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Google Designing 'X Phone' to Rival Apple, Samsung (wsj.com)
83 points by Pr0 on Dec 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments



It is shockingly simple to get at least near the level of Apple products: don't let your vendors ship crapware on the device.

When you play with a Nexus device with vanilla Android and no crap apps installed by default, it's great. It's very comparable to an iPhone experience. If Google installed more of their 1st party apps by default, it would be even better.

Yet most devices shipped by Verizon have 7-10+ apps that are absolute garbage and distract from the experience.

It's entirely analogous to laptops. Windows isn't terrible. Windows combined with the 20 apps that Dell shipped by default is terrible.

Don't let the middlemen (Dell/HP for Microsoft, Verizon/AT&T for Google) define your user experience.


Don't let the middlemen (Dell/HP for Microsoft, Verizon/AT&T for Google) define your user experience.

This is not, as you think, simple. There are no margins in commoditized devices. If they all trend toward being identical and low cost, all partners will find the most exceedingly clever ways to differentiate from each other or boost margins. Software is a prime target.

You also speak of "letting" vendors ship crapware. Let? This is an open platform. Google only has control if vendors desire the Google goodies that cost a little bit of money. Also, how much leverage do they have exactly against a carrier like Verizon, which is their primary sales channel? Not as much as you would think. As this article points out, forking Android (especially to Samsung) is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to playing ball with Google, and the consequences would be pretty disastrous if they were to do that.

This hedge of doing their own hardware represents yet another challenge with your shockingly simple solution: that supply chain management in this market is really difficult, especially if you have some killer ideas in mind for new kinds of hardware (i.e., using materials other than plastic, new experimental displays, sensors, etc.) How quickly did Nexus 4's sell out? It's very possible that demand was strong, but the double-glass enclosure probably proved to be more of a headache than originally conceived to manufacture.

So it's not simple. This market is difficult, fraught with trust issues and risks in doing it all yourself.


> This is not, as you think, simple. There are no margins in commoditized devices. If they all trend toward being identical and low cost, all partners will find the most exceedingly clever ways to differentiate from each other or boost margins. Software is a prime target.

Except a high quality Android phone is not a commodity. It's a premium product that no one (outside the Nexus line and the OG Droid) has created. If there's a segment of the market interested in such a product (which is what everyone believes), then they will be willing to pay a premium for it.

> As this article points out, forking Android (especially to Samsung) is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to playing ball with Google, and the consequences would be pretty disastrous if they were to do that.

Forking is not an issue because that would remove access to the Play Store, without which a smartphone simply would not be competitive. Look at the Kindle Fire - it had the advantage of being a tablet (where Android apps are still being developed), coming out quite a while back (again, app situation more favorable than now), having an existing content ecosystem (which Samsung doesn't), and being their first foray into the hardware/Android market (not the case for Samsung).

At this point, Samsung really doesn't have any choice but to stick to just skinning Android if it wants to keep selling phones.


Carriers are the ones that sell directly to consumers though. They're optimizing for the showroom experience. They want to walk you around their showroom and have a variety of devices to choose from. If they can convince you that you have a lot of options, they've won.

They also want to maintain control, and so playing manufacturers off of each other helps with that.


You really think that the OEM-installed apps on a Windows machine make it terrible, and the OS contributes nothing?

It's hard to control the user experience when you don't control the hardware. Apple's been saying that for years, in deeds if not in so many words. Maybe Google, Microsoft, et. al have felt that licensing is a better business model than selling, and who am I to say otherwise?

I do agree with you that one shouldn't let the middlemen dictate the user experience. But I think the problem Android has is that they get stuck on some crappy phone hardware, on phones where you aren't using (or can't use?) the latest OS (forgive me, I'm not a regular Android user); don't you think that's much worse than being stuck with OEM pre-installed apps, even if they are crapware?


You really think that the OEM-installed apps on a Windows machine make it terrible, and the OS contributes nothing?

I have a friend that really loves Sony laptop hardware. Every time he buys one, though, he has to spend a day cleaning off the bloatware. It literally goes from a sluggish Windows filled with crap to reasonable OS.

