Killing the Nexus: should Android Silver take its place?

May 2, 2014

    Google Nexus 5 black aa 13

    On this Friday Debate, we take a look at the rumors regarding Android Silver and how it reportedly will replace the Nexus series. From our current understanding, the Silver program is Google’s attempt to take the ideas behind the Nexus and Google Play Edition series and bring them to mainstream users. This includes a real marketing push, as well as a wide level of carrier support.

    This has us wondering, where do you see Google going with this initiative? Does it make sense for the company to end the Nexus line in favor of a more mainstream-friendly series of devices? Join the discussion below and answer our poll.

    Lanh Nguyen

    Hopefully the Nexus line doesn’t go anywhere. While I’m not sure if there’s still a purpose for the Nexus line there’s still many things that make it special which is why people like it. Prompt software updates, top notch hardware for half the price, and a pure Android experience.

    If Silver were to happen I hope they don’t axe the Nexus line because of it. Many Nexus fans would be disappointed and from what I’ve read about Silver it doesn’t sound like a viable replacement for Nexus. If anything, it sounds like an attempt to bring the online store of Google Play Edition devices into carrier stores with the addition of some benefits.

    Bobby Situkangpoles

    This is something I’ve been pondering about for the last couple of days. Will Android Silver continue the Nexus line’s disruptive pricing strategy or not? From what we know so far it could very likely go both ways.

    On the surface, the mention of Android Silver devices being “premium” and will be offered through carriers might indicate that Google is doing away with the focus on aggressive pricing. However, there is no statement that says that these premium devices will carry premium price tags. There is also no mention about not selling these devices directly to consumers.

    If we think about it further, although having an aggressive price point might not mean much for consumers should Android Silver devices be sold on contract through the carriers, a lower unit price can entice carriers to promote sales because a 350 bucks phone sold at 199 dollars will yield more profits than a 600 dollar phone sold at the same on-contract price.

    Looking at it this way, there might be a chance that the Nexus line’s aggressive pricing scheme will stay intact. For now, we can only wait and see to know which route Google will actually take.

    Robert Triggs

    Although I’d be a little saddened to see the back of the Nexus line, I’m not sure that it’s fulfilling an important role for Google anymore. The Nexus line was always a reference design for other OEMs to beat, both in terms of price and features, but I don’t think Google needs to, or can even shape market direction by competing with other developers anymore.

    Price and hardware wise, the Nexus range achieved its goal of diversifying the handset and tablet market. LG, Oppo, and the new OnePlus One flagships are competitively priced these days, Motorola has the midrange covered, and Samsung, Sony, and HTC are battling away to forge their own high-end visions. The Android hardware market is flourishing.

    On the other hand, the Nexus project has completely failed to persuade OEM’s to follow Google’s vision for software. OEMs still don’t update their devices quickly, manufacturers continue to stuff in their own bloat, and many handsets don’t resemble anything like stock Android (Halo) once they reach consumers. We know that Android is going through a bit of an identity crisis thanks to Samsung’s dominance, and the Nexus range can’t stop that.

    However, the Silver project might help put the ball back into Google’s court. By incentivising developers to stick to a set of rules, Google can steer Android more directly. It’s a bit more of a dictatorial approach, but it should actually end up promoting healthier competition between the Silver developers and the “spin-off” OEMs who want to take Android in their own direction, i.e. Samsung. Whilst there’s no guarantee that something like Silver will be able to control the big players, smaller OEMs could earn themselves a decent market share by following Google’s rules.

    Nexus’ will always appeal to the Android enthusiasts, and its disappearance would no doubt upset many an Android supporter. However, Silver could be a big win for Google, as it finds a way out of the hardware business, as well for consumers, who still get the core Android experience they love.

    The end of the Nexus would not be all doom and gloom.

    Joseph Hindy

    I had a really interesting conversation with some people today about Microsoft Office coming to Linux. Their response was that they had Libre and Open Office (and Google Drive) and that Linux didn’t need Microsoft Office to be successful. I feel like people stating that they don’t need Android Silver and that the Nexus line is good enough have the same problem. The problem is that they’re kinda sorta wrong.

    There is a reason why Samsung owns Android market share. People will tout that it’s marketing and other stuff but the facts are the facts. Samsung is simply working harder than anyone else. Yes, that means more marketing. Yes, that means mimicking some hallmark features from the competition. Yes, that means an absurd amount of bloatware. However, what people don’t take into account is that Samsung works hard. They make their product ubiquitous with Android. The put research into what people want and try to squeeze as many of those features into Touchwiz had humanly possible. To Android enthusiasts, it is bloat. To the average consumer, they’re called “features”.

