15
May
galaxy_nexus_banner_005

This is the sort of quasi-rumor (it's fairly detailed and comes from the Wall Street Journal, so we're inclined to trust it) that makes me happy to be an Android fan.

According to the WSJ, Google is in cahoots with up to five device manufacturers to provide early access to the next iteration of the Android OS (Jelly Bean, we assume) so it can have an entire "portfolio" of Nexus devices ready by Thanksgiving - that's late November for those without turkey day. It will then sell said devices, phones and tablets, unlocked through (again, presumably) the Play Store, much as it has done with the unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus.

galaxy_nexus_banner_005

Google is no stranger to the business of trying to sell phones directly to consumers. It did so with the original Nexus One, and the outcome was basically a total flop. With the arrival of the Nexus S, and later the Galaxy Nexus, it seemed like El Goog had thrown in the towel on the direct consumer handset sales business. Then the whole $400 Galaxy Nexus thing happened, and suddenly, speculation started running wild about Google's plans to pursue the model yet again. Today, it seems like a lot of that armchair theorizing was actually a little too conservative, and in the best way possible.

Let's have a little history lesson on the events leading up this landmark change of direction first, though.

Carrier Hell

It has been no secret that Google has quietly (and not so quietly) lamented the situation regarding control of software updates on phones (and mobile data-enabled tablets) running its operating system in the US. The situation is that it sucks. And you can credit the absurd testing and QA practices of American carriers for that. Seriously, it is all their fault - and no single one is exempt from sharing that crown of shame.

So, last year Google talked up this thing at I/O 2011 nicknamed the Android Alliance, promising timely updates through mutual agreements with device manufacturers. This was basically a promise to push through the red tape of carrier quality assurance and testing as quickly as possible to assure consumers phones would get updated as quickly as was feasible. It never happened, and the project was never referred to again - a relative rarity for Google.

adoption_ics

Android 4.0.x adoption has been notoriously slow

Clearly, something happened (or never happened, I suppose) to that plan. Carriers haven't changed their absurd QA and testing procedures (see: the growing list of US phones that don't have ICS but whose international variants do and have for months), and it seems they really have no desire to change anything. Here are a few phones rotting in Gingerbread hell while their overseas brethren are all up in that cool, sweet, Ice Cream Sandwich goodness:

  • Galaxy Note (AT&T)
  • Epic 4G Touch (Sprint)
  • Galaxy S II 4G (T-Mobile)
  • Galaxy S II (AT&T)
  • Galaxy Skyrocket (AT&T)
  • Sensation 4G (T-Mobile)
  • XPERIA Play (AT&T, VZW) [technically, a beta is available internationally]
  • Most Sony phones from 2011

I've probably missed a few. And then there are all the American market-only devices with no international equivalents (I'm looking at you, Verizon) that suffer even more because manufacturers are loathe to develop major updates for single-market, single-carrier phones. And it's not hard to understand why - handsets like the Rhyme, Rezound, DROID Charge, Continuum, and others are basically at the mercy of easily distracted, cost-minded manufacturers, and carriers who give new meaning to the word "sloth." Just writing about it pisses me off.

The Android Alliance: From The Ashes?

This also, obviously, pisses off Google. The company sees hardware in the ecosystem that after six months of Ice Cream Sandwich being available has still yet to be updated. Many phones released in 2011 won't get Android 4.0 at all, which is just sad. Not because the hardware won't support it, and not because manufacturers are too busy with new phones, but because the American carrier system makes it such that the effort just isn't worth it.

20467023

After the whole Google Wallet / Verizon debacle, I think Larry Page (and Google at large) has had his view of the wireless industry slightly... colored. In fact, Google's plans to "circumvent" carriers on Wallet seem to be materializing before our very eyes, thanks to this whole "Nexus portfolio" talk.

The Android update alliance failed, and I can see why - the carrier red tape mess isn't worth fighting. It's a broken, antiquated system that relies on the flawed notion that the carriers have some legitimate and justifiable role in the handset update process. They don't. But they'd certainly like you to think they do.

Apple avoided this fiasco from the start, by making all software updates go through its iTunes application, and basically telling the carriers to stay out of its way and trust it with the integrity of its own hardware's software. Android makes it easier for carriers to say there's a "third party" involved (Google), and that since the hardware manufacturers don't actually own Android, there's a need to "test" and "assure quality" of updates. It's bogus, it's stupid, and it is essentially tantamount to your ISP telling you it needs to approve Windows 8 before you upgrade in order to "protect" its network infrastructure.