As for the "controlling the hardware" comment, I completely agree. How many Windows laptops have I had that had terrible close-the-lid-and-sleep behavior? Every single one of them. A colleague had a laptop overheat and almost catch fire because he closed the lid, and after assuming it slept, putting it in his laptop bag. A couple of hours later he removed it only to find the thing was too hot to touch. This kind of thing is much rarer on Macs because Apple owns the whole stack and can make sure everything plays well together.


> I have a friend that really loves Sony laptop hardware. Every time he buys one, though, he has to spend a day cleaning off the bloatware. It literally goes from a sluggish Windows filled with crap to reasonable OS.

been there, I had to clean up a friend's laptop, it was a new one straight from the store and it barely worked until I removed all the sony crapware. and it was one of the expensive ones at the time (17'' or sth).

I got a personal motto, not to buy equipment which name starts with an S and ends with a Y. Sony is a perfect proof of the rule that hardware companies shouldn't write their software.


Isnt't Apple a hardware company that writes its own software ?


Not really, most apple hardware is actually made by someone else then brought inhouse.


Apple is as much, if not more, of a software company than Sony.


<trololol>apple maps</trololol>. but seriously, apple always has been a software company. sony is a typical electronics producer and all their approaches to writing software are just a symptom of NIH syndrome.


>I have a friend that really loves Sony laptop hardware. Every time he buys one, though, he has to spend a day cleaning off the bloatware. It literally goes from a sluggish Windows filled with crap to reasonable OS.

OT, but don't bother doing that. Just re-install Windows from scratch and download only the drivers you need from Sony.


I heard an interesting opinion today. Someone bought a nexus 4, then exchanged it for a note 2. They said that the stock Android was "too similar" to the iPhone, and that the Samsung interface was the innovative one.

Having enjoyed stock android for a while now, I thought this was bizarre but perhaps a bit true.


It saddens me a bit how many consumers think this way. They like the stupid pond-drop lock screen too which is good for nothing but killing battery.


I still feel the dominant position of the iPhone is an understanding of marketing as much as anything else. People aren't necessarily buying iPhones because they are better, but because they want an iPhone. That is a huge distinction that carries a ton of weight.

I understand the belief that if you make a significantly better option, it will sell well. I question the validity of this belief. As well as the ability of anyone to do so.


People always bring up this "marketing" canard. Apple has been doing the same kind of (pretty good) marketing for almost its entire existence, even during its darkest days when its marketshare was small and shrinking. Marketing didn't compel people to buy Macs in the mid 90s, and it's not compelling people to buy iPhones now.

It's actually quite simple, and any student of the tech industry should be able to follow along. When the iPhone was initially released, it was unambiguously, head and shoulders above any other smartphone. Just way better. And in contrast to Apple tradition, they priced the iPhone at a level that made it impossible for new entrants to compete on price in a meaningful way, due to the nature of carrier subsidies.

So people flocked to it, even people who wouldn't buy a Mac in a million years. The software and hardware of the iPhone had great integration and typical, good Apple build quality. So in other words, a great head start on a very hot industry segment. Then they started a robust developer ecosystem, and a lot of small developers made an unexpectedly large amount of money selling cheap apps that iPhone users snapped up because they were cheap, and the economy of scale made it work, and made Apple an unexpectedly huge amount of money from its app store take. Suddenly, just like Microsoft before them, Apple was in control of a bonanza platform.

Quality product + good price + industry head start + robust and lucrative developer platform = dominant market position.

And like Microsoft before them, Apple has let the power go to its head. And of course Apple has a long history of control-freakiness and closed platform tendencies anyway. But just as decades of Windows being just unimaginably shitty didn't knock Microsoft off its PC perch, even as alternatives to the iPhone flourish, Apple keeps a strong lead because of natural inertial and platform lock-in forces. In my opinion, Apple's doing a good job of shooting themselves in the foot at every opportunity, but just like hapless Microsoft, it will take years for them to successfully piss away their lead.


>And in contrast to Apple tradition, they priced the iPhone at a level that made it impossible for new entrants to compete on price in a meaningful way, due to the nature of carrier subsidies.

Then why did they reduce the price by $200 after a few months on the market?


To keep it that way?

