Earlier today, Sprint and Google made the Nexus S 4G an official device. The new handset isn’t all that different from the original Nexus S that launched late last year, but the differences between the handsets are certainly attention grabbers. The WiMAX-capable handset, with its 4G branding, is expected to launch on Sprint’s network sometime in the spring, but as of right now no exact dates are given. And with that integrated Google Voice support coming to the handset (and all other Sprint-branded handsets), it’s no surprise that many people are waiting for the smartphone to launch. After all, it’s the first “pure Google” experience to date. But, what exactly does that mean?
In the press release tacked together with the announcement of the Nexus S 4G, it seems that a “pure Google” experience is one that you get with Android 2.3, and one that’s only available on the Nexus S 4G. Some would point out that this could be tied-in with the fact that Google Voice is now being heavily integrated into the device, but is that really a strong enough “new” feature to warrant the new tag-line? After all, every Android-based device out there has access to Google Voice, so the feature isn’t really new to Android per se, but new (and exclusive) to Sprint customers.
So, is this “pure Google” experience one that will start accompanying new devices in the future? Will the “pure Google” experience warrant some new feature changes between devices that are available now, and the ones that are still coming down the pipe? Unless this is just a one-time thing, where Sprint is trying to push the Nexus S 4G onto a pedestal all its own with its branding and features, I could see this new branding tactic adding to the confusion of Android handsets.
We all know that Android is fragmented. That’s something that, for all intents and purposes, has been accepted and just forgotten about. For the most part, Google is doing a good job of making updates available for manufacturers, and (some of) those manufacturers are trying to update capable devices. Sure, there are some notable exceptions, but in the big picture the fragmentation issue is a non-issue these days. But, I think this “pure Google” experience could get in the way of that. Just like in the early days of Android handsets, having a device that had “with Google” on the back meant you got some “extra” features on the handset, while other devices that lacked that branding were missing those features right out of the box. Will that start happening again?
If it’s just the integrated Google Voice feature, then there’s nothing that can really be done about that. Sprint’s got an exclusive on that feature, so if this warrants the Nexus S 4G to have a “pure Google” experience, then so be it. But if the branding and feature changes start happening on more devices, on a global and non-exclusive scale, Android could be at the center of another fragmentation debate.
Do you think phone manufacturers and wireless carriers would be willing to throw Android under the fragmentation bus (again) if they think it can promote their devices over the competition? Or do you think this “pure Google” experience is just a one-time thing? Let me know in the comments below.