Google’s Nexus range of devices has largely proven to be a resounding success. The search engine giant has been able to show off Android in its vanilla form, untouched by the likes of Samsung.
In addition to providing a launch pad for the latest Android features and releases, Nexus devices have helped Google’s mobile operating system become the dominant force it is today, thanks to an aggressive pricing strategy.
A budget Nexus smartphone?
Although Nexus smartphones and tablets have been competitively priced, Google has been keen to ensure they hold their own in terms of performance.
In 2014 there could be a change in strategy, if rumours that have emerged from mtksj.com are to be believed. The website, which specialises in covering MediaTek, is reporting that Google is working on a budget Nexus smartphone with the Taiwanese chipset maker.
The budget Android smartphone would probably not receive a full global release, with emerging markets likely to be the main focus of attention. Such a strategy would make sense, as Google moves to protect itself from the potential threat posed by Windows Phone and Firefox OS.
Google knows that it is about to come under increased pressure in emerging markets. As Android Wafer reported back in February this year, Microsoft is set to take on Google with new white label Windows Phone devices, developed in partnership with Chinese companies.
In addition, development of Firefox OS continues apace, with Mozilla specifically targeting emerging markets with low cost smartphones.
So whilst development of a budget Android smartphone alongside MediaTek would be a logical move for Google, it is entirely possible that such a device will not make its way to North America at all and enjoy only very limited releases in Europe.
The more mature markets are not what is being targeted here. Such a product also has the potential to cause confusion in North America and Europe if the Nexus name is used, with the brand more typically associated with high-end devices.
Latest on the Nexus 6
LG has partnered with Google to develop the last two Nexus smartphones. Essentially, these have been slightly cut-down editions of LG’s yearly flagship phone, and in both cases have proven successful.
Android Wafer believes the partnership between Google and LG is likely to continue in 2014, as it suits both parties.
As LG battles to catch up with South Korean rival Samsung, it has developed some highly impressive technology. Whilst Google is able to showcase Android on high-end hardware, LG has the opportunity to introduce more consumers to its hardware.
And with another major release of Android due this year – hotly-tipped to be named Android 4.5 Lollipop – Google will want to show off its potential on a dedicated, up-to-date smartphone. Meanwhile, LG continue to prepare for the release of their 2014 flagship – the LG G3 – which is likely to be the basis of the Nexus 6.
No new Nexus 7?
Whilst there has been no shortage of rumours about a Nexus 6, speculation about a 2014 edition of the Nexus 7 has been relatively thin on the ground.
With a 1920 x 1200 IPS display, 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core Krait processor and 2 GB RAM, there is little that can touch the 2013 edition of the Nexus 7 when it comes to 7-inch tablets. Google may well feel that it has enough of a lead not to release another 7-inch tablet in 2014.
This year could see focus switch back to tablets with larger screen sizes, following LG’s somewhat surprise success with the 8.3-inch LG G Pad. And to that end, there has been strong rumours that Google is working with HTC to develop an 8.9-inch Nexus tablet, with the device expected to make its debut later this year.
However, Android Wafer is not prepared to completely rule out the possibility of another Nexus 7 being released in 2014, in addition to other larger screen Nexus tablets. Google’s development partner ASUS will be refreshing its hardware anyway, so continuing the arrangement would be a relatively straightforward affair.
The future of Nexus devices beyond 2014
Rumours continue to suggest that Google is planning to wind down the Nexus line, instead working with manufacturers to promote Android via Google Play Editions of popular devices. The idea is that we would see a Google Play Edition of the LG G5 complete with a vanilla Android build, for example, but no Nexus smartphone based on it.
It may well prove to be the case that 2015 is too early to completely phase out the Nexus brand, but it is entirely plausible this could be achieved over the next couple of years.
At its core, Google is not a hardware company, and its decision to off-load Motorola to Lenovo did not come as a surprise.
The only reason Google started putting its name to smartphones and tablets was to help increase the market share of its mobile OS. With Android now dominant, it could be argued that the need for new Nexus devices has diminished.
As Nexus products have been priced so agressively, Google has not been enjoying the fruits of high margins during its collaborations with various hardware partners. It is more likely that the Nexus project has been viewed as a long-term investment in market share, rather than a short-term opportunity to boost profitability.
All that said, Android Wafer would be sad to see the demise of Nexus products, with the devices having offered enthusiasts an opportunity to get their hands on the latest hardware and software developments, without having to take out a second mortgage.