Once they've verified that they can actually produce it a low price and at scale, and after having been paid by a significant chunk of the population that had paid the higher price, they made a move that made their product viable to a much larger population, and made it harder for others to compete. That's completely in line with the GPs claims.


While I don't disagree with the "Quality product + good price + industry head start + robust and lucrative developer platform = dominant market position" line, I do think you should add "amazing marketing" to it.

If Apple's marketing were not key to its business why would they have spent over $1 billion on iPhone and iPad marketing since launching the devices (Google it)? Have you spoken with a teenager lately? Every single one of my younger siblings (1 in middle school, 2 in highschool) have an iPhone. They have an iPhone because their friends all have iPhones, because it's cool to have iPhones. They don't care about anything else.

So again, while your points are solid, discounting marketing all-together is very silly.


>If Apple's marketing were not key to its business why would they have spent over $1 billion on iPhone and iPad marketing since launching the devices (Google it)?

HP and Microsoft outspend Apple in Advertising every year. They should be doing much better than Apple if that is really the "key".


http://fortunebrainstormtech.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/375...

Apple's marketing budget relative to its size is quite tiny.


If Apple's marketing were not key to its business why would they have spent over $1 billion on iPhone and iPad marketing since launching the devices (Google it)?

Is this remarkable to you because it seems like a big number? Or is it because this is actually a lot less than what their competitors spend? Samsung alone spent a lot more than Apple did last year on marketing and advertising. What do you think of that?


It's not so much that Apple understands marketing (they use the same ad agencies as anyone else), but they understand the market.

I think a really good example of this phenomenon is the whole screen size debate. The tech press just could not understand why Apple was so hesitant to join in the screen size war and go from 3.5" to 4.0" to 4.3" to 4.7" phones. The tech press is, of course, almost entirely male. Meanwhile, more than half of the potential customer base for these phones is female, and disproportionately young females at that. Females have substantially smaller hands than males. My wife, who has no exposure to the tech press debate over screen size, lamented to me that her new iPhone 5 was great except she didn't like how the screen was bigger and harder for her to use one handed.

Apple gets it. Apple understands that teenager girls are a bigger market than male geeks and designs its products accordingly. If you think, instead, that Apple's dominance is the result of Apple being better at targeting advertisements to teenage girls, then you've completely lost sight of the ball.


Precisely, Apple understands that the women demographic is more important than the male. An observation I've noted is that of the women that love iPhones all love them due to the size and "feel" in their hands. A very visceral and physical response to a device if you ask me. They may hate the rest of the phone/company/etc, and hate here is over-exagerrating, but being able to hold your phone in one hand to use is important to many people.

Having to explain this as a guy with small hands to really big guys is annoying. But I have noticed that larger people (physically) don't mind the larger/wider phones. But their hands are actually bigger. I can't use a phone much wider than the iPhone. Once I get to the point that I have to shift the phone in my hand I feel like I'm holding a mini tablet.

I know everyone raves about the bigger devices but I can't use them for more than a few minutes. They're too wide for me, no matter how much I may want to use android I have to side with the women on this one. 3.5" width is the sweet spot for the other 50% of the population. As guys the sooner we realize that our physical characteristics influence what we buy we'll be better off.

For the record my glove size is 7.5, big for womens hands, tiny for guys.


They do have an excellent grasp of their market, but their largest demographic for iPhones are males over 25, not female teenagers. Even so, I'm sure they did plenty of UX research with a large diversity of users in order to come up with the ideal screen size and repeated this with the iPhone 5.


Counterpoint: my GF really liked her Note 2 while she had it (her S3 was stolen, but eventually recovered and the Note 2 got sent back). But I couldn't have used the Note 2, because it wouldn't fit in my pocket. Her? She put it in her bag!


Apple has a very high customer satisfaction rate. You don't get there with just clever ads.


And marketing is more than just advertising.


Samsung spends way more in advertising than Apple

http://www.asymco.com/2012/12/05/the-mystery-of-samsung-elec...


Very true, but isn't Samsung more spread out than Apple? I'd like to see it broken down by product segment. (Even then Samsung has a number of phones, many that are positioned other than as iPhone competition)


I have both an iPhone 5 and an S3. As I've written about in other threads, the app ecosystem is what keeps me on the iPhone (I have one main line, a second for testing; either phone could be flipped into either role if I wanted), even though I think the S3 has superior hardware and OS.