So, the alliance really wasn't worth it in the first place. Why fight that uphill battle when you can sidestep it entirely? That's where today's Wall Street Journal report comes in.

If Google can do what it has done with the unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus, it may very well have a winning model on its hands. That is to say, sell below MSRP, make it easy to understand what networks devices will work on, and sell the crap out of those amazing Google services and the "pure Google Experience" to novice users. The fact that Google can guarantee to buyers of these devices that they'll be among the very first to get Android OS updates (free of the messy carrier approval process) will bring in enthusiasts all on its own.

This is the "new" Android Alliance. One that doesn't care about carrier approval, contracts, or increasingly unsustainable handset subsidies. This is an Android Alliance that might actually change the mobile landscape in the United States on a deeper, economic level. I think we can all raise our glasses to that. Assuming it all pans out.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    Glass is raised.  Just waiting for my current contract to end so I can use tmobile prepaid and buy only nexus devices from Google.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel and things are good.

  • BrianBreniser

    I breath a sigh of relief, if only momentarily. Hopefully this pans out well, i'd like to see the quality of Android go up, the updates come faster, and the carriers stay completely out of the mess. I feel better knowing i have only 1.5 years left on my contract... o.O

  • Nbaj2k

    This may work with GSM carriers, but I'm not sure how it will work with CDMA carriers like Verizon. It's easy to pop a SIM card in a GSM phone, but Verizon will have to allow the phone to be registered to their network...

    • marcusmaximus04

      The FCC obligates them to allow any FCC approved CDMA(and/or LTE) device onto their network.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Verizon and Sprint CDMA phones require proprietary radio firmware code to work on the respective networks, so no, they are not obligated. Verizon is obligated to let any compatible LTE phone on its Block C network, but that has nothing to do with 3G CDMA.

        • marcusmaximus04

          I stand corrected.

        • Todd

          Going along with my earlier post, I imagine that the carriers would love it if we would bring our own devices to their plans since the prices are set for having to subsidize the phones, they are making more money that way. 

          I believe that T-mobile offers a credit if you are on contract after the 2-years or without a subsidized phone as an enticement to not upgrade. I don't have T-Mob, so I could be wrong.

          • AppleFUD

            carriers want you to sign a two year contract — they want to know they have you "locked in" as a customer. You being able to leave whenever makes them uneasy.

    • Ruben

      You think Big Red will turn down a data hungry, monthly paying customer, just to spite Google. The investors would have the CEO's head for turning down millions (perhaps billions) of dollars. They would have no choice other than let AT&T, T-Mobile have all the customers. Not gonna happen. Having LTE won't mean squat if they do not have the best hardware, and the competition will have LTE up and running soon enough. If the Play Store takes off, Google has the carriers by the balls.

  • Ruben

    I am gonna piss myself. This is awesome. Google FTW!

  • FlexPlexico

    The thing about protecting the network doesn't make sense. I can bring my European phone to the US and roam on any compatible network. Thus, the networks are already open for untested hardware.

    For some reason, the hardware manufacturers and carriers believe that they can do a better job of delivering functionality than Google. This obviously makes no sense as their budgets for software development are much much lower.

  • Benjamen Meiers

    I am actually looking to buy my next phone outright instead of free on a 2 year plan. It makes much more sense that way, saves me money, i'm not tied to one carrier, i can upgrade before my contract ends or after it ends without feeling like i am losing out.

    I just need Google to start selling devices directly in Australia.

    • Dwayne Wilkinson

      I'll second that.

  • Publius

    I think people are getting confused about what manufacturers are claiming about updates.
    What you get when you buy your phone is all you get.
    Microsoft doesn't give you a Win 7 upgrade from Vista for free. Stop expecting it off android.
    That Apple does it is an exception.
    That said, security updates should be much better provided for.

    • celestre

      However, Microsoft does give you Windows 7 SP 1 from Windows 7 for free. And Dell and Verizon (if it's a cellular enabled PC) can't stop you from installing it.

      Users expect and deserve better.

      • Lflubomir

        Who cares about windows?

    • marcusmaximus04

      Oh, ok, so who do I pay to get ICS for my Droid Charge?

      • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

        DROID Charge can't run ICS without repartitioning, and no update can do that directly.

    • AppleFUD

      True. . . however, you can purchase a normal OS upgrade. You have no such choice here and that's the rub. They force you to purchase new hardware for an OS upgrade?!?!?! 

