rezound, Nexus Vivid, Nexus Amaze, Nexus Evo,

Samsung - Nexus Illusion, Nexus Tab, Nexus Infuse, Nexus Blaze, Nexus Conquer,

Motorola - Nexus Droid, Nexus XYBOARD, Nexus Atrix, Nexus XPRT

DSaif says:

It's not risky at all, whole international markets depend on unlocked phones..

KingChicago says:

I think alot of this would have to do with fragmentation for developers that has turned a lot of App makers off from Android. It has gotten to a point where there is fragmentation within the fragmentation, case in point, the Tegra Zone (or whatever they call it). Apple developers have had a major one up by having everyone on the same phone, with the same OS, at least when it comes to their latest offering, and one previous generation, which is what their apps are geared for. Currently, with the way apps are coming to Android Phones, they need to be tinkered to suit every build from all these manufacturers, because the little differences in OS Skins can flat out break their product. By lessening the fragmentation for developers, they give them the opportunity to develop apps that are designed to take advantage of the OS and the hardware capabilities for all of the Nexus phones.

tokuzumi says:

I haven't read all the comments, so if this has been mentioned, please forgive me. I don't see excluding the CDMA carriers as a good idea in the US. If google wants to make one phone for the US market, or one style, make them all world phones. I know it will cost more, but if you are with Sprint/Verizon, and you decide to take your phone out of the country, or to a GSM carrier in the US, you are free to do so. This would still mostly fit into Google's "carrier-free" philosophy, except the IMEI/ESN would be locked to one CDMA post-paid carrier (Sprint or Verizon, and to a lesser extent, the smaller ones like Cincinnatti Bell). This lock would not apply to the GSM carriers.

Kingzoidberg says:

Great, now that I buy into the nexus program and commit to just buying nexuses (nexi?) they throw this in the mix. I thought my shopping was going to be simpler from now on, now I get to be paralysed by decision in my nexus buying!
/s
God I can't wait!

gdbjr says:

The current problem is that the Nexus name means nothing to the average consumer walking into a store to buy a phone. In order for this to help google at all they will need to educate the users on what a Nexus phone is and why they should have one. Otherwise Jane/Joe doe will see a prettied up Sense UI with a plain Google UI an opt for the prettier one most of the time.

gerstud101 says:

But what about cost? Unlocked devices are wayyyy more expensive when they aren't subsidized by carrier plans. I can't afford a 400, 500, or 600 phone. Id rather get a powerful carrier phone like the GS3 or H0X and apply a custom launcher like Go Launcher.

E90 Commie says:

Let's do some math regarding the "I can't afford unlocked" and put it to rest:

Subsidized phone: $199-299
Monthly plan: $100/month (450 minutes talk, 2 GB of data, governmental taxes and fees)

Unlocked phone: $300-600
Monthly plan: $45/month (unlimited talk, text, 2 GB of data soft cap, no taxes and fees beside sales tax depending on state)

Total for the subsidized device: $2599-2699 over two years.

Total for unlocked device: $1680 (with a $600 device).

To me, the choice is easy. I go unlocked. One year with Verizon before I sold my Thunderbolt and transferred the contract was enough.

I am used to the European deals and you could even get a Galaxy Note for $50/month including unlimited talk, text and 10 GB of data without paying upfront.

In the US, unlocked is a good way to go. Only exception is if you are forced to get a CDMA device because of the coverage. If you can get GSM, go unlocked.

So does this mean I can buy a freakin htc nexus phone again?

kmarx says:

What I would really like to see is when Google releases an update, like ICS, it is released for all the phones.

leaponover says:

Eh, I don't buy this at all. I don't even think Manufacturers were clamoring and hoping to be chosen as the maker for the next Nexus. I think they could care less about that distinction. I think they will still continue to focus on their own UI's, and software additions. Look at all the extra work Samsung and HTC have put into acquiring outside software. They might feel like coming out with a vanilla device because they can probably afford to. Motorola (what ARE Google's plans with them) and LG I don't think will even bother. I can't even think of the other handset maker to be included in these 5, lol... maybe the tablet manufacturers like Toshiba, ASUS, ACER??

mullrat#WN says:

Great way to compete against the iPhone. Hopefully it will work. BTW most people don't like vanilla android. Most people are not geeks. Most people like sense and touchwiz. Most people don't care about updates. A lot of people purposely avoid them as they don't want their phones to stop working.

The reason most android manufacturers are losing money, is that they are catering to geeks when they should be catering to the masses. Samsung realizes this and are making huge profits from it. Vanilla Android ICS included do not appeal to the mass market.

wendemi says:

One of the benefits of this approach is that we will get very good phones because the manufacturers will have to compete with each others. Right now, apart from the Nexus1, all the nexus devices were crappy. They do not put much effort on them because they know android fans would jump on the software even if the phone is not very good. I know Samsung would never make a device like the Galaxy SIII for google.