Nexus is a word that resonates with many, if not all, Android enthusiasts. It’s a name that means much more than your standard smartphone branding.
Originally created as a vehicle for new versions of software on reference hardware to developers, Nexus has grown into something far more vast and meaningful. Each year, despite not always coming with the latest specifications or best physical designs, Nexus devices are always among the most hotly rumored and highly anticipated smartphones and tablets. The second-generation Nexus 10, for instance, has been rumored for months on end, never growing less interesting or losing its luster. The Nexus 8 has been wildly rumored for months, as well.
The Nexus 6 is also among the rumored Nexus devices this year. Or, well … it was.
Word on the street now is that the Nexus 6 has been canned. In fact, the rumor mill is suggesting the entire Nexus brand is taking the fall in favor of the also rumored Android Silver project, which we first heard about back in April.
In essence, the premise of Android Silver is surprisingly similar to an age-old Android rumor, except it’s developed and grown into more of an experience in the elapsed years.
To be more precise, the idea of this “multiple Nexus-like devices” rumor originated alongside Nexus Prime rumors back in June 2011. Jonathan Geller of BGR reported Google “could be working with multiple carriers and multiple OEMs on their own ‘exclusive’ Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) halo devices, and that they may all launch around the same time.”
Of course, that rumor never panned and the so-called Nexus Prime emerged as the Galaxy Nexus. But the idea of multiple, official Google devices running a stock-like version of Android never died entirely. The rumors resurfaced the following year, then again last year when the rumor sort of came true in the form of Google Play edition smartphones and tablets.
Now Android Silver is on the horizon, and it’s threatening both Nexus and Google Play edition devices. Multiple Android manufacturers are said to be participating – LG and Motorola among the most likely, though we wouldn’t be surprised to also see Samsung and HTC take a crack at the new program – by offering near-stock Android handsets. Android Silver differs from Nexus and Google Play edition devices, however, by what our own Stephen Schenck calls a seemingly “white glove” service: enhanced support for data migration, one-on-one customer care, and loaner phones when yours turns up missing. At the very least, it sounds to be more of an all-encompassing experience than just some fancy hardware running pure Google software.
Since word of Android Silver surfaced and @evleaks ostensibly corroborated that there will be no Nexus 6, there has been a growing discussion about the new program and the purported death of Nexus.
I, for one, can’t get behind the rumors. I can’t force myself to believe Google will simply kill Nexus in light of a new program which, in essence, is only slightly different from the Google Play edition program. And for the record, Google Play edition is distinctly different from the Nexus program. Killing both and putting the remnants under one umbrella called “Android Silver” simply doesn’t make sense.
I can’t take said rumors without a heaping spoonful of salt.
Affordable reference hardware no more?
For one, our friend Marques Brownlee (MKBHD) made a brilliant point in a recent video. He says, “[Nexus] steers the direction of Android.” What he means is, Google crafts the user experience it wants out of its partner manufacturers with the reference hardware each year. For example, between the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, Google chose to remove the physical/capacitive navigation buttons. Though many devices still come with physical buttons, they’re becoming increasingly scarce in light of more flexible and future-proofed soft navigation buttons.
Some outlets have suggested Android Silver is a power play from Google to gain more control over its partners and the Android experience, which could make sense if you consider the deal Google struck with Samsung in January.
Maybe. And maybe it would give Google a bit more control over what some of the hardware looks like or how its partners customize the software. But unlike the Nexus program, it isn’t likely Google will dig its hands so deeply into every single Android Silver device.
More importantly, without Nexus, we may never again see an Android handset exactly as Google envisions it, an unadulterated Google experience device. Rather, we’ll see “Google suggested hardware” with mostly Google software.
The largest disparity between Google Play edition and Nexus hardware is pricing. Nexus devices, for the last two years, have come at extremely competitive and comparatively affordable pricing – starting at $350 sans contract. Google Play edition devices, on the other hand, are full price. Android Silver pricing is ultimately up in the air, but it could threaten all the Nexus has come to stand for.
Die hard, die-hards
In the four years the Nexus program has been alive, a die-hard community has manifested. These are the Android elitists and purists who will not settle for anything less than the most pure Google experience and Nexus hardware.
Sure, those die-hards may only account for a very small percentage of Android users, but they exist. And killing the Nexus brand will most definitely rub them (including yours truly) the wrong way.
I’ve owned every Nexus to date. There’s a certain gratification that comes with owning a Nexus that no other smartphones can seem to replicate – no iPhone, no Windows Phone, no developer edition hardware.
As such, in losing the Nexus line, Android will lose some of its soulful appeal.
Growing old isn’t easy
Part of that Nexus experience is the inexplicable ability to keep a phone for a year plus without feeling like it’s aged and dated after mere months.
Nexus devices, for whatever reason, never seem to age quite like their non-Nexus counterparts. The Nexus 4 was still considered by most to be a killer deal until days before the Nexus 5 announcement. The Nexus 5, which originally launched in November, is still one of the best deals around, only truly challenged by the OnePlus One, which isn’t readily available anyway.
Maybe it’s the constant firmware updates to an ultra-lightweight version of Android. Or maybe it’s the way the light catches the shiny Nexus emblem around back. None of us can be sure, but I’ve never owned and Android phone that has retained its newness quite like a Nexus. The Moto X came close, but even it doesn’t compare.
Silver ain’t all bad
To be fair, I’m not saying Android Silver shouldn’t happen. I’m quite excited to see what it’s all about and to see what Google can come up with.
What I am saying is that Android Silver sounds like a much better replacement for Google Play edition hardware, not Nexus. The brand means something to the die-hard fans, to me, and likely to you.
Maybe I’m one of those elitist guys everyone seems to hate, but saying, “Oh, I have an Android Silver phone” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like, “I use a Nexus.” I’ve never had another Android phone I loved as much as the Nexus One, and I’ve never fought so hard to not buy a phone as I have with the Nexus 5.
Google packs a ton of value into its (sort of) in-house devices, and stands to gain little by scrapping the developer lineup altogether.
Here’s to hoping the rumors are as baseless as they seem. What say you, ladies and gents? Do you welcome the untimely demise of Nexus devices? Or, like me, do you only hope to see Android Silver if the Nexus brand remains intact? Sound off with your thoughts below!