Google is set to alter the market strategy for the Android operating system according to a Wall Street Journal report, providing early access to the latest Android OS builds to more handset makers.
Traditionally Google has partnered with one handset manufacturer (and one type of SoC processor) for each generation of Google-branded 'Nexus' phone. The scheme is intended to provide a benchmark reference Android phone that grounds third-party versions and hopefully avoids extensive delays in upgrades and excessive mobile operator meddling with OS features.Arguably that hasn't worked out too well with massive delays in Android OS upgrades still plaguing many of the world's smartphones, even those sold as recently as last year. The Journal claims that Google is set to provide early code to many more manufacturers.
Google will now work with up to five handset makers, suggesting a raft of Nexus-branded phones rather than one 'hero' device. In addition the devices are going to be sold directly by Google, off contract. The initiative is also aimed at reviving the flagging fortunes of Android tablets which have so far failed to make much of an impact against the rampaging sales of Apple's iPad.
Google is gambling that there's a good deal of punters that will fork out hundreds extra to buy unlocked, off-contract devices. That seems a reasonable bet for tablets, since much of the market isn't convinced by cellular data-equipped tablets with their monthly charges. However it remains to be seen if it will make much of an impact in the smartphone market where most customers buy phones for very little up front in order at the expensive of being locked into contracts.
Even if most punters continue to buy phones from the carriers, Google's Nexus-branded phones have been fairly popular handsets sold by the carriers anyway. With more devices, more differentiation will be possible - raising the possibility of a Nexus-branded phone that might actually fit in the hand of the fairer sex, for example, or dare-we-say it, a Nexus phone with a battery good for more than a day?
Google is widely expected to launch at least one Nexus-branded Android tablet at the internet giant's Google IO conference in San Francisco at the end of June.
Rumours of Nexus tablets have been fairly thick on the ground with the most frequent one suggesting that a budget 7-inch Asus-made Android 4.0 tablet could cost as little as US$200 to $250. More recently another tablet has come to light based on notes in recent check-ins to the open source Android OS.
The Samsung tablet would be based on a new Exynos 5250 SoC with the latest A15 ARM CPUs and a faster Mali T-604 graphics part. These specifications hint at a high-performance Android tablet that might be seen as a more direct competitor to the iPad.
So perhaps Google IO will be the launch point for Google's multiple-Nexus strategy with a cheap 7-inch tablet made by Asus and a beefier, larger model made by Samsung? We'll have to see.
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