Maybe so , but its a very good product and there's nothing to rival it so you'll get both camps of people's.


I'm really glad this is happening. Hardware companies have long been stingy and focused on the bottom line. One of the things that annoys me to no end about most PCs is that they have "Intel Inside" and "Designed for Windows" stickers. Hardware companies get maybe $20 from putting these stickers on the computers, and another $20 to put crapware on the computers they ship. $40 profit on a (say) $700 computer. As a consumer, I absolutely despise this. If I'm spending $700, I don't want to have to use rubbing alcohol to remove stickers. I don't want to have to spend several hours uninstalling trial versions of software I didn't want in the first place. I'll pay the $40 out of pocket, just give me a clean usable computer. It's really a shame that only one company has realized this.

I'm glad that Google has wised up and is taking a stand against the race to the bottom that has pervaded the hardware industry. With both major platforms having high quality hardware, the pressure will be on for the third-party manufacturers to up their game.


> $40 profit on a (say) $700 computer.

If you're willing to pay $740 instead of $700 then you might get that -- but most people aren't. It's not that only one company realizes it, it's that one particular company also charges you a lot more.


Who's making that $740 PC without crapware right now? I know I can buy a Mac and have a usable machine out of the box, but who is doing this in the Windows PC world?


You can buy any pc from store.microsoft.com or the physical microsoft store and that would come with no crap/bloatware


Story time:

Two years ago, I bought a Lenovo IdeaPad with the intention of running Linux. I bought it from the Microsoft Store website, because it was $200 cheaper than buying it from Lenovo (even with discount codes from dealnews.com)

So, as I was checking out, the store asks me if I would like to pay $80 more for "Microsoft Signature" setup. Given that I was going to run Linux, I was already upset at the implicit Windows tax, and declined without even checking what "Microsoft Signature" was. Especially since the whole thing was $650, so $80 is almost a 15% increase.

Three days later, I get the thing, and the box says "with Microsoft Signature". I first looked to see that they did not charge me for it. And then, just before calling to shout at them for installing crapware I didn't ask for, I checked what "Microsoft Signature" really means. Lo and behold, it means "Lack of manufacturer crapware".

Microsoft was offering to charge me $80 more so that I would only get Microsoft software out of the box.

(The Intel Inside and Win7 stickers were still there, however)


Neither are available in most countries.


Vizio makes bloatware free laptops: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np3N10Awd64


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/business/23dell.html?_r=0 suggests its more than just the 20 dollars per machine at stake


Let them first fix their supply chain; buy a ton of factories or whatever, because here (in the EU) Nexus 4 and 10 are still sold out (before xmas; how smart...). Many people I know now went for the SIII or iPad 10 inch instead of waiting any longer. That's incredibly lame.

Edit: in my country (Netherlands) they haven't even started selling the Nexus 10 in the first place, but I usually order that kind of stuff in Spain because they are apparently 'important enough' for second (behind the US) launches most of the time.


Hopefully. Android may be good enough for the vast majority of people, for myself it's just rage inducing.

You know, I was sort of jaded from Apple's stupid antics. When my dad asked me what phone his employer should buy for him I told him to get the Samsung Galaxy SII. It got great reviews and was widely praised, it also runs a somewhat recent version of Android. Now I'm visiting my parents for Christmas and helping my dad configure it.

Holy shit, what an unbelievable piece of crap! There aren't enough expletives to describe that train wreck. Running Android 4.0.4, no less. Wow. It's just awful, no better than those crappy feature phones from five years ago, making all the same idiotic mistakes. How anyone can deal with this crap is a mystery to me. (I now just feel bad for my dad who has to deal with it.)

Apple, I may hate your antics, but you do blow Samsung out of the water. Google still has to step it up. I thought they were on a level. They still are not. All they have going for them is price and diversity. (Not that anyone but me care. But holy shit, what a piece of crap. I'm really wondering what all the gushing reviewers were smoking. Also, what the hell is wrong with that awful display? Why is white so green?)


Could you back up your statement with some examples? I have friends with the SII and they are very happy with it.


