Contrary to what many had thought a few months back, Google is clearly giving greater precedence to its Nexus line of phones over its much-talked-about Android Silver program. We here dissect some key signals which suggest that Nexus is indeed more important than Android Silver for Google.
From April, rumors have been doing the rounds in mobile tech communities and forums, that Google was planning to launch a new mobile software program, Android Silver. Many feared that the Nexus line of phones would be withdrawn, even after David Burke, the engineering head at Google, categorically asserted that the company is still very much ‘invested in Nexus’. Six months on, it is the Android Silver program that has taken a backseat – while the new flagship Nexus phone and tablet have been officially announced. Here are certain telltale indications that Google is definitely focusing more on Nexus devices than on Android Silver at present:
- Confirmation of the Nexus 9 tablet – Android Authority has confirmed that the HTC Nexus 9 tablet is scheduled to be unveiled in about a week (October 15 and 16). The Nexus 6 phone, which would also be known as Motorola Shamu or Nexus X, will be launched before the year is out as well. There has been no such information forthcoming from Google regarding Android Silver.
- Nexus 6/9 will be replacing the older devices – Android Silver is a brand new program, while Nexus is a well-established, and rather successful, line of handsets. The Nexus 6 will directly replacing Google Nexus 5, which is, in any case, running out of stock at several places. Most mobile analysts and app developers feel that the Nexus 9 would be a more-than-adequate replacement for Asus Nexus 7 and Samsung Nexus 10. Creating a market for Android Silver would be an entirely different ball-game.
- The departure of Nikesh Arora – Arora, who was one of the head architects at Google and directly in charge of the Android Silver project, parted ways with the company in July. He was overseeing strategic carrier partnerships and device management plans for the program too. Understandably, his departure has played a part in the Silver project getting delayed for the time-being. Just goes to show that for small mobile app companies and a tech giant like Google alike, loss of key personnel always leads to complications.
- Android L is expected to debut on the new Nexus phones – A long-standing tradition of Google has been to launch new versions of the Android mobile OS along with a new Nexus phone. The successor to Android Kitkat, Android L (in all probability, ‘Lollipop’) will make its first appearance later this month – and it is only natural that Nexus 6/9 will be the devices it will debut on. Focusing on Android Silver now would force a break in this tradition.
- Android One has already been launched – Google has big plans with its Android One project – which targets at delivering the ‘best Android experience’ to every user, at prices of less than $100. The project has kicked off in India with three Micromax, Karbonn and Spice phones, and mobile marketers and app developers feel that Google would soon expand this project to other Asian countries. Nexus and Android One have become Google’s priorities, and Android Silver has – as a result – been delayed.
- Lukewarm response from partners, OEMs and carrier companies regarding Android Silver – For Android Silver to emerge a hit, Google would need the unconditional support of a large number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as well as carrier companies. The former, in particular, have not been really been interested in a project that would leave them with only the hardware to play around with. Among carriers, Verizon and AT&T were directly against the program, and Google had managed to bring only T-Mobile and Sprint in its corner. Until the support base becomes stronger, launching the Android Silver program would be a risky proposition. Launching a new Nexus device is a way safer strategy.
- Extra interest from HTC – The ambitious entry of HTC into the tablet market with Jetstream and Flyer had fizzled out earlier, and the mobile company is desperate to set things right this time. Since interest is already brewing about Nexus 9, and the specs of the device have impressed general enthusiasts and mobile app developers alike, it is almost certain that HTC will finally have a successful, well-reviewed tablet in the market. Understandably, it’s an extra motivation – and Google seems ready to oblige. After Nexus One, no other Nexus phone had debuted on HTC – and that’s a factor as well.
- Repeated signals from the Google engineering chief – Let’s face it – as soon as it was known that Google was working on a new program called Android Silver, people simply assumed that it would replace the Nexus series. Apart from rubbishing such claims and stating that the company is ‘invested in Nexus’, David Burke has also said on record that the assumption of Nexus being discontinued is a ‘totally wrong conclusion’. Interestingly, he, along with other Google engineering hotshots, have refused to make any comment on Android Silver. It’s easy to deduce which project Google is currently more interested in now!
- Android apps are being updated – At all leading Android app development companies, developers are updating/optimizing their applications – so that they become compatible with the specs of Android L. That is yet another confirmation that the new Android update is coming soon, and Google would be well-advised to release a new Nexus phone and tablet with it. What will be the point of unveiling Android L if there are no new devices to showcase it on?
- Need for strong competitors to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – Bendgate and Hairgate notwithstanding, the new flagship handsets from Apple are off to a flying start. Samsung Galaxy S5 is a challenger to iPhone 6, but the South Korean company is almost certain to part ways with Android (in favor of its own Tizen OS). As such, it is vital for Google to release Nexus 6 (challenger to iPhone 6) and Nexus 9 (challenger to iPhone 6 Plus) as soon as possible. Otherwise, it might fall behind in the worldwide smartphone market. There is no such urgency for Android Silver.
- The Nexus line is not likely to ‘disappear’ any time soon – Provided, of course, the new Nexus phones are not dramatic disappointments. As David Burke pointed out, Google is into making Nexus phones and the Android open source code. That is, and always will be, the way of working at Google – and there is no chance of the company suddenly bringing the Nexus line to an end. Android Silver, even if it does come along later, will never be a ‘replacement’ of Nexus.
- Specs of Nexus phone are out but nothing is known for certain for Android Silver – This is probably the clincher. Right from mobile app development experts to online Android community and forum members – almost everyone knows that the Motorola Nexus 6 will have a 5.92” screen, a Snapdragon 805 processor (in all likelihood), 32 GB (internal) memory space and a 13 MP camera. Now compare that to the Android Silver scenario – where nothing is known about even carrier support or partner OEMs. Google is silent about Silver, a clear indication that the program is being kept on hold.
It was a folly to assume that Google would terminate the Nexus series after Nexus 5, and it will be a mistake to proclaim anything like ‘Android Silver is dead’ now. All that can be said for certain is that, Google is investing more time and effort on the new Nexus phones and popularizing the Android One project. Work on Silver might well resume sometime next year.
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