    Simply put, Samsung out works their competitors by a large margin. Their flagship phone is always competitive. Their phablet phone is always competitive. Their tablets are too. Wherever you look, Samsung is a viable option. Their commercials are everywhere. Their devices are on every carrier. They have LeBron James and Seth Rogan doing cheeky and fun commercials. Microsoft Office is the standard in office software because they out worked the competition and Office presence anywhere makes that platform axiomatically better. It’s the same thing with Samsung.

    What does Google have? None of those things. The vibe I’m getting is that Android Silver will have all of those things. This makes me excited because Google is one of the few companies that can go toe to toe with Samsung in terms of driving interest for a product. It will be the first time in the history of Android where Google tries to out work the leading OEMs that run their own software. Let’s face it, Google has not been competitive in the hardware space at all. If Android Silver is, in fact, Google actually trying to take over the hardware space, then we’re in for a treat because when Google actually tries, they do amazing work.

    However, I like to keep things in perspective. In my opinion, Android needs OEM skins and while I’d like to see stock Android take a bigger role in Android as a whole, I also recognize the need for variety. People came to Android because no two phones were alike in both software and hardware but still ran the same apps. If all OEMs run stock Android, the variety dies and one of the fundamental advantages Android has over anyone else. So like I said, I’m glad that Google wants stock Android to be a bigger deal. However, I do not believe under any circumstances that this will spell the end for OEM skins. They’re simply too important to the Android ecosystem.

    I also recognize a market leader when I see one. If Android Silver is going to be the flagship for the masses, Google better be prepared to work for it. They have a lot of enthusiasts but John and Jane Blue-collar are buying Samsung for a reason and if Google wants to beat Samsung, then they’re going to have to figure out that reason and then out work Samsung because positive reviews from enthusiasts and blogs definitely aren’t going to be enough. Just ask Motorola and the Moto X. Hype beasting did nothing but get Moto bought out for the second time in almost as many years.

    As for the Nexus series. I honestly don’t think Android would be worse off without them. They haven’t been a driving force in Android since HTC made them and they’re not popular to anyone but the hard-core enthusiasts. If Google goes Android Silver, it would only strengthen the notion that the Nexus series is no longer needed or necessary. Some enthusiasts will be mad sure, but if Google wants stock Android to succeed, I think Silver is the future. Not the Nexus.

    Jonathan Feist

    Let’s take the stance that Nexus is out and Silver is in. From what I have read of the Silver initiative, I am excited for the results as a consumer, but I really worry that developers are losing access to a definitive reference device.

    Perhaps it could be argued that with all of the features that manufacturers have built, going beyond that of stock Android and Nexus, the Nexus device is not an adequate reference device anymore either, but let’s ignore that for just a moment.

    We have a bit of a rock and a hard place here – if Silver dictates absolutely what features a device must have, we would suffer stifled innovation. However, if Silver simply provides a minimum set of guidelines, manufacturers would surely try to one-up each other within the program. This competition is awesome for consumers, but the infused flavor of each manufacturer, I think, would eliminate the solid reference device that a developer may rely upon.

    There is no question that the gap between the Nexus line and what is generally available on the market is growing. With system updates such as the removal of external SD card support, manufacturers scramble to work around stock Android to bring the functionality back to the people. As the other manufacturers continue to build beyond that of the ‘stock’ experience, including hardware/sensors that Android does not natively support, Nexus devices lose their value as a reference device for developers.

    Having only dabbled in Android app development, never being a part of a major app release, I must defer to the developers to identify if a dedicated reference device is still of value. Plainly put, is Nexus truly a reference device, or is it just another device that needs to be custom coded for?

    I will officially take the stance that both Nexus and Silver should be available going forward. Both serve an important purpose. Silver can take over as the ‘safe’ Android device purchase for everyday consumers and Nexus can continue to be a reference device for developers.

    Now, let me finish with a bang, Project Ara should be molded into a Nexus device. To provide value to developers, Nexus must be a reference device – interchangeable hardware could allow Ara/Nexus to mimic the other products on the market. Maybe I am just dreaming, but I think it might just work.

    Note: we are reusing our poll from our original report on Nexus Silver, which has accrued roughly 3300 votes so far.

    What do you think of Android Silver, based on what we currently know?

    View Results

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    Comments

    • Anonymousfella

      Looking forward to Android being more prominent in the retail space. However it’ll be disappointing of it doesn’t have Nexus-like pricing…

    • wezi427

      I hope they don’t kill it off, nothing beats pure Android.