Thousands of dialogs pop up all the time telling me stuff I'm not interested and that is not important or useful (e.g. explaining some gimmicky and useless gestures).

I was told that deleting crapware from Android phones would be easy, however, it seems to be very hard. Even then, there is no way to know which apps you can delete and which you cannot. I gave up on it. It seemed like too much of hassle.

The settings are a mess, unorganized, not explicit, confusingly vast, with very bad descriptions and many options on a same hierarchical level

That Play Store! Thousands of confirmation dialogs, updating apps is an ordeal. I gave up. I think I have to take another stab at it tomorrow.

Scrolling inertia is wrong. Ugh. That's real ugly.

Contacts crashed, showing a black screen for a good 20 seconds. When iOS apps crash you are back to the home screen immediately. (Apps crash. I have no problem with that. But they shouldn't crash like that.)

That inconsistent back button! You never know what it will do (since it's not consistent, there is no rhyme or reason). Sometimes it means back in the app hierarchy, sometimes it takes you back to the last screen you saw, independent of app hierarchy.

That damn menu button! It hides tons of crap, you never know what there will be. It's seemingly used by lazy UI designers to throw in everything they thought they needed and couldn't fit into the normal UI.

The translation to German of the interface is atrocious. Apple make their fair share of embarrassing mistakes, Samsung/Google puts it on a whole new level. Labels that don't fit and are cryptically abbreviated and so on.

Those may seem like small things, but those are things that tick me off. I have to note that I'm talking about my personal taste here. Others may be able to deal with it. I noticed that I can't. Even though I thought I would like it. I'm honestly shocked now. I thought Android would be pretty awesome by now. That's what everyone told me – and I believed it. At least for me personally that's sadly not true (but I still want to try one of those Nexus phones, Samsung, however, is dead to me now).


> Thousands of dialogs pop up all the time telling me stuff I'm not interested and that is not important or useful (e.g. explaining some gimmicky and useless gestures).

What exactly are you speaking of? Android will display some annoying tips about how to use the app menu and the home screens but after about one minute you are through that. Other than that the only thing that pops up for me are the "What's new" information after an app update. Anything else is is by design by the specific app you are using or by samsung.

> I was told that deleting crapware from Android phones would be easy, however, it seems to be very hard. Even then, there is no way to know which apps you can delete and which you cannot. I gave up on it. It seemed like too much of hassle.

Some apps are preinstalled in the system partition and without root you don't have the write permission to delete it. You know which one these are because when you are in the "apps" settings and click on the app you cannot "uninstall" it but only "disable" it. The result will be almost the same - it won't show up in the app chooser and it will certainly not run. Just take up a little space in the system partition. Why they did introduce that system - I don't know, but I honestly don't understand how you could "give up on it" just because the button says "disable" instead of "uninstall".

>The settings are a mess, unorganized, not explicit, confusingly vast, with very bad descriptions and many options on a same hierarchical level

Define unorganized. I mean, there are groups like "Wireless & Networks", "Interface", "Device", "Personal", "Accounts", "System". I would agree, it's messy but mostly I go through the settings once and then only occassionally. What exactly was so hard to find for you?

> That Play Store! Thousands of confirmation dialogs,

Installing and app is pressing install, then confirming the permissions and then closing the confirmation popup. That last step is rather unneccessary but not really that annoying.

> updating apps is an ordeal.

In the play store, go to settings, check "auto-update apps" and you can update all apps at once and only have to confirm when the permissions of one change. Today I installed cyanogenmod and it was the default. Maybe it's not for yours.

> I gave up.

Why? You still gave no specifics whatsoever what these "thousands of confirmation dialogs" is or what "ordeal" you have to go through to update your apps.

> Scrolling inertia is wrong. Ugh. That's real ugly.

Couldn't find something wrong with it other than the occassional odd behaviour but I think it's the touchscreen hardware. Can you describe what's wrong with it? I really don't understand it.

> Contacts crashed, showing a black screen for a good 20 seconds. When iOS apps crash you are back to the home screen immediately. (Apps crash. I have no problem with that. But they shouldn't crash like that.)

