Until now, Google has chosen one manufacturer to collaborate with and create a spec phone for new versions of Android. In 2010, HTC and Google created the first of these smartphones, the Nexus One. For the next two years Samsung was the chosen manufacturer, creating the Nexus S and the new Galaxy Nexus. These phones were often then only devices with the newest version of Android for months before other manufacturers got around to releasing their modified versions of the updates.
Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google will be working with multiple manufacturers to create Nexus-branded devices. The Journal cites a "person familiar with the matter" as saying Google will "work with as many as five manufacturers at a time to create a portfolio" of Nexus-branded smartphones and tablets. Also, Google will sell the devices through its website and, possibly, through retailers. The first Nexus phone, the Nexus One, was sold through Google's website, but, despite high expectations, sales were poor. Google quickly abandoned the web-sales model and embraced retailers.
The reasons for this new approach to Android are clear from Google's end. Though Android is open-sourced to give manufacturers room to modify the operating system for their needs, the clean installs of Android that come on Nexus devices are generally regarded as a better user experience. The changes that manufacturers make are, more often than not, implemented to limit the Android OS in some way, or simply to differentiate the aesthetic look of a manufacturer's phones. By creating Nexus devices with every manufacturer, Google will be giving more consumers the choice of a pure Android experience. By allowing more customers to see pure Android in action, manufacturers will have a harder time convincing them that their crippled, out-of-date versions of the OS are acceptable. It will also encourage smartphone makers to update their non-Nexus phones in a more timely manner.
Given the rumors that Samsung may be creating its own smartphone operating system, it's certain that Google wants to keep control of the Android ecosystem it created. To do that, it will have to foster competition between Android device makers, and giving all major manufactures early access to Android updates is a great way to do that. Allowing Samsung to run away with the market and re-brand itself and the only "real" competitor to Apple could mean the death of the real Android.
To begin this process, Google is already selling the latest Nexus smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, in the Google Play store. The phone is sold unlocked and is available for $400.
(via The Wall Street Journal)