      That's where I think CM would make a killing. Support only a few specified devices (obviously the more popular ones) and charge ~$10 for a rock solid upgrade.

      • sgtguthrie

        Cm can't charge. That would be illegal. Just fyi...

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

          Point 1...they can charge, but the licenses require that they distribute (or at least 'make available') the source code to anybody who purchases the software; and further, nobody can prevent the spread of the code/software.  Classically, the concept means one person can buy and then give it to everybody else without repercussion.

          Point 2...While I'm sure he didn't mean it this way, if you define "cm" to mean Cyanogen (Steve Kondik) or the main team of people working on CyanogenMod rather than the actual software as it exists today, then it's plausible to be a great business.  Assume CM (the group) started offering full support (like troubleshooting and documentation) and started working on this full time (as would be expected for a paid product), it would be a fairly viable business.

          All told though, there's enough idealists in the group and the negative backlash of doing something like this would kill it within hours of an announcement...

      • skitchbeatz

        Derp

        • AppleFUD

          are you trying to tell us you are an idiot? 
          You succeeded!

    • lcg1519

      The difference is the update from Microsoft was created by Microsoft, so they can charge for it. Android is from Google, and its FREE, so why should the user have to pay for software that Google gives away?

      • AppleFUD

        I can see a minor charge as acceptable. It isn't like Google is giving away a ROM that works perfectly on each device. Android needs some tweaks to work properly for each device and a company should recoup those costs. That's reasonable. . . buying a new device to get the upgrade is NOT reasonable nor is waiting 6 months. 

  • AppleFUD

    This all sounds good to those of us that know the value of a non-carrier device.

    HOWEVER. . .

    The average user wants a "carrier supported" and subsidized device. They just are not willing to pay even $50 extra — why do you think the 3GS is still so popular?

    That's the sad reality here in the states and until the FCC steps in and breaks up the carriers' strangle hold over devices it will remain much as it is. 

    But. . . I hope we get some choice now in the Nexus line.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I agree that the 2-year contract subsidy system basically goes to show just how uninformed and impulsive consumers are. Over time, people will become more informed - smartphones are still kind of a "new" thing. But I agree with your point, it's very frustrating.

      • AppleFUD

        I hope they do. . . 

        I think it will help if & when prices come down more. Right now paying ~$700 for the latest and greatest that will be ~$400 in 3 to 6 months is a tough sell.

        We just went the unlocked GNexus GMS Via Play route. For $400 it's worth it since T-Mobile, if they ever were to get it, would most likely want $250 anyway.

        And it's a great device IMO.

    • Todd

      At first I was thinking it was the subsidy game that would make the carriers want to delay updates, but then I had this thought. How do the carriers make money on the subsidized handsets? They lock you into a contract as a way to payback the subsidy. Then, as long as you are on contract, they are making more money off of you. By this logic, wouldn't they want to update your current phone as long as possible so you don't need to get a new subsidy?

      Of course, the counter is that once your contract runs out, there is nothing to keep you from jumping ship to another carrier and their subsidized phone.

      • AppleFUD

        Carriers want lock in just like all tech companies.

        From what I've read, carriers pay about $250/handset — that's a top of the line Samsung handset not some POS bottom rung LG.

        So, you sign up and they "subsidize" the handset to you for $199 (they only pay $50) and you agree to their plan that MUST include a very high rate data package. . . that's where they make their money.

        however, if you are unlocked you still have to pay the same data package if you want to actually use your device, thus for many there is NO benefit to having an unlocked device. Now if we had quality HD VOIP and could go all in without text, voice, etc, and only have a data plan then unlocked looks good.

        • http://twitter.com/turbosix turbosix

          sure you need a data plan... but you don't have to have a contract to add a data plan. 

          the carrier is at your mercy because if they piss you off you can leave and go somewhere else. 

          • AppleFUD

            And go where? Another crappy carrier?

            You really don't have much choice. T-Mo & AT&T pretty much. Most discount carriers require their devices — you can't use an unlocked device.

            Anyway you look at it your monthly bill will be the same unless you get data only.

            Your conversation with the carriers will go something like this. . .

            You to T-Mo: that sucks, I'm dropping my service and going with AT&T.

            You to AT&T: that sucks, I'm dropping my service and going with T-MO.
            T-MO: how can we help you. . . 
            you: uh, well. . . I need service again.

