Rating the field: who should make the 2012 Nexus phone and first Nexus tablet

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The next Nexus phone

Recently, the rumors have started up about who will be the hardware partner for the next Nexus phone, which isn't due out until late this year. Google seems to be settling into a yearly cycle of releasing the new Nexus reference phone and major Android OS update in November/December, so it's pretty safe to assume that is when we'll see the Android 5.0 Jelly Bean reference phone. So far, we've heard LG claim that it is "heavily in discussions" with Google about being the hardware partner for the 2012 Nexus phone, and we've heard HTC claim that Google hasn't made a decision yet, and that there are multiple manufacturers still in the running for the deal. 

As we've mentioned already, it seems very unlikely that Google would choose Motorola as the hardware partner, and choosing Samsung again would be viewed as the kind of favoritism that Google is looking to avoid. That narrows the field of potential hardware partners quite a bit. While there are a large number of manufacturers in the Android ecosystem, Google tends to like highlighting major partners. With this in mind, we think that there are only really 5 manufacturers in the running: LG, HTC, Sony, ZTE, and Huawei. We'll work our way in reverse order through this list. 

We feel that we can rule out Huawei because while it is a big manufacturer for Android, most of its handsets are middle to lower-tier phones, and that isn't what the Nexus brand is about. Nexus is about being the pacecar and trendsetter for the Android ecosystem, and so it needs to be one of if not the best handset on the market. ZTE is also an enormous manufacturer, and does have a growing portfolio of high-end devices, but it is just beginning its move to expand its market share outside of China, so it seems unlikely that Google would choose the company for the 2012 Nexus. Google is far more likely to choose a company with an established global brand name. 

Sony

That's where Sony comes into the game. Sony feels like a dark horse to us, but an interesting one nonetheless. Sony had a rocky road early on with its Android devices, and didn't have the best track record for quality or software updates while it was under the Sony Ericsson brand, but the Sony seems to have really turned things around in the wake of its buyout of Ericsson. The company has been incredibly progressive in releasing both an alpha and beta version of its Ice Cream Sandwich ROM to let the community test it and help suggest ways to make the software better. 

Where Sony's bid falls short is in the quality of its high-end devices. The upcoming Xperia S (formerly codenamed Nozomi) is the only device that the company has put together that even comes close to the level of a Nexus device, but even that falls somewhat short in the size of the device (10.6mm thick). However, Google does like to choose Nexus hardware partners based on what companies have the most intrusive custom UI on its devices. Former Nexus partners HTC and Samsung both have heavy skins on their Android devices, and Sony is no different there. Sony puts a very intense custom UI on its Android devices, and Google likes to choose companies like that for Nexus partners because it accentuates just how much custom UIs delay software updates. Of course, if Sony really does move away from Android in favor of its Vita OS (which seems highly unlikely), it would be very unlikely that Google would choose the company for the Nexus partnership. 

HTC
 
HTC sees itself as a viable option in the race to be the hardware partner for the 2012 Nexus, but we're not too sure that is all that accurate. HTC has been enough removed from its past Google reference device experiences with the G1 and the Nexus One that Google probably wouldn't get too much flak for showing favoritism to the company by choosing it for this year's Nexus device. HTC has been putting out quality devices, and has been innovating in interesting ways, especially with the integration of Beats audio into its handsets. HTC also still fits the notion of having a stock Android reference device from a company that has a heavy custom UI on its devices, which has been slowing down software updates. Still, we're finding it hard to get too excited about another HTC Nexus. 

Don't get us wrong, we loved the Nexus One. It was a revolutionary product for the Android ecosystem, and HTC has continued to put out quality devices since then. The trouble we have is in the design of HTC devices. When you see an HTC device, you know it's an HTC device. This is a good thing as far as brand recognition, but it doesn't fit so well with the Nexus brand. If HTC were to make another Nexus device, we would really hope that it wouldn't look like a typical HTC device. We are hoping that the 2012 Nexus will be made with more premium materials, and have a more dynamic look to it, something that speaks more to its Google heritage rather than the hardware partner. Theoretically HTC can do just that, but it doesn't have much of a track record for taking chances with its designs. 