When apps crash on android you should get the typical feedback dialog pretty much instantly. When you have a black screen it probably hang in some strange way (strange because you get the "application not responding" screen after about 5 seconds normally). Maybe if you had exceptionally much i/o operations on the sd card at that time it was slowed down too much? (That is one of the actual problems)

> That inconsistent back button! You never know what it will do (since it's not consistent, there is no rhyme or reason). Sometimes it means back in the app hierarchy, sometimes it takes you back to the last screen you saw, independent of app hierarchy.

That's both pretty cool and pretty annoying depending on what you want to do and what it does. You know what it does when you try and remember it. When I start a first person shooter my "a" key suddenly doesn't type "a" in the chat, it moves me left. And in some other games it rotates me. That's not something that confuses me because it is so inconsistent that's just learning the convention of the application. But maybe I am "special" as I am comfortable with using fluxbox, kde, gnome3 or unity all the same.

> That damn menu button! It hides tons of crap, you never know what there will be. It's seemingly used by lazy UI designers to throw in everything they thought they needed and couldn't fit into the normal UI.

That describes pretty much my browser, chromium, at the moment. It has some buttons in the normal UI and then there is one menu button that hides all the other functionality. Actually that's most menu bars everywhere: You will never know what is hiding there - until you try it.

> The translation to German of the interface is atrocious. Apple make their fair share of embarrassing mistakes, Samsung/Google puts it on a whole new level. Labels that don't fit and are cryptically abbreviated and so on.

Reminds me of blueman: http://ompldr.org/vZ3M3MA/blueman.png ("Audio Sink", for the off chance that you didn't guess it).

The most prominent feature of your rant is the lack of any specific labels that "don't fit" or are "cryptically abbreviated".

> I have to note that I'm talking about my personal taste here.

Honestly, how long have you tried it? I would say at least a week of daily use to get used to the basic functionality.

And you should slow a bit down to condemn "android" when all you have used is one samsung-modified version. Because that's what your first sentence in the other post does.

As I said I installed cyanogenmod on a smartphone today and and I think I like it even better than the stock android on my nexus tablet. This is android too - stock android and a "fan-made" customization of android.


Huh. I have tons of apps with a greyed out uninstall buttons and no deactivate button! There are apps with a deactivate button, but they often have cryptic names and I don't know whether I can deactivate them or what they are for.


Hm... haven't seen that before. You are right - when you go to "All" instead of "Downloaded". These are the ones like com.android.sharedstoragebackup or "Fused Location". If the names are cryptic and you don't know what they do I think they are probably system relevant apps and better be left alone...


I wish more people would try out CM10. It's too easy to do, with little to no downside (I've been running GN 4.2 nightlies for weeks now provided by fitsnugly and never have had stability problems, plus, all of the features: adjustable Quick Settings is the latest).


Do you not understand that the S2 is a very old device?

I was an iphone user up until the latest generation of Android devices. Now I've got a Note 2 and could never go back to iOS.


Ranting without substance.... arrg


I was mostly talking about my own taste. I do not claim that you can generalize my impressions.


Good thing you have all those specifics in there. Or any. Or even a hint at what is such a "train wreck". My litmus test is when my got-super-rich-off-Apple-stock friend is saying that he's trying out 4.2 and is envious of it. And that's just from casual exposure to someone who has owned every iOS device made.


I bought a Nexus 7 as my first Android device a few weeks ago, primarily for reading. Overall, I've been pretty happy with it as a long-time iPhone and iPad user. I'll say this: It's surprising how bad Android's momentum-free scrolling feels. Apple patents strike again!


is that really true? We implemented momentum scrolling on the Sony-Erricson p800 ages ago. go figure...


I don't know, this is the second time I've heard this complaint in two days. I have inertial momentum scrolling in Android. It's been here forever and it works quite well... I think this is "it feels different than iOS so it sucks" mentality.


For specifics see my other comment.

Also, I do believe that those who like Android honestly do. I'm just saying that it's a mystery for me personally. That's all. For me the experience was rage inducing and I was shocked by that because I expected Android to be great.


As an owner of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I just have three words for Google: more battery life. Seriously, I love the phone but it sucks down the juice like there's no tomorrow. And that's with an extended capacity battery pack and App Killer set on Aggressive.


The battery life on the Note2 is phenomenal. Helps that it has a 3100mah battery.


