Why a 3-year HTC Nexus deal would be huge

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why a 3-year HTC Nexus deal would be huge
A new report has come out that claims HTC may have signed an exclusive deal to produce all Nexus phones for the next three years. It has yet to be confirmed, but it got me thinking because I have been a long-time fan of the Nexus program and the devices it produces. A deal like this would not only be unorthodox, but very important move for both Google and HTC alike.

History has proven that HTC can make solid devices. The HTC One lineup, although not terribly impressive in terms of sales, has been critically acclaimed in many ways year after year. Sure, HTC has made some missteps with cameras and designs that are a little bit too similar (as in almost identical) to Apple devices. And, HTC has also had a history of making solid Nexus devices with the Nexus One and Nexus 9. 

Out of the twelve mobile Nexus devices in the history of the program, I've owned all except the Nexus S, 2013 Nexus 7, and Nexus 5X. The HTC-made Nexus 9 is my current tablet, and in my time with all of the devices, the Nexus One is likely still my second favorite Nexus phone of all time (behind the Nexus 6P and just slightly ahead of the Nexus 5). I'll admit that could be due to the fact that it was the very first Android device I bought after growing bored with the iPhone 3G. It was my introduction to the Android world, which means it will always hold a special place for me, but it was also a damn good phone for its time. 

HTC and Google make a good pair, that's not really in question. But, HTC becoming the sole manufacturer for Nexus phones for three years would be a very big move. Assuming the early rumors are true, it would mean two devices this year, and there's no reason to believe the Nexus program would stray from the one-big, one-small lineup going forward. That would ultimately mean six Nexus phones by HTC over the next three years. This would be a big move for a few different reasons. 

Long-term is new

First of all, there has never been an officially known long-term Nexus deal before. In fact, no manufacturer has been a Nexus phone partner for more than two years in a row. Samsung got the closest to an unofficial long-term deal by being the only manufacturer to make Nexus devices three years in a row. Samsung was the first with back-to-back phone offerings with the Nexus S in 2010 and the Galaxy Nexus in 2011, completing its trifecta with the Nexus 10 tablet in 2012. LG was the only other manufacturer with back-to-back Nexus phones with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 in 2012 and 2013, respectively, then finished its trio with the Nexus 5X this year. Asus also had a back-to-back in the tablet space with the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7s. 

If this deal means six HTC Nexus phones over the next three years, that would put HTC at five total Nexus devices after this year alone, and at a total of eight by the end of the run. Even if we were to see a new tablet or two from a former Nexus partner, that would effectively make HTC the biggest name in the Nexus game. 

HTC's needs partners

This brings me to the second reason a move like this would be so huge: HTC itself. As I mentioned earlier, HTC has had a fall from grace. The company was once one of the major players in the mobile market and was legitimately considered to be a potential threat to Samsung's dominance. But after a couple years of bad management and too many devices, HTC has fallen hard. Over the past couple of years, there was serious conversation over whether HTC might go under or be bought out by another company. 

Google was rumored to be interested in buying HTC at one point, as was Facebook. The company seems to be on a bit more solid ground right now, but not by much. The HTC smartphone lineup still hasn't been too successful, but the HTC Vive virtual reality system has been getting a lot of buzz. Of course, that buzz might not prove much about HTC itself, because the Vive is really more the result of Valve development and HTC manufacturing. 

That alone could be kind of telling though. If HTC really has signed an exclusive deal to be the Nexus manufacturer, it shows faith by Google that the company is a worthy partner. From HTC's side of the table, a deal like this could be an admission that HTC can't go at it alone. The company may realize that without help it can't stand up to bigger players like Lenovo/Motorola, Xiaomi, and Huawei, let alone the top dogs of Samsung and Apple. 