      • KingofPing

        I hear that a lot – usually from folks who are running something AOSP-based that is totally and completely other than “pure” Android.

        • Blendi Krasniqi

          Running 4.4.2 here, straight from Google, it’s the smoothest experience you can get.

          • jay555

            Smooth yes but very bare bones. After months of running pure Android on my Nexus 4 I finally took the plunge and installed CyanogenMod…and I haven’t looked back since. I got sick of the ridiculous decisions from Google (i.e. long pressing on the quick settings tiles to toggle wifi or bluetooth??? what were they thinking). And after almost 6 years and countless versions of Android, when is Google going to finally give us the simple option to display the battery percentage in the status bar? Anyhow, like I said, I got sick of waiting for Google to pull it’s head out of it’s ass and went with a ROM that gives me all of the greatness of pure Android but fills in all the missing gaps.

            • WallBreaker

              technically your still using stock just a slightly modded version and most nexus users are geeks anyways and flash Roms but your still using asop.

            • WallBreaker

              For someone that flashed a ROM you sure are ignorant there are custom power toggle apps all over the play store.

          • Arturo Raygoza

            me too, I love my nexus 5 so much I bought two 32gb on day one, I hope I can do it again this year with the new nexus 5 :)

        • wezi427

          WTF are you talking about?

          • KingofPing

            What part are you having trouble with exactly? I’d be more than happy to explain it to you.

            • wezi427

              It was sarcasm. I understand the majority of people don’t run pure Android, but to make a statement like that is ridiculous.

            • KingofPing

              Relax – it was a response to your post, not an accusation against you personally.

              I see it in forums all the time. They make some statement about how “pure Android” is so much better and they’d never use anything else; then go on and on about the ROM they are using.

              Yeah – it’s ridiculous.

        • WallBreaker

          Ive owned every flagship from 2013 including ios devices. Nothing beats the stock experience sure its lacking some features but overall its the best experience and android silver will offer stock but with some extra goodies. It will basically be like having a nexus devices but with a custom asop ROM.

          The Google play edition HTC one m8 was pure stock but retained all the sense 6 features, even htc’s camera app, the only thing missing was blinkfeed, which HTC is working on making available in the play store anyways.

    • Mustafa Ayub

      Android needs premium handsets that run vanilla, are marketed as vanilla and are are bought because they are vanilla. It’s one of the core features of the gold standard phone I.e., the iphone. It’s one device wit a singe unified experience: the iphone just works!

      Android needs to tackle that factor. And use its diversity towards its advantage. Imagine top OEMs pushing out out their premium handsets that have the best of their respective proprietary software baked into a uniform system. It’s essentially the GPE line being rebranded as Silver! Nexus is serving little purpose beyond its price point. And that’s just beneficial in the US where you buy phones on contract. In the east, and majority of countries, we have to buy a phone for its retail price: the international version of the phone. And it’s not slowing us down. Not by far.

      So Google actually having premium devices under it’s control, which it MARKETS, and maybe even subsidizes because they they aren’t OEM phones, they’re Google’s phones. If done just right, it could be a home run!

    • John-Phillip Saayman

      I would like the option of just being able to uninstall apps that are specific to oem’s. But I think hardware and sensors should be available in phones, so that you can make use of extra features.
      Maybe there should be a samsung silver
      And HTC Silver, LG Silver etc

      • Mustafa Ayub

        Exactly!

      • WallBreaker

        I think that’s the way its going but it can’t happen overnight it will take some time to make that the norm but android silver is one of the many parts of that direction.

    • Mustafa Ayub

      Vanilla android is not the “greatest” experience by far. Sure, it works great. But OEMs feature implementations on Android make for compelling facts. The Google keyboard is not the best by far. I’d much rather have some of Samsung’s smart features on a phone than not. LG’s Knock On is a solid feature. Nexus has its cost price appeal, but if cost was the driving force behind a phone, then the iphone would never have sold. But it does. And iPhone users spend more on apps, too. Build a premium device and put vanilla android on it with premium additions, market it, subsidize it and cut the competition at the knees: Android Silver!

      • WallBreaker

        Some extra features would be nice but stock android is a better experience all around hands down. Its fast snappy and reliable.

        The Google play edition HTC one m8 is a perfect example of what android silver will look like unlike the GPE m7 the GPE m8 retained the sense 6 features even the HTC camera app.

        • Stephan Hall

          To expensive and poor value. HTC m8 wouldn’t be a perfect example for me.

      • progressivesciences

        Custom roms and kernels exist for a reason, so you can tailor your phone to your needs. Personally, I feel that a Vanilla android phone lets you “build upon” it to add tweaks and features. Of course without dealing with carrier and locked bootloader bs.

