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.