Of course, that's a relatively small complaint in the grand scheme of things. HTC is still one of the better handset makers out there and does have a history of working with Google on reference devices. But, that history alone may be enough to keep Google away. 

LG

The Nexus brand has gotten a huge visibility boost with the release of the Galaxy Nexus, especially in the US because of its availability on Verizon. It may be time to try giving a boost to an Android partner that deserves some more visibility. LG has been an Android partner for a long time and has a proven track record for quality handsets, but hasn't really garnered as much attention as other Android manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Motorola. LG's best device, the Optimus 2X (or T-Mobile G2X depending on where you live), was a great handset, but didn't gain too much traction due to the fact that 1) it was stuck on T-Mobile in the US, and 2) it pushed forward with a dual-core processor, but still had a WVGA screen. LG's most visible device in the US, the Revolution, was another quality device, but had the sad distinction of being an Android device where the default search and Maps app were both Bing, not Google. Bing may be good, but it's just not the same Google experience on Android if Bing is the default. 

Still, LG seems to be back on track with the Optimus 4X HD, which looks to be an incredible device. So, LG has the pedigree for making quality handsets, and could use the recognition from Google as the hardware partner for the 2012 Nexus, but that also could be something of a double-edged sword. LG hasn't had the visibility of other companies like Samsung, and it is possible that Google could raise awareness of the company's quality handsets by naming it as the hardware partner, but it also could be that LG doesn't have the name and brand power to push forward the Nexus name. 

The marketing of Nexus devices tends to be split between the hardware partner and Google. Google's ads focus on the Android software, as we've seen with commercials for Face UnlockGoogle+ Hangouts, and panorama mode, whereas the hardware partner is in charge of marketing the Nexus handset itself. LG has very little as far as a marketing footprint. We can't remember ever seeing a commercial for an LG handset. The Nexus brand has gotten a boost with the release of the Galaxy Nexus, but that was due mostly to the combination of Samsung's brand name and Verizon's marketing power. LG does have a relationship with Verizon, but it may not be able to add much to the marketing of a Nexus device. 

Conclusion

There is still quite a bit of time before the release of the 2012 Nexus phone, but Google will likely have to choose a partner sooner rather than later in order to get moving on the design of the device. It seems as though the frontrunners to be chosen as Google's hardware partner is a race between LG and HTC. Although, we would hope that Google is at least giving Sony a bit of a chance. Sony may be a dark horse, but it has been doing some impressive things in the Android community recently, and although Sony has had troubles with some creepy marketing in the past, it does have the best worldwide brand recognition out of any contender, and it has the biggest marketing clout as well. Not to mention, it would be really nice to see just what a Sony device could be like if it were running stock Android. It seems unlikely given Sony's interest in pushing its own products though. 

HTC and LG essentially come out as a pick'em. HTC has a better track record for quality devices, better brand recognition and marketing, and it has been a hardware partner for Google twice before. But, maybe Google needs an injection of new blood into the Nexus line. LG could be just that, and also has a record of building quality handsets. Its brand recognition is okay, but its marketing leaves something to be desired. Overall, we'd like to see either Sony or LG as the ultimate choice, but it seems far more likely that Google would go with LG. 

As far as the Nexus tablet, the actual choice has likely already been made and the tablet itself may be pretty close to production at this point. That said, it could be any company as the partner there, but we do hope that it is Asus. Asus has been putting out the best Android tablets at competitive prices, and deserves a shot to be the Nexus partner in our book. 

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50 Comments

1. windowsRocks

Posts: 155; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

I am damn sure I am not the one...LOL.....

7. TheLibertine

Posts: 484; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Great one :p! Not me, either, if you ask...

2. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

I was always a Motorola guy but since my GT10.1 purchase i'm pretty die hard Samsung at this point. I would say definitely not HTC because i've been disappointed with them recently... Also I would hope they wouldn't give it to LG because the most recent LG release on VZW was hideous.

