EDIT: This rumor was determined to be made up. I altered some of the language in the post to reflect that, but I’m leaving this post up because I think the idea really is interesting and deserves thinking about.
There was a rumor for the 29th even, since proven to be made up, that Google is not only working on LG’s Nexus 4, but also a program to allow any company to create a “Nexus” phone, provided it meets certain requirements, such as running plain, stock Android, having hardware capable of running the next few versions of Android OS, and certain features such as NFC, etc.
The idea is a very intriguing one, both good and bad. Even though proven false, I think this is interesting enough to be worth looking into. Here are my takes on the pros and cons:
- When choosing a phone, consumers will have many more options. Fans of vanilla Android with dependable updates get more than one choice. Right now the Nexus phones come out one per year, either like it or don’t. Google picks the manufacturer, you just go with their flow.
- Google can use this as an excuse to get Motorola cracking on a Nexus phone. Who can accuse them of favoritism when every other company has an equal opportunity? If Google used Motorola right now for a Nexus phone, shit would fly.
- Perhaps an actually popular Nexus phone would exist. So far the Nexus phones haven’t exactly been the hottest sellers. With more phones out there, perhaps one would finally catch on in the eye of the general public.
- Android’s OS version growth would explode. Imagine more than just 1-2 phones being up-to-date at any given point in the Android ecosystem! WOW, what a world to live in!
- The phones aren’t able to differentiate via software. Hardware companies would have to compete via hardware, which is how it should be IMO. How about some Nexus phones giving iPhone’s camera a run for its money, or phones looking as sexy as possible with great battery life?
- There won’t be any one “killer phone” from Google. Right now for Android fans, it’s an event to see Google’s next Nexus phone. It’s a big deal, similar to Apple’s iPhone announcements. With multiple Nexus phones, the magic disappears a little bit. Will Google continue to bless one of them as the Android phone?
- Hardware companies won’t like this. With hardware companies competing via hardware, their jobs got harder for sales. Suddenly buzz terms like phones being “smart enough to be social” won’t apply. Laggy skins on the OS that shoehorn in new “features” won’t be the main selling points.
- Carriers won’t like this. Carriers don’t like phones having the same OS. It is hard to sell different phones at the same price when it is also very easy for the customer to tell some are clearly better than others. Carriers would request more differences in the OS.
- These “Nexus” update terms might be vague. Obviously these phones would be expected to get updates faster, but exactly how fast is faster? Right now, faster than a year would be an improvement, but far from ideal. Look at Google’s own Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, even it lags behind the OS updates. How far behind would other companies get?
- If a company like Samsung sells more Galaxy S IIIs than Galaxy Nexuses, then what is the point of making more vanilla Android phones? Right now, the advantage is that there is only one at a time. It doesn’t have to compete for that specific audience, but that would disappear with this program. Over time, the one company that makes the best Nexi could become the only company to make Nexi.
So… should the Nexi program exist? I believe the pros outweigh the cons. Two of the cons are for the carriers and companies, and the consumer benefits from those. Plus, pushing the importance for fast Android OS updates is always a good thing.
But… will the Nexi program exist? I’m not sure, but I’d bet against it. I see that the hardware companies and carriers won’t like it, so who exactly will be pushing for this and then pushing the phone’s sales? Only Google?