        • Mustafa Ayub

          View reply to Dead of Night.

          Thanks!

      • Dead0fNight

        I have all of those features and more, on my Nexus 5 and 7. Though I agree that google needs a more “user friendly” line out there, for those who know what they’re doing the Nexus devices are a godsend. The standard they provide allow for all kinds of additions by both large and small developers. I get a “knock on” like experience with my kernel. I get a better keyboard by simply downloading one from the play store. The only place that OEMs have an ultimate advantage is some of the hardware they use (I.E. the fingerprint scanner on the S5)

        • Mustafa Ayub

          I agree. Custom kernels and ROMS are great. But how many people are really in the “know” about such things regarding Android? Custom ROMS isn’t a marketable feature. You can’t sell a Nexus to the average Joe because you can flash CM or PA or AOKP to name a few. The average consumer doesn’t have time for such. They need a handset that looks premium and works premium. For us, a Nexus IS the premium handset. But not for an average consumer who goes into the market to buy a new phone. Atleast not in my opinion.

          • Dead0fNight

            I’m not disagreeing with you, note that I said Google needs a more “consumer friendly” line if they’re really going to compete on the hardware stage. But killing the nexus line would peeve off some of their best and most knowledgeable customers.

            • Mustafa Ayub

              You’re right. :) the nexus line does serve a very unique purpose. And it’s the Google gold standard. I don’t want to see the nexus line die out either. But Google is in a tough spot when it comes to hardware. They’re a software company. If hardware were their strong point, they’d never sell off Motorola. Frankly at this point I’m stumped for ideas on what exactly the Android Silver programme is aiming to accomplish; will each OEM device be custom tailored to provide vanilla android and OEM specs? Or is it just a rebranding of GPE? Whatever it is, I’m excited to see and I hope it’s big! :P

          • progressivesciences

            If the average Joe wants a premium android handset. The first thing they look at would be Samsung, LG, HTC, and other big names.

            • Mustafa Ayub

              That’s one of the major drawbacks of the nexus device. Google is really terrible when it comes to marketing their Nexus line. It’s more of a word-of-mouth spread by people who already know what android is, the potential it holds and the value for money. With the Android Silver programme, word had it that Google will be aggressively marketing their phones this time. Let’s see.
              God bless!

    • Guest123

      It’s about price. Without the Nexus 7 we wouldn’t have the cheap tablets flooding the market we do now, and that goes for phones as well. Google drove down the price of devices with the nexus program. Now we have a lot of companies producing lower priced devices at better quality, but will they continue if there isn’t a Nexus line?

    • thartist

      In all honesty, besides being awesome to a few android fans, the Nexus line hasn’t achieved much of anything.
      - Samsung, LG and HTC barely toned down their skins only after 5 years of the press and users slamming them bad
      - they didn’t get any cheaper
      - they didn’t get any more responsible with updates
      And that’s that.

      • Keg Man

        they weren’t available on every carrier either. verizon got 1 nexus and effed it all up

        • Keg Man

          I’m waiting for a nexus phablet. thats what I want now

      • Stephan Hall

        And that’s a shame. Your right though. If you aren’t an enthusiast ….. you might not know much about Nexus. When my friends flash their S5 and M8′s ….. I just say “wow” …nice phone. You know the rest of the story! :)

    • David Bennett

      I think it is just a simple branding issue. The Dick estate might try to revive litigation if Google markets a product called Nexus 6.

      Android Silver pushes the Android brand and removes those pesky numerals from repetition.

    • Follower

      Why no one mention how easy to unlock and lock the bootloader in Nexus devices? Factory images?
      Keep these two things in Android Silver devices and do whatever you want.

    • Maheshwar N

      The whole nexus thing was for something else. Silver is for giving a unified experience and faster updates like apple does. That can only be done by taking the skins out. If oems need their skins so badly for the customers they need to put it like a launcher or something so it can be uninstalled and updated separately. I don’t know if that’s possible but if it did it would atleast bring faster updates under the hood.

    • Colts5609

      Give me Nexus quality, price and a stock version of Android that stays up to date for at least two years and you can call it whatever you want.

      • Viswanathan

        (y)

      • Shark Bait

        Totally agree, I love nexus!

        I guess the nexus programming has partly achieved its goal and it now needs to morph into something more competitive for 2015

      • Stephan Hall

        Amen brother. I bought a Nexus 5 about three months ago ….. been the best experience with a phone I’ve ever had.

    • Otto Andersson

      I still don’t get the idea of this silver programs? Is it basically like Google Play experience devices that use stock android?