10. deeoh1084

Posts: 50; Member since: Dec 30, 2009

i agree i was very disappointed by HTC & Motorola recently (all HTC & Motorola devices that i used before were horrible except the G1) and i am using LG G2X right now and i'm not really happy with it... i wish Samsung can keep making the Nexus devices.. i really really love the Galaxy Nexus and i want one so bad... ever since i used Samsung i've been a die hard samsung fan as well

16. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

What's interesting to me is when I used to use Windows Mobile (before the Droid 1) the ONLY company I would buy was HTC. I had about 2-3 different HTC WinMo phones. When I switched to Android I got the D1 and after that ONLY bought Motorola... I even bought the Xoom when it released but returned it to GT10.1 because of the size difference. After that, I'm all Samsung now...

23. jamrockjones

Posts: 345; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

I'm not a huge fan of the way the software run on the LG handsets, but I'm thoroughly convinced that LG makes the best hardware. With Google focusing on software and LG doing what they do with their hardware, this could make a beautiful Nexus device. The LG Spectrum has the best display that I've ever seen on a phone!

32. phildroid

Posts: 18; Member since: Dec 18, 2011

With the inclusion of the note taking feature they may call it the LG Nexus Vu. :-)

3. droiddomination

Posts: 203; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

anybody but iDUMP. Although with their shotty labor practices and low pay sweat shops, they could keep the price down substantially, and undercut the competition. they could call it the iNEXxUS S. (s for sweat shop of course).

4. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

Hahaha I love the name. We should just let each manufacturer to take turn each year. Wouldn't that be interesting? But if that's the case, we would see some disappointing Nexus in some of those years...

5. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I wouldn't count Huawei out. While they don't have very many high end devices, the Huawei Ascend D quad is high-end enough to really get some attention. If they were to make the Nexus device that could be a huge break for them. I'm not sure if I'm sold on the quality of LG's phones although I have the same problem with samsung. They just don't feel like solid devices. That explains my favoring of HTC and how solid their devices feel but I understand the history and have given up hope that they will be chosen. It's funny how much speculation and opinion drives the tech world.

48. pbui.818

Posts: 78; Member since: Feb 06, 2012

I am paranoid about any technology company headquartered in mainland China like ShenZhen (read "Shunn-Junn") and ever since I saw somebody mock the name of the device i cannot look at it with a straight face. Ass End d**k Wad. I know it's really childish. My impression of Huawei is tainted severely now. I want Asus as the hardware partner for Nexus tablet and cannot imagine why they couldn't also be the partner for Nexus phone. I would like to see Google work with Samsung (or Wacom) to incorporate an "S-Pen & WHUXGA Beam pico projector" into a "Transformer Pad Infinity with keyboard dock" If not Asus, I would largely prefer Sony over LG. Based on most of our article's author's reasoning, Michael H. almost seemed Sony should almost certainly be the better choice. With Fujitsu's and Panasonic's exhibit's at MWC, I would like to see either of those before I saw LG. I am far from convinced of LG's ability to produce a premium device. Water-proofing should be a huge advantage that the entire industry should be encouraged to embrace. Fingerprint biometrics would also be a step in the right direction. While I still think anything over 8MP is overkill, Nokia's 41MP does have some promise for how it's being used. Lastly, I hope for IP57 grade durability.

6. redmd

Posts: 1948; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

regardless who does it the nexus should have impressive specs all around.

8. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

the best nexus device is still the nexus one as far as quality.. so id go with HTC..

11. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

My problem with HTC is that there is always some small detail that is broken on its devices. The Nexus One had a flimsy power button that broke 4 times on me. My sister has a Sensation which keeps having microphone problems. Other HTC devices have had weird touchscreen issues. There is always something that isn't quite right. The worst I can say about Samsung devices is that I don't think the battery door would survive the daily battery swap I did with my Nexus One.

33. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

it also had touch screen issues if i remember correctly. still using the same battery door on my SGS1 without an issue, and i pop that battery a lot with all the silly things i do to my phone. :)

49. pbui.818

Posts: 78; Member since: Feb 06, 2012

I am to a point where I have to swap batteries no less than thrice a day sometimes four times. Samsung Galaxy S Epic 4G. I'm waiting for Galaxy Note/Journal on Sprint since I can no longer wait for them to finally come out with a premium smartphone that includes a keyboard. A stylus/S-Pen eliminates some of what I need a keyboard for but still not some of the important stuff. Besides, Miranda Kerr endorsing a device is not bad at all. It be sweet if Sprint variant (call it Note or Journal) had even more screen resolution, memory and battery than AT&T's version.

9. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

Enough with the google moto takeover even as someone who prefers apple products i will tell you point black havig a moto nexus wouldn't mean a moto exclusive android platform. Also we must consider moto has mever made a nexus phone and gas been pumping out great phones with top battery tech. I might even buy a moto nexus. Samsung has made the lasy 2 nexus phone and htc has made 2 nexus phones as well. Give moto a shot and there is no way samsung or htc can be mad about this. Add to the fact that lg phone well suck a moto nexus would be great. Give lg the nexus tablet and no one would be considered with moto takeover.

14. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

htc only made 1 nexus. they made 2 reference devices though the HTC nexus one and the HTC G1

20. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

The g1 is a reference device so i consider it a nexus or its equivalent that year. As it was in previous articles here on PA considered a reference device. Nexus's are considered the reference device and the first ones with a new os.

12. skymitch89

Posts: 1453; Member since: Nov 05, 2010

I'm sure that it will be Motorola and Intel that will make/power the next Nexus device. Google is more than likely going to own Motorola, and Motorola and Intel have that contract to make Intel based Android devices.

13. RamyRamz69

Posts: 390; Member since: Dec 12, 2011

I would love to see an Xperia NEXUS tbh...

26. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I know! I feel like Sony is one company that has some really cool designs, but I would never choose it because of the skin. If I could get a stock Sony Nexus, I think that would be really interesting.

46. Sarath

Posts: 19; Member since: Jan 17, 2012

Would also like to see a play station supported Nexus.

15. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

This is one retarded editorial, what in the hell would Motorola getting the greenlight to build the next all Google experience phone have to do with the purchase? Motorola is still clearly an independent company, and the Razr speaks volumes for Motorola in terms of design, quality of build and prowess. Samsung has had plenty of tries(I'm still not sold on SAmoled, all that talk from yesteryear about battery sipping is BS SG2 still eats batteries alive), HTC had one, but they are still going off that wave(notice that every HTC device similarly look like the Nexus One, that or HTC is very lame with design). If Moto gets the nod, then we can be sure to have one hell of a looker if the Razr is anything to go by along with super thin form factor and monster battery. I think each manufacturer should be given at least one shot at an all Google device in the for of the Nexus line. Motorola have shown that they have a lot of ideas banging around in their heads, I think it's time they had a go at it. Then probably Hauwei then ZTE.

28. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

That's the whole point though. Google rivals and media organizations are looking for Google to make a misstep. That's why Google gets pounced on for every small mistake (or even perceived mistake). Motorola may be an independent company, but that's not how it would look in the media or in the PR world if Google chose Moto for the Nexus. Moto could definitely build an amazing Nexus device, but the media backlash against Google would completely overshadow the device, so what's the value in Google choosing Motorola? And, to your last point, Motorola already had a shot at a Google device with the XOOM. As you say, each manufacturer should be given at least one chance, so why not go with LG, Sony, Huawei or ZTE?

35. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

"Retarded"? Really? Are you in grade school?

17. davebuzz

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 29, 2012

google be generous for once, give chance to cra-apple to make the next nexus :p

18. josephnero

Posts: 787; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Sony i hope.Xperia Nexus

19. A.aoudi

Posts: 125; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

Its time for LG to build the nexus

22. jamrockjones

Posts: 345; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Agreed!

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