Of course, they would be rivaling Apple/Samsung if they would just produce enough of the Nexus 4 and market it better. But that just seems TOO EASY I guess.


if they would just produce enough

But that's why this is so hard. Google and LG completely fucked up the Nexus 4. They so completely misjudged market demand for the N4 that they didn't have their supply chain in line to produce enough. That's why even now you can't get one. It takes a while to get all of the downstream suppliers in line and they're probably scrambling to do that now.

That's why this business is so hard. It's not that they just didn't produce enough - they didn't produce enough and they're not very good with contingency planning and supply chain management and so the Nexus 4 isn't an option for most consumers who would want one. Don't underestimate just how good Apple and Samsung are at this.


What's that Dilbert management quote? "I can't do it so it must be easy".


What does this mean for the future of the Nexus brand?


Did anyone say it could not be "Nexus X" ?


I for one hope they also let manufacturers create many more "Nexus" devices, if they are going to pursue this with Motorola anyway. They need to create a Nexus program with much stricter guidelines than the typical Android phone (no skins, no extra crapware, lag-free, and which gets at least two dot-oh upgrades - like 5.0 and 6.0), and also allow them to make $100 (unlocked) Nexus devices, too.

I wouldn't buy the cheap one for myself, but I could recommend them to people who just want a cheap smartphone. I'd much rather recommend them a clean Nexus device, than a skinned custom-software one, with an unpredictable user experience, that also doesn't get upgrades.

All of these Nexus devices also need to have all of their upgrades handled by Google alone - just like the Chromebooks. In fact, this Nexus program should be handled almost like the Chromebook program. Nobody gets to touch the Chrome OS but Google.

I think these devices would become increasingly more popular thanks to the word of mouth of the people who actually know what they are and recommending them to all their friends. This would clean up the Android ecosystem a bit by having exactly one user experience across Android devices, and having a major portion of the Android ecosystem be upgraded on time and for a longer period.

As for this X-devices strategy from Motorola, they could use it as "iPhone-killers" - as hero devices of their ecosystem, like Nexus has been until now. But they need to be devices of highest quality, and they shouldn't try to also compromise on price, like they did with Nexus 4. I'm not saying that Nexus 4 suffered from it, but to be honest that strategy started to worry me a little because Google might want to get to lower and lower price points in the future, and forget about making the very best devices in the market. And I think that would be a very bad idea. Google needs to excite "influencers" in the tech world, and they can't do that with sub-par cheaper devices.

But with the X strategy, they can deliver these hero "best in the market" devices, while the Nexus program would allow for a sub-group of the Android market, to have devices from $100-$600, from different manufacturers, but under very strict guidelines, and with Google handling all the upgrades. Basically the Nexus program should become what Android should've been if Google could restart Android today.

tl;dr - Nexus = Windows/ChromeOS strategy, with one UX and all upgrades from Google for at least 2 years. X-phone - iPhone strategy; Google's hero device for the year, the one that's made to excite the tech-insiders, and push the ecosystem further, and the one that always comes with the dot-oh versions, not dot-one (e.g. 5.0, not 5.1).


Why would any vendor agree to such an arrangement? If you're not allowed to differentiate on either hardware or software except in trivial ways, the product commoditizes immediately and there's no profit for the vendor.

The reason Apple can do this is that they make their own hardware, so there's nobody else who needs to get paid and no reason to try and "differentiate". The downside of the Apple strategy is that hardware businesses are extremely difficult and expensive.


For the same reason they entered the Nexus program - for the popularity in the Android community. And I guess Google could and should help them with marketing, the way Microsoft is promoting Windows 8. Google has never really promoted Android as a brand, and I think that was a huge mistake, not only because it means that in the mind of a regular consumer Android doesn't mean much, but also because it makes it that much easier for other manufacturers to step all over Android's regular interface - because the consumer doesn't know it anyway.

I'd argue that some manufacturers would be happy to make such devices if Google spent many millions in promoting them.