          • Freak4Dell

             T-Mobile has discounted plans if you bring your own device or buy one from them at full retail.

          • Freak4Dell

             T-Mobile has discounted plans if you bring your own device or buy one from them at full retail.

        • Todd

          It seems like in most circumstances, subsidized will save money in the long run since if you go unlocked, you are paying full retail (or reduced Google price) and fully loaded data costs.

          • http://markus.birth-online.de/ Markus Birth

            Here in Germany, there are prepaid plans that are MUCH cheaper than the contracts with subsidized phones. E.g. 1GB of data costs €9,90 per month in a prepaid plan, but the smallest contract starts at €25 and contains things I don't need. If you do the numbers, buying a free phone and using it with such prepaid plan is the best option.

          • AppleFUD

            yep, it is true you generally save going that route and that is all the average person sees — $199 Vs. $500+ for the device. The rest of the things we techy folk go on about mean little to nothing to these users. . . and we are a small percentage of the user base.

            It won't be until smartphones are the price of today's feature phones that things will drastically change.

          • AppleFUD

            yep, it is true you generally save going that route and that is all the average person sees — $199 Vs. $500+ for the device. The rest of the things we techy folk go on about mean little to nothing to these users. . . and we are a small percentage of the user base.

            It won't be until smartphones are the price of today's feature phones that things will drastically change.

          • marcusmaximus04

            True. T-Mobile is currently the only carrier I know of that provides lower cost plans for non-contract plans.

          • http://twitter.com/dynomike666 Mike

            And this is the real problem in the US, the carriers don't offer discounted plans with non-subsidized phones so this makes no economic sense for people.  

            I know T-mobile does offer this, but their network is not nearly as extensive as the other big carriers.

    • http://twitter.com/blundell_apps Blundell

      Do you not have Sim only contracts in America that are 300x cheaper than a contract bundled with a phone? That is where it's at!

      • Dan

         Blundell,

        No, we don't.  Let us know when you finish laughing.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          We have them. T-Mobile's Value plans are SIM-only contract plans.

      • Jay Ryan

        sadly not even close.  one of our carriers has a good plan that  for me would be $45/month off, but i don't know if the other major carriers do.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          T-Mobile's Value plans are SIM-only contract plans. They separate the phone and the plan purchase in the contract.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          T-Mobile's Value plans are SIM-only contract plans. They separate the phone and the plan purchase in the contract.

      • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

        We do have them now. T-Mobile USA offers them as the "Value plans".

  • http://androidcowboy.com/ Android Cowboy

    This would be awesome but why would manufacturers be willing to make these phones for Google. It would then be competing with their own Android phones. Regardless, I hope it happens because it's seriously needed. Still waiting on official ICS for my Evo 3D. Obviously I'm rooted and have custom ROM ICS but still it's not perfect. 

    • Ruben

      Google buys hardware from manufacturers at full price, the subsidizes them in their store. Manufacturers still get paid, that is all they care about, replace your favorite carrier purchasing phones for their customers with Google doing the same. Tha manufacturers do not care who buys their stuff. Samsung makes most of the iPhone, that should tell you all you need to know.

      • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

        The only major components I'm aware of that Samsung does not make of the iPhone are the battery (???), the screen (LG), the camera (Sony) and the body (Foxconn).

    • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

      Since I can't reply down in where you replied to me, I'll do it here. The iPhone does not fully escape this since CDMA iPhones are using a forked build iOS from the mainline iOS builds for GSM iPhones. The CDMA iPhone build of iOS has certain "holes" that allow Apple to configure the CDMA radio active. Even though the latest iPhone is a GSM+CDMA phone, the unlocked and AT&T models don't have the proper iOS image to activate the CDMA radio for a particular carrier.

      • http://androidcowboy.com/ Android Cowboy

        If Sprint thinks it will lose customers if it doesn't allow the unlocked Google phone to work on their device then they will find a way. If the Google unlocked takes off and people start buying then carriers will come around to support demand. It's all about demand. 

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          If nothing else, eventually Sprint will release 4G LTE SIM cards. If an LTE enabled device supports LTE band class 25 (and eventually LTE band class 26 too), then it will work on Sprint's LTE network. This is true for Verizon as well, since the Verizon 4G LTE network is on band class 13, it will work with any compatible LTE device given that the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE SIM card is installed.

          • http://androidcowboy.com/ Android Cowboy

            Hopefully one day everyone in the US will be using the same LTE band network and all these carrier specific stuff goes away. That's the ultimate solution.