HTC partnered with Google for the Nexus 9 in 2014 and now with Valve for the Vive this year, and both look to be wins for HTC. The Vive is getting solid early reviews; beating the Oculus Rift to market should be helpful; and Valve has the gaming pedigree to trust. The Nexus 9 wasn't a very popular tablet, but the interesting thing about the Nexus program is that when devices are done well (which the Nexus 9 hardware was), the praise goes to the manufacturing partner, but when a device disappoints (which the Nexus 9 did in sales), the blame tends to go to Google for its restricted release strategy.

The future of Nexus

That leads to the last reason why this potential deal could be important: what could it mean for the future of the Nexus program. If this is true, it would indicate Google really is sticking behind the Nexus program and may not be planning to build its own devices. But, it also could mean that Google understands how it has painted itself into a corner with Android and Nexus. 

On one hand, Google probably would like to make its own Android hardware. The company has proven it can make good hardware with the Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C, but going deeper into making its own Android phones is a dangerous proposition. Android manufacturing partners were troubled by Google owning Motorola because they didn't want a giant like Google as a competitor, not to mention Google would be able to more deeply integrate and optimize the hardware and software in ways other manufacturers couldn't. Ultimately, Google allegedly made a deal to keep Samsung happy which meant that Google sold Motorola and Samsung would lighten its oppressive Android UI skinning. 

On the other hand, manufacturers reportedly don't like being Nexus partners all that much. The Nexus program is a lot of work for very little payoff. Consider it from the manufacturer perspective: you work with Google developing a device which you build with Google's supervision, then the device gets an extremely limited release, not much marketing, and is often sold at a reduced price. That's a lot of work for not much profit. 

The best examples of Nexus partners have been those who aren't necessarily aiming for profit, but rather want the exposure that it brings. Samsung was too big for the Nexus program, even going so far as to take over the Samsung Galaxy Nexus branding with its own name and its Galaxy branding. However, LG, Asus, and Huawei have all gotten nice boosts by being associated with the Nexus brand. 


A three-year deal with HTC might actually give Google the best of all scenarios in the Nexus program. Google isn't doing the manufacturing, so other OEMs won't get annoyed, but its partner also isn't in position to demand too much. And, maybe best of all, it allows Google to have a long-term strategy for the Nexus program that it could never quite do before. At best, Google has been able to focus on one or two areas that it would want to refine, like adding the fingerprint scanner and improving the cameras in this year's Nexus phones. 

With three years to plan how each Nexus device will evolve and three years to work with the same manufacturing partner on seeing through that plan, Google can have a aim higher. Also, having that time to work with one partner could allow Google to add optimizations that it normally couldn't. Now, it's just a matter of seeing if having a small partner like HTC get this treatment is enough to anger other Android partners.



2. Mxyzptlk unregistered

They need OIS or a better DIS in their cameras because the Moto X spanks the Nexus 6P in the camera. It's not on the level of the iPhone of course, but it's still good the Moto X is. HTC needs to be watched closely so we don't get another Nexus 9 on our hands.

17. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

For video yes But for photos the 6P is second only to the S6 and G4/V10

25. IgorEfremenko

Posts: 109; Member since: Nov 30, 2011

Not to troll, just curious. What's wrong with Nexus 9?

30. joey_sfb

Posts: 6794; Member since: Mar 29, 2012

Using a Nvidia's Denver SOC. Good in theory. Still good overall, but not awesome like one would expect. http://www.anandtech.com/show/8701/the-google-nexus-9-review/4

31. CoryMeetsWorld

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

You are a idiot

43. jas0n

Posts: 54; Member since: Mar 01, 2016

AN. you are AN idiot.

3. NexusX

Posts: 613; Member since: May 16, 2013

nexus is still niche device. google is only selling them to promote their own services. there is not a lot of incentives for OEM to make phones for google because there isn't alot of money in it for them and they can't promote their own services (their version of android and bloatwares) that's why as soon and Samsung and HTC became big players in the industry, they stopped making nexus Partnering with Google is just HTC's last resort to stay relevant in the industry.