      As it stands now, I hate stock Android but love the ease of rooting it and using other custom roms. I think installing other roms needs to become easier for the average person, as these are usually much improved over Google’s offering.

      I love TouchWiz but just couldn’t stand the constant addition of unwanted mandatory Samsung apps. Every country needs to follow South Korean law giving the consumer the right to uninstal these. I don’t want Chat on, Kiss, Knox, s health, Samsung app store, and so on.

      • Mark Lynch

        I do agree that people should have the right to uninstall pre-loaded apps. Nobody would be complaining about bloatware any more if all they had to do was uninstall what they didn’t use.

        I never knew South Korea passed a law on this but good on them.

    • WallBreaker

      People are so ignorant why is everyone saying this will kill the nexus? If anything its an addition offering GPE type devices at contract prices.

    • Hugo Oskarsson

      Only if the got immediate Android updates on day one of release

    • MasterMuffin

      “…would no doubt upset many an Android supporter.”
      “The put research into what people want” >:)

      Android Silver won’t be about cheap phones and I’m okay with that, because there are now companies like Motorola and OnePlus that make cheap quality phones. It’s just sad that now there will be one less phone to wait for, but I can live with that thanks to the tens of other great phones :)

    • Mark Lynch

      Joseph Hindy talks a lot of sense. Android’s strength is it’s diversity and although I love the fact that there are handsets running stock I also love the fact I can have HTC Sense or Samsung’s Touchwiz on my phone if I choose. I don’t want to see Android become as boring as IOS and Windows phone.

    • Will S.

      The problem with Nexus devices is that they simply lack “Galaxy Class” marketing & availability. If Google wants to bring it’s vision of Android into the mainstream, it needs to make Nexus available in every carrier, every retailer and every country. They also need a huge, HUGE marketing push – who knows what a Nexus is beyond those who read tech sites?

    • Scott Stutzman

      I think most people have it wrong when they think that the Silver will replace the Nexus. I feel that the Silver will replace the GPE program which truly serves no purpose.

    • Mohammed Azoz

      would Be disappointing if the new line *Android Silver* went sky High in term of pricing …

    • Ammar Shauqi

      Change is good but changing our Nexus to something that we don’t know (yet) is not really good. It’s because we, the fans of Nexus line, have already settled with it. We love the price and the pureness of android that the Nexus line offer to us. But if the Google company still want to go on with the Android Silver, just go on, but please keep the price and the pure android the same.

    • Andre

      I am a bit dissapointed!! I was looking forward to the new Nexus 10 2014. Currently using the Nexus 7 and totally happy with it!!

    • Tim B.

      The important part for me will be if the carriers encrypt or do something else to prevent custom ROMs on the devices. That is what for me draws me to nexus devices. I have to say I’ve been getting the feeling that maybe Android has run it’s course, its time for something else. I don’t know what, but with OEM and carrier BLOAT, Google attempt to kill off SD cards, and OEMs caving to carriers and encrypting boot loaders, and expensive play devices, makes me think its time for something else.

    • Arturo Raygoza

      please dont kill the nexus, I am very proud to have bought the 5. I feel like mine is the true android. a status symbol to say I got mine straight from Google when most don’t even know how. “ohh u got a s5 on contract?? pssssh I gotta NEXUS5! straight from Google, Ca$h money!!, with no leash and true android”

    • Cal Rankin

      I honestly think that Android Silver would be much better suited to take the place of the Google Play Edition devices. The Nexus is the entire reason that more manufacturers are driving the price of devices now. If it weren’t for the Nexus program, a quality small tablet would cost at least $400, and a great unlocked smartphone would cost $650.
      Since they sell directly to consumers, Google has a direct gateway to get their services to people. It works pretty well with Nexus tablets. As the postpaid model begins to wane, the Nexus and phones like it will succeed due to people not wanting to spend $650 on a PHONE.
      But for hardware co-developed by Google and OEMs, plus pure Google software, the ideal place for it is in the stead of Google Play edition. This would be better suited for consumers instead of full-price phones with vanilla Android.

    • cee

      I suggest you Bing nexus legal issues.

      The only reason for the name change is because google will be sued for calling anything nexus 6.

      Stop falling for those multi-billion dollar marketing budgets and look with another search engine, you maybe able to see some truth for once instead of being blinded by Eric’s gelatinous body being squashed up against your creepy line.

    • damstupid

      I think “Android Silver” is a horrible name. Makes it sound like an overly simplistic, big button phone for old people. Like Jitterbug.

    • arrix

      Why cant they have a Nexus program and a android silver at the same time?

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