    • Matias Wright

      Is it just me, or have you forgotten about Google and their acquisition of Motorola?
      http://www.google.com/press/motorola/ 

      • Zerounodos

        Nope. I'm still waiting for a Motorola Nexus. Some say it'll never happen, but well...

      • CoreDuo08

        I guess I'm part of the vocal minority that's under the assumption that Google will simply keep the patents and sell the hardware division.

  • Tarek El-Eter

    i dont like this model as choosing the greatest version of their device is going to be harder 

    • http://twitter.com/TKfromCLE TK

      I know, right? I HATE having choices.

  • moelsen8

    here's hoping.  f* the carriers.

  • mikeGsays

    I find this to be in the same genre as branding on the very phones we're talking about.... I remember owning international device after international device, never once having an AT&T or other branding placed squarely on the front and / or back of the device, with carriers laughing all the way to the bank that THEIR name is on the device THEY spent 20 minutes meeting with the manufacturer on to force them to change it or they won't carry it!  

    I currently rock a Skyrocket, probably one of the most bastardized phones AT&T has ever birthed, not just because of the branding but because they said the international SGSII wasn't good enough - make it include LTE, make it bigger, and increase CPU performance from 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz.  I love it for those reasons, don't get me wrong, but damnit do they have Samsung by the ****s for that stunt....

  • lefty2717

    I assume for them to be able to make a CDMA phone available to us non GSM folk they may have to pay a subsidy to VZW and Sprint. I am hoping they can make it work for CDMA!

    • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

      Not possible for open market devices. Sprint and Verizon have several branding certifications required for CDMA devices on their networks.

      • Lefty2717

        I am saying that if they paid a subsidy to those carriers for those phones to be able to work on their network so that vzw and sprint can still make something off of the phone sale.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          Verizon and Sprint won't do it. They don't accept anything less than full control over the device. That's just how CDMA network operators are. Google tried to get something like that going for the Nexus One and the Nexus S. It failed quite badly.

          • http://androidcowboy.com/ Android Cowboy

            Have you forgotten the iPhone. I believe Sprint paid a shit load and lost some money just to sell the iPhone and they have no control over it. So it can be done.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/psycho_maniac_ Jerry Lange

    All I have to say is I hope, hey make a phone that will run on vzw towers.

  • rorio82

    hope they sell pentaband hardware... yes I'm cool with only hspa+

    • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

      Quadband GSM, pentaband HSPA+, and septaband LTE would be enough to cover most markets. LTE band classes 1, 25, 3, 4, 7, 26, and 20 would be enough to cover the Americas (25, 4, 26), Europe (3, 7, 20), and most of Asia (1, 3, 26). Verizon and AT&T would be frozen out unless LTE band classes 12/17 and 13 were added, which would bring the count up to nine frequency bands.

      • Sean Mullins

        Do you know if it would be hard for the LTE radio to support 9 bands? As it is I dont know why they dont always make pentaband radios for att/tmo and have one less manufacturing line.

        • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

          Well, aside from the fact that carriers don't like interoperability (except for T-Mobile), the current limit that Qualcomm and ST-Ericsson chips support is five to eight frequencies. 700MHz, 850MHz, 900MHz, 1.8GHz, 1.7/2.1 GHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.1GHz are all the independent frequency bands supported on an AT&T device. Currently, three high band frequencies and three low band frequencies are all that is supported by Qualcomm radios. That maxes out Qualcomm's radio, and ST-Ericsson's doesn't support U.S. Digital Dividend spectrum (LTE band classes 12/17, 13, and 14).

          To add even more bands, a supplemental radio chip separate from the main radio chip would be required. That takes precious PCB space away from other components like local storage and battery.

          • John O’Connor

            Note to Google: Launch the Google Behemoth™ Tablet with Android 5.0 (Jelly Bean) and ensure that it has worldwide cellular radio interoperability (whether that is 10 frequency bands or 27, make it happen with worldwide release).  It probably wouldn't hurt to sell it directly to consumers bypassing the defunct "android alliance"

            And while you're at it we would like to see some stellar specifications, e.g.

