The Android Silver project, which was rumored earlier this month, has today been corroborated by four fresh sources, all of whom point to a major shift in Google’s mobile strategy. The Information reports that the current scheme of offering Nexus-branded handsets with Google’s unadulterated vision of the best Android user experience will be scrapped, to be replaced by a set of high-end Silver phones that will closely adhere to it. The change is both expansive and expensive, as Google is said to be planning to spend heavily on promoting these devices in wireless carriers’ stores and through advertising, essentially subsidizing the development and marketing costs for its hardware partners.
In exchange for this new contribution, Google will gain tighter control over the software shipping on the selected phones. The promise is that the company will clean up third-party bloatware, ensure prompt and reliable software updates, and introduce a real standard and consistency to the user experience across Android Silver devices. LG and Motorola are identified as the likeliest candidates for taking part, with the first phones anticipated as soon as next year, while Samsung, HTC, and Sony might need a bit more convincing. Then again, all three of the latter companies have already offered Google Play Editions of their leading phones, which might be the closest analog we have at the moment for what an Android Silver device will look and act like.
Google’s appetite to reassert itself among premium smartphones has been evident in the first flagship Android phones released this year. Both the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S5 feature the words “Powered by Android” in their bootup animations, while in January Google was reported to have held talks with Samsung about reining in the Korean company’s customizations.
Now the Mountain View company is rumored to be spending as much as $1 billion to get phone makers to jump aboard its new initiative. Android Silver will reportedly target the United States and other developed markets first, with in-store Android kiosks designed by Google showcasing its software. The one missing piece from this puzzle is what Google will do with the mid-range market that the Nexus program is expected to vacate. Android Silver is gunning for the high end, so who will step up to fill the void left in the middle?