The potential ripple effect of Google's new Nexus strategy

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The potential ripple effect of Google's new Nexus strategy
A couple days ago, we talked about how Google's rumored new Nexus strategy of releasing multiple devices through multiple manufacturing partners could help to stop the vocal minority within the Android user base from complaining about "fragmentation". Today, we want to talk about the potential ripple effect, and how more Nexus devices will affect the ecosystem as a whole.

The Nexus brand itself has undergone some changes in recent years. Originally, the Nexus brand was something of a beacon for early adopters, and those who loved to really tinker with what a device could do. It was a device for developers, and it was a device to push forward the hardware in the Android ecosystem. Nexus meant that you would get a pure Android experience with no alterations. But, over the years, the brand has changed a bit and evolved with the times. 

The evolution of Nexus

Google decided that the number one goal of the Nexus brand was to be a pure Google experience, and realized that the way to offer that on every carrier was to make one concession: tethering couldn't be a standard feature, and so the hotspot and tethering options were hindered in some variants of the Galaxy Nexus. Also, the idea that the Nexus has to be a device that pushes forward Android hardware has lost traction. Google still uses the devices to try to push forward certain hardware features, like NFC; but overall, Nexus devices are not the very best of the best as far as hardware specs. Instead, Nexus devices get their value from being on the cutting edge of software

The idea of a pure Google experience device is something that extends beyond a device having stock Android installed. Pure Android isn't just a lack of a custom UI, or a lack of too much preloaded software. Possibly most importantly of all the characteristics of a pure Google experience is that platform updates come directly from Google. This means Nexus devices get updates far far faster than any other devices in the ecosystem... well, all Nexus devices not running on Verizon, of course. 

One of the original hopes of the Nexus brand was to show customers how fast updates could be, and maybe shame manufacturers into pushing out updates faster. The problem with that idea was that the Nexus brand, as we mentioned, was something of an ubergeek symbol, and didn't hold much weight with the majority of customers, so the anger that increased after seeing the disparity in update speed came mostly from the tech elite. We talked last time about how the added choice of Nexus devices could help to quell the anger of that population, but additionally, we have to remember that the larger the Nexus brand grows, the more the average user will see that same update disparity. 

Visibility leads to change

Having one Nexus device has certain advantages, like being the default "flagship" device, and getting focused attention. It helps with word of mouth advertising, and in building an iconic brand. These advantages are ones that Apple has been benefitting from with the iPhone, because Apple loves creating iconic products. However, the new strategy of having a line of Nexus devices helps Google achieve the original goals of the brand. Nexus was never intended to be an icon, it was intended to be a role model. Manufacturers need not try to emulate the Nexus devices, but can learn from them, and the same goes for users. 

We tend to believe that almost everything in the world comes down to knowledge and perspective, which ultimately leads to understanding. A lack of one of those former components leads to an inability to truly understand an issue, product, etc. Fanboys lack perspective, and therefore can never truly understand the opinions of others. Similarly, without the knowledge of how slowly updates are coming to their devices, and how far behind an Android 2.3 device truly is, users can't understand why this happens and how best to avoid the problem.

Of course, users can't learn about or from a device if they don't know about it, and visibility has always been a problem for Nexus devices. Sure, we all know about them, because we actively seek out information on the mobile ecosystem. There are many casual users who still think that "Droid" is a term that can be used to refer to any device in the Android ecosystem, and not just a specific line of Verizon devices. Those users tend to not know or understand the importance of the Nexus devices. But that could easily change if there are multiple Nexus devices, and Google pushes the visibility of them, maybe with dedicated Nexus sections in retail stores, but definitely with the dedicated section in the Play Store. 

Manufacturers benefit too

The part that no one has really touched upon yet is that manufacturers may not even need the increased awareness and push by users in order to be better about offering updates for devices. Sure, when more casual users understand the problem better, there will be more complaints, which will push manufacturers. But, we tend to ignore one of the major benefits for manufacturers of being in the Nexus program: early access to software

Early access to Android updates will obviously help a manufacturer build a Nexus device, but it also means that company has a head start on adding its own software layer for its own devices. Ever since the days of the Nexus One, HTC has been one of the best companies around at pushing updates to its devices, and we think its fairly likely that was because the company has a history of working so closely with Google. 

Samsung may not always be the best about pushing updates, but since it began working with Google for the Nexus S and then the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung has been one of the better manufacturers about launching new devices with the newest version of Android. That may not apply to Jelly Bean updates so far, but Samsung is unlikely to have gotten any early builds of Jelly Bean, because it wasn't building the launch device. 

Asus had the honor of being the Nexus partner for the launch of Jelly Bean, and wouldn't you know it, the company was also pretty quick on pushing Jelly Bean updates to its other tablets. Granted, Asus has always been one of the fastest, because of its very minimal customization, and the fact that tablets don't need to worry about carrier testing. 

Additionally, we have to remember that Google handles the promotions for all of the Nexus devices, and has been taking over support as well. This means that a manufacturing partner needs to just build the device and collect its cut of the sales, while Google handles everything else. That's not a bad deal for hardware partners. 


Now, just imagine what the Android landscape could look like if it is true that Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony are all getting early builds of Android software, and all have more time to work on their own customizations. At the very least, we should see more and more non-Nexus devices launching with the newest version of Android faster than before. If that work can be done before the launch of a device, that should leave manufacturers more time to dedicate towards building the updates for older devices. And, that's where the users step in. More Nexus devices should also mean more aware customers, and more pressure on manufacturers to push out updates to more devices on a faster timeline. 

We should all realize by now that Google isn't going to mandate updates. Google isn't an authoritarian company that forces companies to play by the rules they set, and we wouldn't want that from Google anyway. If Google suddenly clamped down on Android, it would fundamentally change the platform from what it is into something we may not want. Google has certain ideas of what it wants Android to be, and uses the carrot-and-stick to try to lead manufacturers there. The strategy is changing, and that could mean better results for users. 



1. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012


2. eisenbricher

Posts: 973; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

Enjoyed reading the article. No objections.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012


58. kartik4u98

Posts: 511; Member since: May 19, 2012

Right! Michael is the best writer in Phonearena.

65. speckledapple

Posts: 902; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

agreed on the article. Very well written.

3. tedkord

Posts: 17133; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

One minor point. In general, it's not a vocal minority of Android users yelling about fragmentation. It's a vocal minority of iOS and WP users much more than Android users.

6. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Definitely. Most android users probably don't even notice. Probably because it's so easy to see different phones as having different capabilities.

9. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

That was covered in the last article. Android haters will never stop their noise, but everyone else can learn about the problem.

17. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Michael H, I thought you was an Apple Like I said in that other article.....some ppl don't read all your articles. Another nice on by the way.

39. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

Michael is one of the most unbiased tech writers I have yet encountered.

40. downphoenix

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jun 19, 2010

He may be an apple fan, but not an apple fanboy. Different things. A fan just means preferring or favoring whatever you're a fan of. A fanboy is someone who is immature and unreasonable with their fandom.

41. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Certainly not an Apple fan, but I do understand why people like Apple products (mostly because I'm the only tech nerd in my family, which means my mom, both sisters, and my wife all have iPads...)

44. squallz506

Posts: 1075; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

Michael what are you doing writing for pa? go write for an established tech site like slashgear or endgadget. Youre too good for pa.

56. SonyXperiaNexus

Posts: 374; Member since: Oct 01, 2012

No way. dont listen to him micheal. stay here and make phonearena develop or write for multiple sites if you can. btw is it just me or is pa comment section the best. i like the community.(even the trolls and haters) they add colour to the site( mostly red .lol)

31. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Exactly. Those same ppl screaming fragmentation must never upgrade their PC's or buy a new PC.

33. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

'Cause they are still in shock from their experience with Vista....

4. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered

"If Google suddenly clamped down on Android, it would fundamentally change the platform from what it is into something we may not want" Exactly Michael, but the question is, Can Google give us an ecosystem that is as open as its always been yet controlled enough to where we have stability and fluidity like we find on IOS? Can the two come together in what we know as..... "Nexus"?


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Smartphones ought to be made just like those purposed Nexus 5.0 phones will be unlocked. Google should also set up small kiosks or booths in shooping malls , so people can put their hands on the phones and try them out, or partner with say, Best-Buy , who already offers some good deals.Nearly all carriers are getting the iPhone now, and you don't mess with it's purity. Who do you insist on messing with, Googles phone ? All Googles phones ought to be pure IMO, not just Nexu phones. With this new stategy Googles implementing, i hope Google cleans the carriers!

25. The_Innovation

Posts: 648; Member since: Jul 18, 2012

You know, you're not living up to your name with such serious comments.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

the "TROLL" Android .......! TOAO

5. jan25

Posts: 470; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

from the current leaks so far, the possibility of having multiple Nexus devices is diminishing.

7. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

Google shouldn't clamp down, but they should give some strict guidelines for support of the upcoming OS, so a manufacturer knows what is the minimum requirements to support upgradeability and also when they include their own UI they take full responsibility for updates using their UI, but Google releases should be able to run the instant Google releases them to OEM's. Which is why I love the Nexus initiative, but Google's dev guys should be fine tuning their OS to the point that it will run on the minimum of RAM and Processor clock cycles required to support entry level devices. It's obvious if the OS can run on low end devices that means the high end devices will run problem free and will have a bit longer life in the hands of a user who loves his phone and always wants to remain in the update loop. Google is definitely a very smart company, their programming prowess is impeccable and each and every version of Android that comes forth shows that these guys are always thinking pretty far forward, Google Now is incredible but the funny thing is even without Google Now the voice search on 2.3 Devices is still extremely fast and concise. S voice needs to die, lol. Sorry!

8. eman99

Posts: 409; Member since: Aug 03, 2010

if they would let out one a year and expandable memory slots then nexus would dominate

10. Ravail

Posts: 182; Member since: Oct 14, 2011

I have a Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, and with ole Sammy being really slow on updates.. it forced me to turn to CM9 and other roms throughout the XDA community.. and i'm glad i did.. As of this morning i got a copy of Android 4.1.2 Nightly :) glad i did to.. way better than stock firmware..

12. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

Wow, already? That was fast! What developer? CM?

64. Ravail

Posts: 182; Member since: Oct 14, 2011

yeah, CM10

11. maxican16

Posts: 364; Member since: Sep 29, 2011

Michael, you keep mentioning an HTC Nexus device. I haven't heard of one in the works. Do you have a source? Although I'm not sure users will see faster updates to non-Nexus devices, I like your positive outlook. If only the carriers would get out of the way... they are a big part of the bottle-neck.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Very nice article once again Micheal.H. it won't have much direct effect, but having 5 Nexus phones will mean that more people will find a Nexus phone that suits them-and that will mean more phones out there, that fully support the Android open source APIs and dont use proprietary APIs. All OEMs do various things to differentiate their product from the others, but Htc and Samsung seem to do the best, ensuring they don't break compatibility.

18. hobble

Posts: 130; Member since: Oct 11, 2011

Another article on android fragmentation? Pffft. The "ripple effects" of the nexus program will be less different android phones being produced as consumers will likely be drawn to the nexus brand if ALL manufacturers create a version. And probably more manufacturers producing phones of a different OS to make up for lost revenue from flooding different versions of the same phone out on the market.

28. cncrim

Posts: 1573; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

I like that, that's great stradegy...... can they execute it?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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