            -Quad (or more core) processor
            -2GB+ RAM
            -HD-4k Screen Resolution (preferably with flexible amoled or some other ruggedized {not glass} material)
            -a perfected and seamless Webtop experience (better yet Linux on Android)
            -2 USB ports
            -keyboard dock attachment with more expansion ports and battery expansion(such as the transformer)
            -Full HDMI-Out
            -"real" quality zero shutter lag cameras (both front and rear)
            -native google tv support
            -google (at)home integration
            -MHL Support
            -*if integration of all cellular radio bands is not an option, get your Googlerola™ division started on creating a user switchable/hot-swappable cellular radio card interface
            -lag free 10+point multitouch with extreme pressure sensitivity and (stylus options) to appeal to the note taking or artistic crowd
            -use of waterproofed, high quality, lightweight materials (not plastic or cheap)

  • Freak4Dell

    Hopefully by portfolio, they will have a diverse portfolio, rather than a handful of the same phone with slightly different features. I'd like to see one of each form factor: slate, horizontal sliding QWERTY, and portrait (maybe sliding) QWERTY. I personally think they should just stick to high end phones and do them in multiple form factors, but I have a feeling they'll go for low, mid, and high end instead, and all of them will probably be slates.

    It's a good idea, though, and it's something this country needs to gain traction to move to a system more in line with what the rest of the world does.

  • Freak4Dell

    Hopefully by portfolio, they will have a diverse portfolio, rather than a handful of the same phone with slightly different features. I'd like to see one of each form factor: slate, horizontal sliding QWERTY, and portrait (maybe sliding) QWERTY. I personally think they should just stick to high end phones and do them in multiple form factors, but I have a feeling they'll go for low, mid, and high end instead, and all of them will probably be slates.

    It's a good idea, though, and it's something this country needs to gain traction to move to a system more in line with what the rest of the world does.

  • Jonathan Wong

    Google needs a modified version of ICS with some features such as animations removed to optimize performance on lower end hardware which most budget users go to.  

    • http://twitter.com/TKfromCLE TK

      So you want further fragmentation in the Android ecosystem? 

      • Tyler Chappell

        I think having ICS, and then having ICS with nonessential animations etc removed for lower-end devices is actually a bit less fragmented than ICS + Gingerbread. The animations etc can all still be there, just disabled through software or within ICS itself. It's simple, build ICS, make it all nice, and include built-in options for users to disable nonessential components regardless of whether their phone is high-end or lower end, if its high-end, they wont really notice a diff.

    • skitchbeatz

      NO.

    • ConCal

      no way jose. 

    • http://twitter.com/Serotheo Simon Yu

      Spareparts.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

      Isn't the option to turn off animations in ICS already, under "Developer options" in the Settings?

      At least it's on my SGSII running 4.0.3.

  • Jonathan Wong

    Google needs a modified version of ICS with some features such as animations removed to optimize performance on lower end hardware which most budget users go to.  

  • Jonathan Wong

    Also, frankly, Google needs more low priced but good quality Android devices such as the Samsung Exhibit II 4G which, for $200 unlocked, is a great phone (physical design aside).  Coupled with a low end device optimized version of the latest Android (Currently 4.0), we have a winner.  

    • AppleFUD

      I think Google will try to drive down the price of the current hardware going forth with the GNexus being the baseline hardware. The GNexus will probably drop in price by over $100 on Play when these other devices come out, and if they are smart they'll pull an apple and maintain it as the "older gen hardware" at lower and lower prices.

  • Jonathan Wong

    Also, frankly, Google needs more low priced but good quality Android devices such as the Samsung Exhibit II 4G which, for $200 unlocked, is a great phone (physical design aside).  Coupled with a low end device optimized version of the latest Android (Currently 4.0), we have a winner.  

  • Callum Saunders

    The only problem i have with this is that currently you can't seem to purchase phones from the Play Store outside of the US... Plus if we were to get it on this side of the pond, it's expensive compared to the 'any phone free with a contract' model we're used to.

  • http://twitter.com/phonecount StalkyTheFish

    Schweeet. My T-Mobile contract is up in November. Prepaid/New Nexus here I come!
     

  • http://www.walidmrealtor.com walidmrealtor

    I'll believe it when it happens. As a current owner of one of Google's problem Galaxy Nexus/Verizon un-updated unsupported phones, sounds like we've heard this all before.

    • Aaron Echols

      That's the issue, it's Verizon. CDMA isn't opensourced like GSM is.... Slap Verizon for this one.

  • http://gamingblather.com/ Drak

    Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus!

