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It is Time for Google to End the Google Nexus Phone Program


Back in August 2012, Jean-Baptiste Queru, Google’s top Android Open-Source Tech Dude (well, actually Technical Lead of Google Android Open Source Project) announced an interesting experiment on Google Groups. The Sony Xperia S would be getting updates directly from Google, giving it de facto Nexus status. Less than three months later, the project was discontinued, leaving Sony Xperia S Android Open Source Project (AOSP) development to Sony. I thought this was an interesting project, and was a bit surprised the direct support from Google ended so quickly. Sony continues to support AOSP and releases drivers for the Sony Xperia S, and now joined by the Z and Tablet Z, as part of the Android Open Source Project.

Just this month Samsung and HTC released Google Edition phones, which are available for sale at Google Play. These phones run the Vanilla Android operating system. like Nexus phones, but the phone manufacturer is responsible for the kernel, which is needed to get the operating system working properly with the hardware. In this interesting turn of developments, there will be at least three Nexus phones this year, one to be released by Google sometime in October or November, and the HTC One Google Edition and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition. Then we have the Motorola X Phone, or the Moto X. Pictures of this phone surfacing on the web seem to indicate that it will have a near stock Nexus-like OS and even incorporates the standard Google Nexus soft-key buttons.

It would seem these days that if you want the stock Google Experience, you will have plenty of choices. The main advantage of the upcoming Nexus “5” is that it will get updates faster than other Google Nexus-like phones, since both the operating system and kernel will come directly from Google, and part of the phones’ cost may be subsidized by Google.

Maybe instead of selecting an existing phone, having it wrapped in a Nexus-like skin, and releasing it as the next Google Nexus phone, Google should just select two or three phones per year from its manufacturing partners and award it a “Nexus status,” entitling it to direct updates from Google. Google could even offer Google subsidized versions of phones awarded Nexus status on Google Play.

You will not even have to worry about losing the Nexus badge on the phone. I am sure as soon as a phone is Nexus certified, manufacturers would add the Nexus label to the phone and the box.

Manufacturers who want to participate in this program would have to agree to ship phones with unlocked boot-loaders and to open source their device drivers. This approach will actually compel manufacturers who want certification to be more AOSP friendly, and  should be a great boon to the project.



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  1. Unfortunately I had to return my Google edition one. Capacitive keys stopped working and I really just hated the two button system they had. And buying a GE 16GB S4 just doesn’t make any sense since Stock Google doesn’t really utilize the SD card properly. You would just be buying a really expensive Nexus. I went ahead and bought a carrier edition galaxy S4 32 gigabytes, and after installing nova launcher and shutting off about 16 or 17 stupid apps, it’s actually a pretty decent phone. I’m loving the screen that’s for sure.

  2. This would not be a bad idea, and it would certainly help the manufacturers catch up in giving updates. There is this problem though. If Google ever built too successful a Nexus phone, this would threaten it’s hardware partners. With Google already owning Motorola, and the Moto X looking like a unofficial Nexus phone…

  3. You are correct there. A Sony Google Edition phone would. Rumor was Sony was coming out with a Google Experience phone. Than came the rumors of a new Flagship or upgraded Xperia Z for the end of the year. Maybe Sony might be tapped to be the builder of the next Nexus phone. Sony gas contributed a lot to ASOP, so I would think they deserve it.

  4. I would agree with you insofar as the Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus were concerned. The Nexus S and Nexus 4 were based on existing handsets. The Nexus phone should serve as a guide for what should be supported hardware for at least 18 months. But if the rumors about Key Line Pie are true. Android 4.3 or 5 will be supporting lower end hardware.

  5. It looks like my keyboard had a problem… Sorry about that. I meant to write:

    “The One and the Galaxy S4 don’t have soft buttons, so you can hardly call them a Nexus phone.”

  6. Yes, exactly. Too many writers have no knowledge of the history and philosophy of the Nexus phones by Google. They are developer phones designed from the ground up by Google, to work with the next version Android. They aren’t just phones with stock Android slapped on.

  7. The :One and the Ga/laxy S4 d;ont'[ have s;oft butt;ons, s;o y;ou can hard/ly ca/l/l them a Nexus p.h;onep.

  8. Having vanilla android does not make it a Nexus phone. So NO there won’t be 3 Nexus phones this year.

  9. I think they should ‘open up’ the nexus program. All manufacturers should be permitted to participate with the only requirements being stock android, open kernals for AOSP. Its really an excellent idea. Wouldn’t you rather have 3-4 Nexus class devices to choose from, than just one?!

    Its an excellent idea, and I’m starting to think that Google is fully intending to provide incentive to OEM’s somehow to implement it on a wide scale.

  10. WTF are you babbling about? I for one absolutely want a Nexus phone. Although I love the HTC One, I want a phone built for pure android. The One without sense is just senseless.

  11. The cost factor of the nexus is enough reason to keep it going. So I can get a Google edition s4 or HTC one for the same price as a standard one but without any additional enhancements round the camera etc? That’s a downgrade from the standard one, and should cost less. It is definitely NOT time to end the nexus phone programme.

  12. Nope. It’s not. Although I have the GE One, the Nexus is THEE best device for the price. 349 for a 16 GB phone can’t be beat. It allows people who can’t afford a high end phone off contact the ability to have a premium phone, that will get updates for awhile, for almost nothing.

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