In 2009, Motorola and Google teamed up to create the original DROID. This was the device that, for all intents and purposes, started the Android push into the mainstream here in the United States. Despite the fact that Verizon was also launching their own version of the HTC Hero, called the DROID Eris, all of the attention was put on the original DROID. The slide-out keyboard, its metal construction, and the stock version of Android 2.0 it was running out of the gate all made for noteworthy talking points. But, all good things must come to an end.
After the release of the original DROID, and despite the fact that the phone was a success, the stock Android experience all but disappeared on the Big Red network. We watched as Motorola, Samsung, HTC, and LG all started releasing their own Android-based devices, but with their own proprietary skins firmly in place. For anyone looking for a stock Android experience, without having to root their device, on Verizon’s network, the wait would be long.
The Galaxy Nexus launched on Verizon’s network, with plenty of backlash to go along with it, at the end of 2011. Between that launch and the release of the original DROID, there were so many different Android devices released it would be hard to keep track of them all. All of those other devices were skinned. Indeed, we don’t have to keep our eyes focused on Verizon to see this same result.
T-Mobile USA, Sprint and AT&T were all busy launching their own Android handsets, too, all of which had their proprietary skins. TouchWiz and Sense became all the rage for a time, as it made their branded devices stand out against the competition. You can tell a Samsung device from an HTC device, just looking at the out-of-the-box software. That is a major strength for these companies, and it is one reason why they are all so adamant about keeping those proprietary skins on their devices.
Which is why the Nexus line has become so important to Google, as it is the last line of defense for the stock Android experience.
I don’t have a personal issue with proprietary skins. I know why the manufacturers want them, and even if they do have their issues, they work well enough. I do believe Android has come a long way, though, and that custom user interfaces like TouchWiz and Sense aren’t necessarily all that needed anymore. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean really is amazing, and I’d much prefer to experience that in a stock experience.
The Nexus line began with the Nexus One, made by HTC. It’s still one of the best devices ever released, which is one reason why our very own Taylor Martin wants a part two. (I wouldn’t mind seeing HTC create another Nexus device, either, in fact.) After the Nexus One launched, we saw Google release a Nexus S, then the aforementioned Galaxy Nexus, both made by Samsung. Most recently the Nexus 4. We’ve seen plenty of Nexus handsets released, and they’ve seen their fair share of popularity and success.
The only problem with the Nexus line, though, is that these devices are geared primarily for developers. While the Nexus phones can certainly be used for personal use, and I know plenty of every day consumers who have a Nexus phone as their main device, Google’s aim has always primarily been for the developers of the world.
That may be changing this year. And, sure enough, Motorola may have something to do with making the stock version of Android popular again. Yesterday I saw Droid-Life run a report regarding some “wild rumors” focused on Motorola’s “X Phone.” This is the new device that Motorola is reportedly working on, that many believed would be the next Nexus handset. According to that report, though, this new phone won’t technically be a Nexus handset at all, though the similarities are more than obvious.
These are the rumors:
(The report from Droid-Life was citing a forum post that has since been pulled. So, take that for what it's worth.)
It’s safe to assume that we’re looking at a bunch of rumors put together to make one pretty picture. In that same line of thinking, it might even be safe to assume that these are all just too good to be true. That is certainly a possibility. There’s a measure of pessimism we have to use here in the US when anything deals with the wireless carriers.
On the other hand, all of these steps seem to be a natural evolution of what Google has been doing with their Nexus line, and especially with the latest release of products within the Google Play store. A whole new line of Nexus-based devices, all for relatively cheap. Especially when you look at the Nexus 4 by LG, the price off-contract is too good to pass up, which is one reason why it seems LG can’t keep up with demand, and the phone has been sold out more often than available.
I’m not sure why Verizon would price their on-contract X Phone at $299, as the carrier has generally moved away from that price point, but then again we don’t really know the specifications of the phone.
I can’t say that, right at this moment, I believe the majority of those individual rumors, but I will say that I believe Motorola’s X Phone is Google’s answer to bringing their stock version of Android into the mainstream consumer’s hands, even more so than we saw with the Galaxy Nexus. Does that mean that the Nexus line is dead, and the new X Phone is the device to take its place? Not at all. But if the X Phone is indeed meant for the general consumer, then the Nexus line can keep moving forward for developers. Nothing would really change in that regard.
Are these rumors true? Who knows? We’ve got quite a bit of time before May, so even if they are true right now, they could definitely change into something completely different before Google announces anything. Can I see Motorola being put in charge of making stock Android popular again? Absolutely. It will just come down to being able to match demand, especially if the X Phone is being launched on all carriers. Hopefully Motorola can keep up.
What do you think of these new X Phone rumors? Do you think any of them are true? Are you hoping that they are all true? Is it really too good to be true? Let me know what you think.