  • Sauce

    Sounds great.  Unfortunately as a Verizon customer, I don't expect these devices to activate on their network, nor do I expect Google to support CDMA.  :(

    • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

      Sadly, Google cannot offer CDMA devices. CDMA devices require special certifications, carrier approved firmware, and special binary blobs at multiple levels to work properly. They could offer GSM/UMTS/LTE devices that support HSPA+ and LTE on all carrier frequencies in the U.S., including Verizon's and Sprint's. It would be a matter of getting VoLTE working for phones to be fully functioning on CDMA carriers, but tablets would be fine.

  • DrMacinyasha

    I'd bet that one of those Nexus devices is the Android tablet Intel's working on right now.

  • Jon Garrett

    " the absurd testing and QA practices of American carriers"

    So if they release buggy and unstable software you complain, they take their time to try to get it right and again you complain.

    • Richardthegrape

      The problem is ...they don't ever really get it right...

      • Jon Garrett

        But what's so terribly wrong with Gingerbread that makes ICS an urgent necessity?

        As far as I can tell, people just want it because its a new version. when I was an iOS user I actually hated the frequent updates and the mess they always brought with them.

        Since switching to Android last October, Ive had nothing but one great experience after another--even with Touch Wiz.

  • kervation

    First of all, I think this is a great idea, and one Google should have initially attempted to do originally with the Nexus One. The drawback to this saga is that readers of this site and Android enthusiasts, like myself, are only a small % of the customers in the U.S. who see this as a benefit. Most people who sign up for these 2-year contracts for smartphones our feature phones only care about the network and if service is reliable.

    The carriers are in this for the money and will not be swayed unless they see a significant drop in subscriber rolls quarter to quarter. Let's not forget that here in the U.S. there are only two major creates

    • wildkarrde21

      It would be interesting to get some hard data on what the ratio looks like in terms of enthusiasts who want a Google experience vs the ones who just want a good phone with reliable service.

      After all, Apple relied on appealing to the latter with their strategy and it's certainly netted them benefits. 

      4.0.x adoption has been slow, but does the average customer care? Google basically took a shotgun approach to flooding the market with cheap Android handsets and they've been dealing with/reaping the consequences.

  • http://twitter.com/Bateluer Robert Boluyt

    Any comments that Verizon is withholding the 4.0.4 update over a temper tantrum with Google of Wallet, as they get ready to launch their own 'Wallet' app?

  • Alex

    I hope it will be a proper replacement for my Nexus One

    • Nex1rules

      +1. I am still waiting for a proper replacement for my Nexus One. My baby is still running strong.

      • Sean Mullins

        Mine overheats and shits the bed when using gps for extended periods while playing music/pandora.

  • Havoc70

    Here is to hoping this come to light, if it does Woohoo Google

  • Jason Thorn

    I love it but, no way to share on Google+ really?

    • smithers85

      Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V. get over it.

    • Mark Arpon Gjødvad

      There is a way. At the top right corner of the article you can +1 it. Once you do that a window will show to let you share it on G+. :)

  • L boogie

    With the exception of the transformer infinity & maybe the samsung 11.6 or huawei full hd tab, my next phone & 7 inch + tab would be strictly Nexus though im gonna stick out my remaining time with big red via my gnex. the update saga really stinks and could have rooted long ago to bypass the carrier hogwash especially when its nexus but when the issues between wallet & isis is causing  delays in updates among other carrier garbage, enough is enough. looking forward to this new push by the MVC; mountain view crew, glasses up & toasting

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

     My dream partially comes true:

    http://goo.gl/mdb6m
    (Excuse me for an external link)

    However, this plan will unfortunately fail miserably in US. Right out of the gate, I think Sprint and Verizon customers will be unable to use any of those phones. Yes, I love Android, but I don't love it enough to a point that I don't mind poor cellular coverage -- in my area, Verizon's coverage is pretty much unbeatable.

    So, here's the other half of my dream:

    Google, please deal with the Verizon devil and make sure they join the party. If Apple can make them do it, you can do -- IF YOU TRY.

    • Cuvis the Conqueror

      I think the only way they'll get VZW and Sprint on board is the same way Apple did -- establish the market with other providers.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nigelnaughton nigel naughton

    HELL YES!!! This would be so awesome! Finally get those lazy, money hungry (I like money too but...) rip-off carriers out of my way for pure Google goodness. 

  • yarrellray

    All I can say after this Verizon Debacle is thank god for another opportunity for a real nexus not this watered down CDMA Verizon version I am walking around with now. Hell I paid 300.00 for this one so paying 400 for the next one if need be would be perfectly fine. Especially if updates comes directly from Google. Anybody ever telling me that Verizon is so great might just get punched in the nose.

