Nexus could become just another Android brand, and that’s a great thing

Daniel Bader

October 4, 2012 10:18 am

Since early 2010 there have been three Nexus phones and a tablet released to the market. HTC built the Nexus One, Samsung the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, and Asus the Nexus 7. These projects were all overseen by Google directly, ensuring true compatibility with “true” Android.

And this “true” Android business has been an important and incessant topic of discussion this past year, as more manufacturers fall behind on their promises to update their phones to Ice Cream Sandwich and, more recently, Jelly Bean.

So what would it mean if Google were to open up the Nexus brand to anyone? If LG, HTC, Samsung, Sony — heck, even ZTE — wanted to build a Nexus device, without the direct oversight of Big Brother Google? It’s an interesting proposition, and one that bears consideration.

There’s a rumour going around that Google is about to do just that: open up the Nexus brand to anyone, as long as they follow stringent hardware guidelines, and, of course, include stock Android on the device. This policy could be why we’ve heard about so many Nexus devices this year, from HTC, Samsung and LG. Of course, Google would have to work with these OEMs to adapt its software to the hardware, but at its core this project is sounding a bit like how Microsoft administrates its Windows Phone program.

We underestimate how much manufacturers tinker with Android; what we saw of TouchWIZ, or Sense, or Optimus UI, is not just a superficial sprucing of a few Android icons and menus. In many cases it’s a full reworking of how the software functions. We see this most recently in Samsung’s Nature UX, which bears so little a resemblance to stock Android you could be forgiven for thinking it was something completely different.

It’s in Google’s interest to create a unified brand around Nexus, one that they have a modicum of control over, before Android runs away with itself. In many ways, Android is no longer Google’s baby, it’s Samsung’s — or Amazon’s. Google creates the code, but Samsung sells the devices. Expanding the Nexus brand to be synonymous with Google, and by association Android, will do all kinds of good for the ecosystem, and perhaps dispel some of the talk of fragmentation. If users were better informed, the analysts say, they would make better decisions. They would be reticent to purchase devices that would be left unsupported after a year; they’d be wary of claims of OEM superiority. They’d trust the Nexus brand to offer a consistent Android experience, one of which Google approves.

I see a lot of Galaxy Nexus devices floating around Canada. I often wonder if they know what they have in the Nexus brand, that it stands for OTA software updates and the stock Android experience. I wonder if people care. But if Google does indeed go ahead with this new Nexus program, and offers up the brand to anyone who wants to abide by a few regulations, I don’t see how that could hurt the industry.

Apparently this new LG Nexus device will be dubbed the “LG Optimus G Nexus,” a terrible name, and will be introduced in November, not the end of the month. These are all rumours, but we’ve heard enough about multiple Nexus devices in 2012 to believe that something is up. If Google can pull this off, we’ll all be better off.

  • mehmeh

    An HTC Nexus would be really awesome.

    • GrapeApe

      Not unless the NEXUS name carries the promise of an open, unfettered Android platform even on other Mfrs where the updates come from Google, not the OEM/ODM.

      Allowing companies to simply use the NEXUS name to avoid the Android confusion simply waters down the value of the NEXUS name to prop up failing closed android platforms.

      NEXUS has to mean, Google software controlled, no middle-ware layer to bork-up the worx; or else this is a BAD thing, not a ‘great thing’.

    • fastboot4life

      @GrapeApe
      Google controlled software is irrelevant. Most of Gnex variants are not “controlled” by Google and we’ve learned that is meaningless. They are still the same rom with a different baseband, and with 10 minutes and a USB cable you switch if yourself anyway.

      People seem to have lost sight of what the Nexus really is. The Nexus is vanilla Android with an unlockable bootloader. “Fastboot oem unlock” = USER controlled software. That is what Nexus means.

    • Plazmic Flame

      Put simply, being able to create a device under the Nexus brand should mean direct updates from Google. Period.

  • Collin

    please give us a 5 inch nexus device!!!!!!!

    • jonny

      with microSD

      The only reason i didnt buy the Galaxy Nexus is because it doesnt have expandable memory

  • Mark

    Please give us a 5inch 1080p HTC Nexus :p

    • Kroms

      Agreed .

      HTC !

    • RC

      Please… NO HTC Sense!

    • Geoff

      Isn’t the point of an HTC Nexus device that it would come with stock Android? Obviously it wouldn’t have Sense on it…

  • Eric

    “I often wonder if they know what they have in the Nexus brand, that it stands for OTA software updates and the stock Android experience.”

    I have a GNex and the above is exactly why I got it!

  • superfly

    I want a 5.5 inch nexus device

  • Nexuuuuuuus!

    Do it, do it now!

  • deltatux

    As long as Google is the one pushing updates to the Nexus phones, that’s great. If not, that’ll totally ruin the point of having a Nexus device.

  • Hinds2009

    Having a nexus program is of the chains good. A choice of nexus for everyone and oems win with sales !

  • Kroms

    Agreed . A 5″ Nexus Device with an SD card would be AMAZING.
    HTC ? Please ?