4. cGmC11

Posts: 152; Member since: Apr 02, 2012

Google...Take my money for the next 3 years !!!

5. Mrmark

Posts: 407; Member since: Jan 26, 2013

I am hyped about this also!

6. MartyK

Posts: 1043; Member since: Apr 11, 2012

Hopeful they will place the front facing speaker back.. This will help them a lot.

7. Odeira

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

HTC puts absolutely CRAPPY cameras on their devices - no, really, check it; even 1983 Nikons shoot clearer photos than most new HTC's! - this can't be good.

9. carlemillward unregistered

But Google is in charge of what camera is used and the uses stock camera software. Do you think Huawei chose the camcorder IMX377?

14. Odeira

Posts: 300; Member since: Jun 29, 2012

The OEM STILL has the final word. Huawei could've opted for an equally performing Samsung ISOCELL at their own volition, mind you. Same for HTC and everyone else...

18. vincelongman

Posts: 5745; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Rumors are Google's taking full control for the next Nexus phones BTW HTC's camera hardware is great, their camera software is what let's them down

33. CoryMeetsWorld

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

You are pathetically stupid.

37. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

In regards to Nexus devices, Google is the customer, the OEM they use is the supplier, so Google has final say on how the device ends up, it's just in the past they took a more off the shelf approach rather than opting for a completely custom device like they did with the 6p. Earlier devices were based off OEM models (Nexus S was based off the Galaxy S, Nexus 4 was based off the LG Optimus, etc.). The 6p is further away from any Huawei phone than any previous Nexus was from their OEM counterparts.

32. CoryMeetsWorld

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

Wow aren't you completely stupid and ignorant about HTC cameras. Typical loser troll.

38. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Someone is butthurt.

8. Ezio2710

Posts: 548; Member since: Aug 22, 2015

So , next 3 years the nexus price would be high

10. XDAdam

Posts: 276; Member since: Feb 03, 2016

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I dont like the sound of a 3-year exclusive contract. That means that the phones will probably all look similar year after year (unless Google instructs HTC to make dramatic changes every year). And lets face it, HTC has not had the best consistent track record. I would however, be completely fine with HTC making the lower end of the Nexus phones for the next 3 years while other companys get a chance to to make the secondary/more premium Nexus phones (I'm thinking Samsung, Sony and LG).

12. NexusX

Posts: 613; Member since: May 16, 2013

agreed, i don't understand why the author is so excited about this. is the article saying HTC makes better devices than LG and Huawei? if that is the case, why are they digging a deeper hole year after year?

19. sumpil

Posts: 91; Member since: Feb 02, 2016

Well HTC has sometimes proven to make better devices than LG and Huawei in terms of Build quality,Sound and Design. The only reason why HTC is not doing well because they don't have enough money to Market their products and in turn not many people know them around the world.

22. korean411

Posts: 92; Member since: May 04, 2009

Yup I agree . They don't have the money or spend spend the money ro have a marketing team to market their product. This move actually is the best decision HTC has made in the last 3-4 yrs. because Google can do all the marketing for them as well as making them a good phone.

23. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010


29. MySchizoBuddy

Posts: 159; Member since: Aug 23, 2011

HTC used to be a leader during the windows phone days every one knows this company.

36. CoryMeetsWorld

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

No. Everyone knows Apple and Samsung. Ask people on the street if they know HTC most will tell you now.

34. CoryMeetsWorld

Posts: 170; Member since: Oct 17, 2014

Having a similar looks is a good thing. Or are you to stupid to realise that?

40. Suo.Eno

Posts: 556; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

You're not alone. Posted my bit below.

11. Subie

Posts: 2415; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Great article Michael H!

13. Orion78

Posts: 212; Member since: Mar 27, 2014

Well HTC and Google better produce then. I'm due for an upgrade this year and hopefully with the phablet version it's 5.7or bigger. Or else I'm going the Lenovo/Moto route.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.