"no skins, no extra crapware, lag-free, and which gets at least two dot-oh upgrades - like 5.0 and 6.0"

Skins - probably agree

lag-free - certainly

mandatory upgrades - agreed

"crapware"... one man's crap, etc... but in some ways I wouldn't necessarily mind on these if they were just separate bundled apps that didn't interfere with vanilla operation. I've only ever owned a vanilla nexus, but have heard nothing but horror stories about pre-installed apps that could never be removed - eating up space and taking pride-of-place on the home screens.

I'm not against bundled apps, but but bundled apps that can't be deleted and which interfere with basic operation out of the box, yeah, I'm definitely against those.


A year ago I'd have supposed that Google would lend the branding to anyone who wanted to work with them to distribute good AOSP patches/overlays and images available to download. Now, though, they've tied it pretty well to "Google Play" in their commercials and branding such that I expect them to hold onto that branding for themselves.

I kinda think everyone is reading way too much into this "X" branding. It's a codename. I'd bet some spare change in my pocket that it will be a Nexus-branded device.


I assumed it would be called the Nexus X.


I was just sitting here thinking that I wouldn't upgrade my Galaxy Nexus with 4.2.1 until it breaks given how it literally handles everything I need it for, but if Motorola put out an unlocked AOSP device, I'd be all over it.

Though, I also remember how much I enjoy VZW coverage and how unlikely it is that Google is going to play ball with them anymore.

-

>For the X phone, an initiative being led by former Google product manager Lior Ron who specialized in mapping, Motorola wanted top-notch features for the phone's camera and photo software, such as better color saturation and the ability to take panoramic shots, two people familiar with the situation said. But some of the features were found to drain battery life or already have been incorporated into popular new devices, such as the iPhone 5 that launched earlier this year, they added.

....... uhm, what? Android beat iOS to panoramas and Photosphere was part of 4.2. I can't understand how "color saturation" drains the battery constantly. (Frankly the 4.2 stock camera kicks ass, especially combined with the new lock screen widgets. Very slick. One gesture, one tap to take a picture from a locked phone.)

I also don't understand the implication that this is Google hedging bets in case Samsung gets disappointed. Samsung is beginning to eat Apple's lunch in Android sales... why would they turn their back on Android?


Samsung's devices are tailored to their branded experience. The concern is that Samsung forks Android and makes it their own creature, in the same way that a Kindle Fire is tailored to the Amazon experience.


But that's so far out there, though. Samsung would have to build its own ecosystem, and we already know how hard that have proven for new entrants, even if they have billions of dollars to spend. Leaving the Play Store would be suicide for Samsung.


Samsung already has it's own "app store" called Samsung Apps.


Well good luck surviving only with that. I assume it's much smaller even than the Amazon store?


Unless Samsung is thinking of turning its back on android for any reason.


They're involved in efforts like https://www.tizen.org/about, but I don't really see this one lifting.


Which Tizen and Bada are designed to do. They're shipping alternatives today that can let them juke if it gets hairy, taking their investments with them.


That seems extremely unlikely in the short term given the revenue Samsung is bringing in from their Android sales.


>It is shockingly simple to get at least near the level of Apple products: don't let your vendors ship crapware on the device.

Well, you also need to get the actual hardware on par. Cheap plastic won't do. Get the machining and the materials right.

Oh, and let the users UPGRADE between versions of Android. What the duck is up with that?


> Cheap plastic won't do.

I have never doubted that my Android phones are tougher than iPhones. I drop my Galaxy Nexus constantly on concrete without issue. Every single one of my family members has broken an iPhone screen in the last year, year and a half.


It's the feel, not the toughness when people constantly drop them.

That said, the glass back panel on iPhone 4 was easy to break. The solid metal iPhone 5 not so much.


Working with your hardware partners to develop more choices for customers while also providing a premium experience that you have full control on... Interesting that Google is copying Microsoft's strategy that people feared might backfire for Microsoft.


This could easily start to kill Apple - or at least start taking big bites out of them.


Easily start to kill Apple? That's a pretty strong claim.


Did you read the article, and not just the title? The article talks about all the challenges that Motorola is dealing with to deliver such a phone. Moreover, the article discusses Samsung as more of the competitor to beat, to ensure that there's more than one big player in the Android space.


I realise you're probably just excited to think android might have something better than ios, but remember Apple are also hard at work. So you can't just compare a rumour against the current offering.




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