Earlier this month the web was abuzz with talk of Android Silver, a rumored program that places focus on near-stock Android devices from top OEMs. Now The Information has chimed in with their own details about the program, including Google’s plans to ax the Nexus line in favor of its Android Silver initiative.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors about Google ending the Nexus program in favor of a re-branded Google Play Experience program, with the earliest reports going back as far as January. So what exactly is the Silver program, and how does it differ from both the Nexus program and existing Google Play Experience devices? Basically, Android Silver takes the best of both programs and rolls it into one experience.
Android Silver takes the best of the Nexus and GPe programs and rolls it into one experience
Like the GPe program, there can be more than one Android Silver device at a time. Where the programs differ is that Android Silver handsets won’t necessarily need to be 100% stock, though they will need to have minimal amounts of customization. Furthermore, the custom software and features that are present will need to be user-uninstallable without root access.
Another major change between the Android Silver program is that Google plans to offer these handsets directly through carriers. Google also has bigger ambitions when it comes to consumer reach, and is reportedly prepared to spend as much as a billion on Silver’s marketing campaign.
What Google has to gain
For Google, Android Silver is about creating a unified Android experience to further combat the image of a “fragmented Android”. This means that Google will have more control over the software that runs on these devices, and will even have a say in the types of hardware specs and features that end up in qualified Android Silver products.
In short, this is about moving the Nexus and GPe program beyond Android enthusiasts and creating a program that is geared towards both Android fans and those simply looking for an unfragmented, unified mobile experience outside of Apple’s iPhone.
What the manufacturers and carriers have to gain
Reportedly Google will not only help market and sell devices that are accepted into the Silver program, they might even subsidize their costs. Google is also reportedly going to help maintain and develop the software, which puts a little less burden on manufacturers.
the Silver program will probably appeal primarily to manufacturers that have unestablished custom user interfaces or that are already stock-like
At least initially, the Silver program will probably appeal primarily to manufacturers that have less established custom UIs or have near-stock experiences already. This includes LG, Motorola and perhaps even Sony. In contrast, we imagine that Samsung and HTC will be less interested in participating, though the added benefit of heavy advertising could be enough to pique HTC’s interest.
For carriers, there are probably less immediate benefits to participating, especially if they aren’t allowed to put much (if any) carrier bloat onto these products. That said, money talks and more than likely will be the main motivator for many carriers. Free advertising won’t hurt any either.
What consumers have to gain
Although it’s unclear how aggressive Android Silver pricing will be when compared with Nexus devices, the biggest advantage is that we will have multiple options when it comes to (nearly) pure Android devices with minimal bloat added on top.
For those that like having the most current Android version possible, giving Google more direct control also means that Android Silver devices should receive updates much more quickly than typical Android devices.
As a Nexus fan, I’ll admit I am a little worried about a future without the low-cost Nexus family. Of course, devices like the Moto G and OnePlus One have taught us you don’t have to be a Nexus device to have aggressive pricing.
Even if the pricing does end up higher than current Nexus offering, the Android Silver program looks like a step in the right direction and could go a long way towards rectifying some of Android’s perceived weaknesses such as slower updates, UI consistency and OS fragmentation.
As for when we might see the Android Silver program? Reportedly the program will first arrive sometime next year in major markets including the United States, Germany and Japan. Emerging markets are expected to follow a bit further down the road.