  • HighClassFrenchCricket

    Excellent concept for consumer but i dont think Rogers and the other dingleberry stooges would want to carry unlocked devices with no bloatware. How fast did the shameful w***e Rogers discountinue the galaxy nexus again? If Rogers was a fruit, I would crush it like a walnut.

  • Kari

    My next phone is likely to be a Nexus. I’m tired of the lagging updates on proprietary Samsung devices from the major carriers. Stock Android is what I want. Now I want a device that will compete hardware wise with the top Samsung and HTC devices. Maybe this rumoured Nexus program will allow that. I sure hope so. At the very least, I hope Google ensures the next Nexus device is at least “better” than the current top of the line HTC or Samsung. Unlike the Galaxy Nexus and the S2, where the Galaxy Nexus was arguably worse.

    • Stef

      That’s exactly why I got the S2 over the Nexus last year. S2 had better specs (besides the display). Better camera and more importantly: removeable SD card! When I’m due to upgrade, it will be a Nexus if the specs are good. Until then, it’s S2 rooted with CM9 (until CM10 is ready).

  • PR

    5″ 1080P display
    3000mAH Battery
    up to date camera (new sony 13MP looks nice)
    same screen tech as the Galaxy Note2 (true RGB AMOLED)
    dedicated 2 stage camera button
    16GB built in is OK with me but it MUST have an SDXC microSD slot capable of addressing more than 2TB (for future expandability)

    • Adam

      Why on earth would you need 2TB of storage on a phone!?

      It’s not a matter of them flicking a switch and saying “this phone supports 2TB” I don’t think the technology exists yet to allow something like that.

    • Geoff

      Actually, the micro SDXC card is compatible up to 2 TB. That being said, a 3000mAh battery would make this thing a beast right now. It may take a while (maybe even as little as 6 months to a year) to get something like that in a reasonable thickness.

      Then again, the 5″ display does give you some room to work with.

  • Nick

    A Nexus line would be awesome… The issue though is that unless you buy the phone unlocked from Google, you’re still at the mercy of either your wireless provider or the handset maker to roll out the OTA update.

    I have a Galaxy Nexus, and I waited and waited for my OTA update to happen… It took WAY too long so I had to flash the official Yakju build onto my phone to get the OTA updates straight from Google.

  • PaulCJr

    Google needs to keep a strangle hold on quality of pure android. If google get’s sloppy for a minute, then nexus will be nothing special. If nexus get’s watered down, I’m jumping to iphone.

  • mehmeh

    Guys just imagine the HTC Nexus; 720p/1080p Super LCD 2 display, Beats Audio, Qualcomm S4 pro, unlocked bootloader!!!

  • Mix

    I don’t want anything else but a Nexus phone. I want stock and fast updates, I can add stuff if I want it.

  • Albert

    Why is everyone wanting a 5″ device? It’s not even going to to fit in your pocket.

    • John

      What kind of pockets do you have. I can fit my Nexus 7 in my dress pants and almost fit a 10.1 in baggy jeans… Shit I seen a guy fit a 42inch TV in his jacket and run out of the store!

  • Playaaaaa

    Google needs to maintain strict control of the Nexus program, otherwise the quality will drop.. You can’t leave it up to horrible OEMs like LG and Sony if you want decent phones.

  • TouchMyBox

    The rumour is that these devices will still have skins, but an option to easily disable them.

    Open kernel sources, unlocked bootloaders, easily rootable and prompt updates and I’m all for this.

    If we don’t get the things mentioned above, it’s brand suicide to geeks.

  • stef

    I for one would like a 4″ display max! they should have at least one or two options for people who don’t want to get a special phablet pocket sewed onto their clothes.

  • jellmoo

    To me the interesting angle would be having mid and low end Nexus phones. Thus far, all of the Nexus phones have been high end devices upon release, which has limited their success somewhat. I think a lot can be learned from the Nexus 7, and having devices that aren’t at the top of the price range.

    IF they could get out a Nexus handset with “decent specs” at say the $300 no contract price ($0 on a 2-3 year) I think that it would offer quite a bit of a hook for people looking for a Google phone.

    • Cyrano

      i dont think nexus s or galaxy nexus had the highest end spec compare to other phone at the time they launched tho

    • jellmoo

      @Cyrano

      The Nexus S was released at the tail end of the 1GHz era, just before we got the first influx of dual core devices. While it certainly didn’t blow away the competition spec wise, it was still at the high end at release.

      The Galaxy Nexus was absolutely a high end device on release. While it had a few limitations such as a weak camera and no SD card, it was still undoubtedly a high end device in regards to specs.

    • jonny

      If you want a mid range or low end device, get last years…you can always get last years device for free on contract or tab

      there is no need to release a brand new cheap phone.

  • Brody

    This article is so poorly written.

  • Don

    I think Google should go all Apple with Nexus. Follow rules or lose the brand rights. I certainly don’t want to buy a Nexus branded phone only to get screwed like today’s non-Nexus phones.

