Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Android sea change: Google aims to have multiple Nexus devices ready by Thanksgiving

Google is about to change course on Android, in a way that might reduce the effect of Android fragmentation, give the company better weaponry to combat Apple's products, and reduce the influence of wireless carriers on these devices.

To do this, the Wall Street Journal said, Google will "expand" its Nexus device program. In the past, Nexus devices such as the Nexus One, Nexus S, and Galaxy Nexus have been produced in partnership with one OEM. With its new approach, Google plans to give as many as five OEMs early access to future versions of Android and will sell those devices directly to consumers.

Selling the device itself would be similar to the way Google handled the Nexus One, but that device never reached critical mass as, sold without a carrier subsidy, it was quite expensive. The follow-up Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus were sold primarily through carrier partners. However, the Galaxy Nexus is currently available - in unlocked GSM form and sans contract, no less - at the Google Play store for an extremely inexpensive $399 (inexpensive for an unlocked device, that is).

These new Nexus devices will be sold the same way, contract-free and unlocked. If Google can keep the price of these devices at the same $399 price, they might just be on to something. Typically, unlocked devices sell for upwards of $500, and often, much more. A 16GB unlocked iPhone will cost $649, for example.

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Currently, though, Google only offers the Galaxy Nexus unlocked through its Play store in the U.S. With its new program, Google will offer the wider Nexus portfolio in both Asia and Europe as well as the U.S.

Google will also expand the Nexus program to cover tablets, too. A Nexus tablet has been rumored for some time, but details on that front continue to be less available that Google's Nexus smartphone plans.

As a result of this move toward more Nexus devices will be something else: more pure Android phones. Nexus devices have always been skin-free, meaning devoid of HTC's Sense, Samsung's TouchWiz, and Motorola's Blur. Those skins are always a contributing factor in delays of ROM upgrades for Android devices.

With more pure Android devices, users would also get a more consistent user experience, similar to Apple iDevices.

Finally, this move could assuage the concerns of OEMs over Google's Motorola Mobility purchase. Google made that purchase, it said, mostly for Motorola's patents, but as one might expect, the purchase also means that - by perception - Motorola might be viewed as having an advantage over other Android OEMs.

Google certainly wants to ameliorate that thought, particularly with Samsung, the world's largest cell phone manufacturer.

The big question: when? Google is aiming to have these phones ready for consumers by Thanksgiving, just in time for the holiday season. These dates have a way of slipping, so cross your fingers, Android fans.

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