A rather lengthy report on The Information was published this morning about the state of Google's Nexus program, and if I had to put it in one word, the state of Nexus seems to be "fluctuating." While there's a lot to chew through here, there are a few talking points worth pulling out specifically to digest and analyze, so let's dive in.
- Google will take more control over Nexus device development and branding in the future. Maybe.
What does this actually mean? It really is impossible to know. The Information carefully clads these statements in a lot of "ifs," "mays," and "coulds." Google clearly already does nearly all of the aesthetic design on Nexus devices and likely many major feature or hardware decisions - neither the Nexus 5X nor the 6P look anything like what LG or Huawei currently produce. But LG and Huawei likely still play critical roles in terms of hardware design on these devices in areas like PCB layout, antennas, testing, and specific construction techniques.
TI says this could end up manifesting as Google treating Nexus device makers more like simple OEMs fulfilling a manufacturing contract, as opposed to partners in development, sales, and distribution. Google would design the device, submit it to the manufacturer for implementation and production, and that manufacturer may not even have their brand featured anywhere on the end product, or in the marketing of said product.
If Google wants to totally take over the entire design process, that's a major leap, and one that would likely take several generations of devices to fully realize. This part of the rumor, frankly, is the ripest for speculation - and thus the juiciest for discussion - but The Information provides precious little in the way of concrete detail other than to say Google wants a more Google-y Nexus program. It's still unclear if manufacturers will go for this, or even if Google will choose to move in this direction, depending on whether or not it's realistic, or worth the substantial investment to make it happen. It's not even clear what "it" is. But Nexus fans are bound to love to hear this news, because if there's anything it seems we want more of, it's more Google on our Nexus phones. So this could end up being good. Or it could end up being nothing - we don't know.
More interesting to me were the less asterisked statements that The Information provided about the Nexus program in its current state. Here are a few select bullet points that stuck out:
- HTC is still in talks to build the next Nexus phone(s).
The story doesn't really go beyond that, but it does support rumors that have been circulating.
- Google takes a 15% cut of the sales price of Nexus phones it sells, but it hasn't always done this, and on some past devices has taken no cut at all. (Wondering why the 6, 5X, and 6P are pricey? Maybe that's it.)
This is interesting, because both the Nexus 5X and 6P have been subject to multiple sales on the Google Store lately. Both are currently $50 off. For the 32GB 6P, that's a 10% cut, and for the 16GB 5X, that's a hair under 15% (or 12.5% for the 32GB), suggesting Google is basically "eating" any profits it might make on the 5X, and almost any it might make on the 6P. Perhaps Google was a tad overconfident in how these devices would sell at their initial retail price points? The Information's... information... would seem to support such a theory.
- The "most recent" Nexus phones (5X, 6P, possibly 6?) have not met their "optimistic" internal sales goals at Google.
This is direct evidence confirming the above suspicions: Google isn't moving 5Xs and 6Ps at the rate it hoped to. That's probably a driving force behind the desire to exert more "control" over the larger Nexus program, though it's not clear how that would inherently help device sales without a massive marketing push to support such an effort.
- The Nexus 5 (2013) was the best-selling Nexus phone of all time.
No surprise there, really. The Nexus 5 was sold in more places than the Nexus 4, had LTE, and the benefit of being the second "cheap" Nexus phone. The Nexus 5 still outranks the Nexus 6 on Android Police by traffic over two years after it debuted.
- A person who works/worked for a Nexus device partner claims Google "micromanages" the development process down to minutiae "like screws."
Can you imagine someone at Google getting picky over screws? I can imagine someone at Google getting picky over screws.
- That the 5X and 6P aren't being sold by any US carriers is a point of "significant consternation" for people involved with the Nexus program.
The Nexus 6 was sold on AT&T and that venture resulted in a device that receives delayed updates due to certification procedures and, for a time, was even forked off the main Nexus 6 build tree because of it. Google likely has no desire to repeat this scenario, and I'm betting horns were locked over issues such as support of carrier-specific features like VoLTE and "network enhancements" that almost always serve to slow down OS updates, necessitate lengthy certifications, and create problems on devices.
- Google has "pushed back" against requests by carriers to enable LTE carrier aggregation on Nexus phones.
This one is interesting, as I have no idea why exactly Google would be inherently against carrier aggregation. Perhaps it necessitates yet another layer of carrier certification and testing on devices? I can only speculate here.
If you're a subscriber, you can read The Information's full article at the source link below.
- The Information