The Verge reported on Google’s Nexus phones being just ads.
It almost seems innocuous, except that it’s not. There isn’t a single Android device manufacturer that is happy with the Nexus program, and I’ve spoken with them all. Those who build Nexuses for Google often do so reluctantly — with the possible exception of Huawei this year, whose US reputation stands to improve dramatically from the halo effect of being associated with Google by manufacturing the Nexus 6P. Still, neither Huawei nor LG, maker of the Nexus 5X, expects to make much direct profit from these new phones: they are priced aggressively and distributed narrowly, so there’ll be little (if any) profit per device and few devices sold overall. Like Google, all a Nexus manufacturer can hope to gain is the benefit of indirect marketing and a better reputation among Android diehards.
In previous years, I’d have said the Nexus devices were necessary, vital even, in steering Android in a better direction and fighting the fragmentation of ugly, dysfunctional, and inchoate manufacturer software slapped on top. In 2015, however, Android phone makers have grown more conscientious and restrained. Their software and industrial design are more elegant than ever, and their pricing is as aggressive as it can be.
There is no Android villain left for the Nexus crusader to slay. The premium Nexus 6P and the value-for-money Nexus 5X are just diving into a crowded field without any mission for improving it — in fact, they’re going to make everyone worse off by hastening the price erosion that is the bane of every Android device manufacturer’s existence. This situation might look just dandy for us, the consumers, today, but I don’t think we’ll be happy if it leads to the extinction of companies like HTC or the exit from smartphone making by the likes of Sony.
The Android ecosystem still needs Google to take the lead. The race to the bottom is borne from the way the ecosystem works and Google not making Nexus devices will not stop the dwindling profits for Android devices.