Rumors of the demise of Google’s Nexus line of “pure Android” devices have been greatly exaggerated. When Google launches the official release of the new version Android L later this year, expect a new Nexus device as well.
True, Google is changing the way it rolls out high-end Android smartphones. It’s working on a new program called Android Silver, in which Google would pay top manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Motorola and Sony to build Android smartphones to its particular specifications; cellular carriers like AT&T and Verizon would then sell them in retail stores. Android Silver will likely debut next year.
But speculation around Android Silver has led to some reports that Google will scrap its popular Nexus line of Android smartphones and tablets and replace them with Silver devices. Turns out that those reports are basically wrong. The Nexus program will continue and Android users can expect to see a new Nexus device when Google releases Android L later this year.
Every time Google releases a new named and numbered version of Android, it also announces a new Nexus device, built by one of Google’s top manufacturing partners like LG or Samsung. Dave Burke, the head of Android engineering and the Nexus program at Google, says that the company plans to keep doing just that.
“People just get excited by concepts and forget why we do things,” Burke told me in an interview. “We are still invested in Nexus.”
Burke would not discuss Silver. “Android Silver is not something that we are commenting on right now,” he said. But the prospect of Silver doesn’t mean that Nexus is going away.
“People have been commenting about Nexus because there is something else and they think that means the end of Nexus. That is the totally wrong conclusion to make,” Burke said.
When Google’s engineers write the open source code for new versions of Android, another team is also designing a Nexus device designed to take best advantage of Android’s new features. The two development processes go hand-in-hand, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
As Burke elaborated to me:
When we are working, there are sort of two outputs. We’re building a Nexus device and we’re building the open source code. There is no way you can build the open source code without the phone or tablet or whatever you are building. You have to live and breathe the code you are developing.
You can’t build a platform in the abstract, you have to build a device (or devices). So, I don’t think can can or will ever go away. And then, I think Nexus is also interesting in that it is a way of us explaining how we think Android should run. It is a statement, almost a statement of purity in some respects. I don’t see why we would ever turn away from that, it wouldn’t make sense.