Farewell, Nexus: hello, Silver!

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Rumors of Google’s Nexus lineup being discontinued have been popping up all over the internet. Up until a few weeks ago, we were mourning the Nexus 5 – a beautiful piece of hardware in every way – and preparing ourselves to go all Googly-eyed over the newest piece from LG and Google.

However, the latest reports indicate that Silver, as the heir to the Nexus throne is called, is not just a device lineup per se: it’s a brand with a series of standards attached, both hardware and software. Any manufacturer would be able to create a “Silver” device – provided it matches Google’s standards. These phones would run the latest version of Android, have absolutely minimal UI customization and very little third-party bloatware that users can uninstall without rooting. Silver, in short, will be a “seal of quality” on a device, certifying that it provides the stock experience – in short, it’s like Google merged the Nexus program with their Play Editions and licensed it out.

So how is Google planning to convince hardware manufacturers to get on the Silver bandwagon? Simple – with the one thing that matters: money. Google is willing to shelve out tons of money on subsidizing the development costs AND the marketing costs for the Silver line up.

Photo courtesy of oneclickroot.com
Photo courtesy of oneclickroot.com

It’s naturally expected that this will create not just one device a year, but anywhere between four and ten high-quality Silver devices. It’s made easier by the fact that any manufacturer can jump in. Reports indicate that LG and Motorola are identified as the likeliest candidates for partners to this program, but LG and Motorola are not the only players in the pool: there’s an entire sea of Chinese and Indian manufacturers out there – Huawei, Oppo, Micromax to name a few – who would love the chance to score more brand value by associating themselves with Google in this way.

As my colleague Mazin Hussain points out, the only three manufacturers unlikely to jump are the three kings of Android: Samsung, Sony and HTC, all three of which rely heavily on their own UI modifications and software to convey their own experiences to the user.  Should the three kings take part, they’d lose control over the software, have to stick to a boilerplate hardware template and the credit for the great phones that could come out in the line would inevitably be shared with Google. We’re already seeing Samsung taking a step away towards Tizen,

Unfortunately, will this mean the end of the Nexus promise – an promise of an incredible phone for a cheap price? The very promise that ensured Android’s rise to dominance in the smartphone market? Yes, it very well might. However, things have changed – we now have some really great budget devices – look no further than the 15,000 rupee Micromax A74 for proof. At this stage, we certainly won’t see a dearth of cheap low-end Android phones- Google’s free to focus on the higher end. The Silver program might also be a rather neat way to sidestep some of the manufacturer grumbling that arose out of the Nexus, especially the price cuts and the partner exclusivity.

Anyways at this stage it’s still merely reports. We have yet to receive a proper announcement from Google confirming or denying these reports. Will we hear something about this at Google I/O this year or even sooner? Only time will tell the answer to that question.

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