  • http://twitter.com/Serotheo Simon Yu

    I hope this is true, if it isn't I'm going to be sad about not purchasing the GS3 on release.

  • ssj4Gogeta

    I never could understand why the situation is like that in the US. You don't really benefit because whatever you save on the phone, you lose over the two years of contract due to high prices. And you get a locked device. And you get delayed updates (or none at all).

    In my country, you:
     - Get an unlocked device for $500 directly from manufacturers' showroom
     - Pay $0.01 per minute for calls, $23 per month for 10GB 21Mbps data (if you want)
     - Get multiple SIMs and swap as needed
     - Get updates as soon as the manufacturer releases them, with no career intervention
     - Get a clean phone - no career software cruft

  • Noreen

    When Google recently began to sell the Samsung Galaxy Nexus from its Play Store, at such a good price, I knew that it was the right time to put down the Virgin Mobile Motorola Triumph, buy the GSM Unlocked Galaxy Nexus, and switch to T-Mobile prepaid.  (My husband just did, too!)  IMO, AT&T rates are still high, T-Mobile rates are more reasonable, and the service is fine in my area. (I'll consider myself as fortunate.)  What Google has done, with selling the unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus, is favorable, and appreciated by consumers such as myself!  (Especially, by Android enthusiasts!)

    I've used some entry level and mid level android smartphones, and found myself wanting more in a smartphone. I've kept up with plenty of blogs and information from websites, such as Android Police, and thank everybody involved with their postings, because your information has always proven to be helpful. 

  • Lflubomir

    The best thing would be if Google could bring a phone that you would not need any provider in order to make phone calls!
    Every fu%$#&king greedy Telecom should go belly up.
    For instance tmob - in Europe (Slovakia)was found guilty of price fixing recently!

    • cashd00d

      The day a Google Voice phone w/Android is released is the day I get away from the service providers.

    • cashd00d

      The day a Google Voice phone w/Android is released is the day I get away from the service providers.

    • cashd00d

      The day a Google Voice phone w/Android is released is the day I get away from the service providers.

  • Ron H in Schenectady

    Fantastic article. I just bought the unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus for my Bell Canada account and I LOVE it. I got a CDMA variant on contract for my Verizon account. There wasn't much difference in cost between the two and I didn't have to extend my contract on Bell. Plus, the GSM version is thinner and lighter than the CDMA version. Anyway, I digress. Keep it up, el Goog!

    • Ron H in Schenectady

      I should say the CDMA/LTE version on Verizon.

  • http://twitter.com/set_iroN SetiroN

    YES. YES AND AGAIN YES.

    Fuck the carriers and fuck OEM customisations.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7GU4N7CVDBJXMZOBFO3DMIQZH4 J

    If the carriers are saying "Hey you don't own the OS, there's a 3rd party involved, that means we need to delay releases until we've tested it"....  Does that mean that Googlerola phones will be exempt (since Moto & Google are one and the same now, hence in 3rd party)...  Does that mean I can pick up a Droid Razr Maxx S and always have it updated? 

    I'm at least hoping that since Google is all big into open-ness they'll at least require Moto to ship unlocked bootloaders & keep their phones easily rootable (and if carriers object, then "accidentally" release the master unlock key)...  Then we can get more Moto phones into the CM9+ community...

  • cashd00d

    Give me a Sony Xperia Nexus and a HTC EVO Nexus on Sprint so I finally have a few choices. I'm not leaving Sprint, and I'm not buying a Samsung or Motorola POS. LG, ZTE,  and Sanyo/Kyocera haven't shown me anything worth buying either. I guess I really want Sony to make phones for Sprint, as Sony and HTC make the only phones I like.

  • Imahunghorse

    If this happens Ill buy!
     Im one of the millions screwed over by samsung on the bad gps on the vibrant! that and being stuck on gingerbread [Im rocking now to Slims ICS v3.6, Which honestly should make samsung hang their heads in shame that a fine private developer can get ICS working just fine on the sgs t959]
    So slam them down Google, let them know who is in charge!
    If Google is gonna stand up to the manufacturers and give good service then I'm sold!

    +100

  • Bobby Morice

    Nexus Rulz!!!!!! I've been nexus all the time!

  • http://androidgeeky.weebly.com/ David G.

    Good point of view. Thanks for this article.