On 1st February 2016, a report by Ars Technica using The Information as a source has stated that Google would like to have greater control over the building process on future phones in its flagship Nexus line, describing this dynamic as “Apple-like.” While it’s easy to speculate on what precisely Google would do differently with its devices, we simply don’t have sufficient information to go with. Instead, I think we should look at this within the context of the approach itself. Is Apple-style control over the device manufacturing process ultimately a good thing for smartphones released by Google?
What Does Apple-Like Control Imply?
In a company like Apple, the vast majority of its hardware is designed specifically to work fluidly with the software (Mac OS for PCs; iOS for mobile). To achieve this, the company needs to control the entire design, development, and manufacturing process in such a way that allows it to predictably develop a device that’s “perfect” for the software that will run on it.
Very few companies choose this model and instead go on a similar route with Apple’s main rival, Microsoft. They develop the operating system and allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to design their hardware around its limitations. Microsoft makes money by selling Windows. Apple makes money by selling the whole package.
What Google plans to do compromises on both approaches, executing total control over the design of Nexus phones while still allowing OEMs (like HTC and Motorola) to create their own Android phones that compete with it.
Until it made the announcement on 1st February, Google has been allowing the OEMs it partners with for Nexus phones to control the entire manufacturing process and a part of the development. The next OEM from that point onward that decides to shake hands with Google will have to resign all of these rights.
On The Plus Side …
By having top-down control over the entire development and manufacturing process of Nexus phones, Google will be able to “lead the way” with its own phones, creating a standard that other manufacturers can follow. Apple has a very strong grasp of the high-end phone market, and Google wants a piece of that pie. By taking its new approach, Google will effectively elbow its way in.
Advantages to consumers will include higher fluidity in interactions between the Android operating system and its phone, since both the hardware and software are tied together. Having this will let customers that purchase Nexus phones take part in the “flagship experience” that iPhone users enjoy.
On The Other Hand…
Monopolizing the way that the Nexus is ultimately released puts strain on Google as a company. This may not be such an issue, considering that the company has a net worth larger than several countries. However, the decision might bite back the moment Google’s innovation begins to slip.
The reason the Nexus was unique is because it had the characteristics of each OEM that entered a manufacturing partnership with Google. The company now risks losing that uniqueness and instead could encounter the same problems that the iPhone family has (namely, the common perception that each new generation of iPhone has little more to offer than the last one).
What do you think? Has Google made the right choice or is the Nexus going to suffer because of this? Tell us in a comment!