  • I Like Good Food

    I was already under the assumption that nexus is now a brand. I like it!

  • FormerAndroidUser

    I loved the Nexus One and used it for two years. Tried out both Samsung Nexus products but was not a fan of the build quality or last-gen hardware specs. I’d love to see HTC build another Nexus phone. I know some like ever larger screens but for me around 4.3″ would be perfect. Maybe HTC can repackage the 8X for a stock Android experience – I would jump all over that.

  • Peter

    I honestly don’t know where some of you people are coming from. A standard pants pocket, even a standard shirt pocket, is fully capable of handling a Note 2. Remember, the 5.5″ screen size is diagonal. The actual width of the phone is significantly less.

    Geesh!

    Peter

  • boojay

    Of all the Nexus devices so far, the one on the far left has been the best.

  • tomatoes

    Something doesn’t add up. Technically, the current belief if that any OEM can use stock android but they don’t just because they want to differentiate. So if the Nexus devices sell as poorly as the numbers suggest, besides the Nexus 7 which is selling purely on price/performance; why would anyone want to actually bid in the next Nexus device instead of just releasing one and call it the LG Optimus Android or something and market it as being pure?

  • wtk

    I have the Galaxy nexus, and the sole purpose of me getting the phone was there was no UI change made my Samsung or HTC. Also, I flashed mine so I can get the updates faster, as compared to waiting from Samsung. I don’t really like the idea of an LG Nexus..don’t really like that brand. I might be totally wrong though.

  • Jon

    NEXUS at the minimum should mean no carrier apps pre-installed and the phone is sold completely unlocked. I would even go further to suggest that it should have multiple bands to support all carriers to make that unlocked phone meaningful.

    Nexus should just mean, I don’t have to worry about if/how to unlock and it will work with other carriers.

  • Not a bear

    Google will be giving us even more variety with stock android, which is great. However, one thing I could see happening is the stock droids being priced at a premium compared the other phones available because hey, who doesn’t want bloatware-free android?

    I would also love to see HTC come out with another nexus but finally put in a removable back cover and microsd functionality.

  • Derek

    I think Star Wars puts it best in their movies when they say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” I am a strong supporter of the Nexus brand, I like how Sony has opened up their Xperia S for full AOSP support, and if this is where things are going I’m all for it. The problem is that I lost a bit of faith after Samsung f’d up the Galaxy Nexus by making a yakjuux version in the first place. If they do stuff like that, and start carrier locking them, this is going to really harm the Nexus brand. If they make the nexus devices completely open as they have been, and push immediate updates from Google, I really think this would give a better user experience for Android.

  • John

    Now THIS is what Android should have been from the start. No fragmentation, no crappy third party skin, no fuss.

    If this is what they end up doing I may actually buy another Android device. Otherwise I’ll be moving to a fruit.

  • Zeeb

    But will Rogers/Bell/Telus carry one or more Nexus devices?

  • Zeake

    Don’t know why everyone is always crying about high camera MP My phone currently has a 8MP shooter but I purposely use it at only 5MP because I honestly don’t see a difference, (And I actually make prints from the shots I take on my phone) but mostly I like the fact that the picture files are nice and small. i.e. very easy to manage.

    The people who don’t know what I’m talking about are prolly the same ones that are crying for that 13MP. I have a pro. Dslr, when I want to take pro photos then I would use that.

  • Andre

    I specifically bought a Galaxy Nexus in Canada because it was supposed to be the true Google OTA stock-Android experience. I was disappointed to find out that Bell was holding back on the Jelly Bean update for a few months. I did not buy the GNex from Bell – it has no Bell code in it but for the Bell SIM card, but I did not receive a true OTA from Google update.

    That said, I am happy to be running Jelly Bean – to have a device that is compatible with it and did eventually receive it, even if it broke the promise of coming from Google. During my wait I exchanged messages with Samsung who told me there were NO plans to upgrade Canadians to Jelly Bean; that “no” came in about three days before the JB update started rolling out across Canadian carriers.

    I respect the intent behind the Nexus devices to have true Google control, but they don’t, or at least mine doesn’t. Evil Bell (my only option where I live) delayed delivery.

    • Avro Arrow

      Actually, it wasn’t Bell’s fault. My buddy has a Galaxy Nexus and the problem was Canada-wide, regardless of whether you were Bell, Rogers, etc. Everywhere except Canada got the Jellybean update. Well, he put jellybean on it but forgot to turn the updates off. It tried to update itself on now his $650 phone is bricked. It’s just another reason I’m glad I’m not involved in all that crap because I use Public Mobile.

  • Luis

    +1000 HTC!

  • Zoomus

    open boot loader closed boot loader bla bla bla, that is meaningless to a vast majority of Android users, 99% of people have no clue about changing ROM’s etc, I know and I don’t have the patience to do it, I am thinking Google wants the Nexus brand on phones so they could get the latest updates quick,and not wait for the OEM/Carriers get off their a*s and do it,

  • Jem

    Bell did not slow down your update, that was all Samsung Canada’s doing. Stupid different builds.