The Information: Motorola Nexus phablet is happening, Android Silver’s future uncertain

July 29, 2014
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Google Nexus 5 black aa 2

Over the weekend we reported on a new rumor claiming that the next Nexus handset would not only be built by Motorola, it would be a massive 5.9-inch device with the codename Shamu. Lending a little extra weight to the rumor, the Information says that they have now verified with “three people with knowledge of the matter” that Shamu is really happening and that the deal began almost immediately after Google agreed to sell Motorola to Lenovo.

Google had apparently decided a while back that they would not involve Motorola in the Nexus program for fear that it would look like they were favoring their own handset division over their OEM partners. Once Google had publicly revealed its plans to sell Motorola to Lenovo, however, the situation changed.

Reportedly the reason that Google chose to work with Motorola over other OEMs this time around is that it wanted to showcase new technologies in Android L that were first brought to the table by Motorola such as Active Display technology and Touchless control.

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What does Shamu (aka Nexus 6) mean for Android Silver?

Now that there seems to be at least two Nexus devices in the works – a Nexus 9 tablet and a Nexus 6 phablet — we have to wonder about Android Silver’s future.

According to the Information, Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora and a few others in the company had envisioned Android Silver as a full replacement for the Nexus and GPe program. It’s unclear what changed here, though we have a feeling negative public opinion about the death of the Nexus could have caused Google to have a change of heart. Either way, now that Arora is on his way out, the future of Android Silver remains uncertain.

Some in [Arora's] camp wanted Silver to supersede the Nexus phone program. But with Mr. Arora’s absence, there are questions about how much firepower Google will give to the Silver program.

So what can we expect from Android Silver now that the Nexus series is reportedly here to stay? We see it one of two ways: first, Google will can cancel the project altogether, with the exception of the similar Android One program for emerging markets. Two, Android Silver will debut as a carrier-oriented effort that replaces GPe devices and works alongside the Nexus program.

Google Nexus

What does Shamu mean for Nexus lovers that aren’t into ‘phablets’?

Since reporting  on Shamu, we’ve seen many comments from our readers expressing disinterest in the idea of a Nexus with a near-6-inch display. Most of these readers say they were more than happy with the Nexus 5’s form factor. While I could probably do with an upgrade to 5.1 – 5.2-inches, I’m mostly of the same opinion that the Nexus 5 is more than big enough. But that doesn’t mean the Nexus 6 is a bad idea, or that it will even replace the Nexus 5 at all.

Up until now, Google has only supported one Nexus phone a year, but who says they can’t change up their strategy? In many markets, particularly in Asia, bigger is better in terms of screen size and so it makes sense for Google to give these big-screen fans a little love and deliver a phablet reference device that puts most of the existing competition to shame.

Up until now, Google has only supported one Nexus phone a year, but who says they can’t change up their strategy?

Meanwhile, who is to say Google won’t continue to sell the Nexus 5 throughout 2014 and into 2015 for those that want something a bit smaller? After all, the Nexus 5 has aged incredibly well, especially considering the fact that most 2014 flagships only offer a slight improvement in CPU/GPU with the Snapdragon 801, and most of the rest of the specs remain about the same as what we saw from the late-2013 flagships. Right now, there’s only so much Google could do to improve the Nexus 5, at least in my humble opinion, like adding a bigger battery or an improved camera.

Ideally, I’d like to see the Nexus 6 and Nexus 5 co-exist this year, with the Nexus 5 perhaps receiving a minor refresh that bumps up the battery, camera and introduces a Snapdragon 801. Then again, it makes just as much sense for Google to focus on the Nexus 6 this year and release a refreshed Nexus 5 (2015) once Qualcomm fully jumps onboard the 64-bit revolution next year.

The big takeaway is that the Nexus 6 doesn’t necessarily mean that Google is “moving on” from the 5-inch form factor. It just means that they are doing something different right now. Again, it’s also possible that Google will offer three Nexus devices this year: a Nexus 5, Nexus 6 and Nexus 9. How awesome would that be? What do you think of Google’s changes to the Nexus program (Shamu, HTC Nexus), based on what we currently know? Excited or a bit nervous to see how it all plays out?

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