Yesterday at the D11 Conference, Android and Chrome head Sundar Pichai unveiled the HTC One Google Experience phone, which is now the second phone like this to be announced. The next obvious question from Walt Mossberg was, “Does that mean you aren’t going to make anymore Nexus devices?” Pichai answered by saying the goal behind Nexus was to invest in cutting edge hardware along with their partners to guide the ecosystem. He closed by saying “That will continue as well.” Correct me if I am wrong, but the word “phone” was never mentioned. I heard “devices”.
Let’s rewind to October of last year when a report from AndroidandMe said that the LG Nexus was on the way and a new Nexus Program was in the works. The rumor was that Google opened the Nexus program to all OEMs. Based on these latest phones from Samsung and HTC, it’s safe to say that this rumor held true. There were some things about it that were wrong as in the OEM skins (TouchWiz and Sense) would be part of a customization center, but it appears Google is heading into a different direction with the Nexus program.
Lets face it, hardware aside, the Nexus program was to promote stock vanilla Android and create devices for developers. For consumers, it was a way to experience Android that way Google intended it to be if they so wished. Unfortunately, it never really took off. The segment of the population that desires a phone like this is still very small. A little over a year ago I stated that Google should “mandate that each manufacturer release at least one phone and/or tablet per year that’s stock, and that it must be updated within 1 month of the release of the SDK.” I don’t think Google is mandating anything to Samsung or HTC, but it appears they have encouraged them to come out with these devices.
This is actually an upgrade to the Nexus program because it means more devices to choose from. The question is why would Google continue to offer Nexus phones? There really isn’t a reason, assuming this continues. Let us also not forget that Motorola’s next generation of phones will be stock Android with the possibility of some slight modifications or enhancements.
Okay, I will play along for a bit. If there is going to be a Nexus 5 (or whatever name), who is going to make it? LG seemed to be the chosen one, but VP of LG Mobile in Europe Won Kim said that they won’t be making a Nexus 5. Of course, shortly after, it was revealed that they do have a Nexus 5 prototype, but couldn’t it just be another Nexus Edition phone like the GS4 and One?
Going back to Pichai’s comments, I do believe the Nexus program will continue, but not for phones. So far we haven’t seen evidence of this type of program for tablets, and we know that an updated Nexus 7 will be announced very soon. We also know Google is working on a smartwatch and another set top TV box. These could also be marketed under the Nexus name. As to a Nexus phone, it is this writer’s humble opinion that you won’t see one this year.
You can also check out my followup article discussing Motorola’s role in all of this.