Saturday, August 25, 2012

HTC or ASUS should be the next Nexus phone manufacturer

With the end of the summer looming upon us and the start of fall just around the corner, rumors of the next Nexus device will start percolating through various tech media outlets. However, this isn't the reason for writing this editorial. What I do want to explore, is why I believe that either HTC or ASUS should be the manufacturer for Google's next Nexus phone.

Why should HTC be the next Nexus Phone OEM?

Android and HTC have a history

While Android is now a fixture in the mobile space, it wasn't too long ago that Android was still an experiment in the Google's labs. One manufacturer took a chance on the fledgling mobile operating system and that OEM was HTC.

In the cutthroat business world of today, there are no places for favorites or emotional attachment, but phones should be treated differently. It's the one tool that many people can't live without and the tool that many people interact with the most during their day.

Android would certainly not be where it is today if it was not for HTC's leap of faith. Perhaps they were just trying to diversify their handset offerings, or maybe they foresaw the incoming fall from graces of the Windows Mobile platform, or just maybe they correctly predicted the potential of Android.

HTC's handsets use some of the best innovations in Industrial Design

I really like the last two Nexus devices from Samsung but perhaps that was because of the stock Android experience. The Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, were both marvels of mobile software but in term of hardware are rather middle of the road. Samsung hasn't exactly brought their "A game" when it came to the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus as both were similarly equipped compared to the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II released before each of them respectively.

HTC, the only other Nexus smartphone OEM, however brought its best in terms of bleeding edge tech when it unveiled the Nexus One. One of the first, if the not the first, to sport a 1GHz processor. One of the first to sport, what was then, a luxurious 3.7-inch screen with a WVGA resolution. One of the first, if not the first, to use dual microphones for noise cancellation. All in a fantastic feeling, solidly build chassis.

If HTC got the chance to make another Nexus device, I am just about certain that the offering would be of the highest quality in the both hardware and software. The latest software with the highest quality hardware would bring the Nexus brand to the level where it should be.

HTC is in a bit of a rough spot right now

If you follow Android news, (being on this site I'm pretty sure you do) you'll know that HTC has had a rocky end to 2011 which has unfortunately carried over into 2012 where it seems like they cannot catch a break. Even with the critical acclaim of the recent One Series phones, the Taiwanese company is still struggling to regain lost ground in both market share and profits.

In hindsight, HTC really shot up as a premier smartphone OEM after releasing the Nexus One. While the phone itself wasn't a commercial hit, it was the baseline for arguably their most iconic smartphone, the Original HTC Desire. If HTC can somehow harness that same passion and creativity they put into the Nexus One and Desire, they could get back some of that lost luster.

We all know how well Samsung has been doing in handset sales, so handing the Nexus brand over to HTC for this year should help shore up a struggling OEM. While Samsung, Sony or LG are good candidates for the Nexus program, they aren't exclusively tied to mobile as their only source of income like HTC who is a bit more fragile when it comes to Android OEMs.

Why should ASUS be the next Nexus Phone OEM?

ASUS is the manufacturer of the most commercially successful Nexus device

The main reason why ASUS should be the next Nexus is that they know how to make incredible Android devices. While most of their experience has been making Android Tablets, ASUS has the pedigree in tech to really push innovation moving forward and let's not to forget that they have been shining examples of supporting their products with major firmware upgrades. 

They basically invented the Netbook segment of laptop computers, they made some of the most innovative Android Tablets in their Transformer series of tablets and really blurred the lines between phone, tablet and netbook with the PadFone.

While ASUS probably isn't a household name just yet, if they continue to produce quality devices like the Nexus 7 and continue to provide firmware upgrades like they have for their Transformer tablets I'm sure they will continue rise in market awareness in Canada and around the world. 

ASUS can offer the next Nexus phone at a killer price

A lot of ASUS' high end products like the Transformer Prime and Transformer Pad Infinity were obviously priced in the higher end of the price spectrum. But with the Nexus 7, Google and ASUS set out to make the most compelling Android Tablet at an incredibly affordable price.

ASUS' experience in the PC world and their ability to get the most out of their supply chains allowed them to put together what is arguably the best Android Tablet to date and did so on a shoe string budget. Now, I can't see why they can't do the same in the smartphone realm. Sure some parts will need to be added like a camera sensor and a 3G/4G radio but those expenses are offset by other savings like the lowered cost of a smaller screen.

Nothing would spur interest in the next Nexus like an aggressive pricing. We saw this kind of pricing for the Galaxy Nexus when it was slashed to $400 then eventually $350. What I would like to see is a Nexus device to be put out on the market with a $300 to $350 price out of the gates. 

If ASUS takes the same Kai based Tegra 3 processor found in the Nexus 7 and packages it into the next Nexus while give it a good screen, decent camera and good build quality, it can certainly be a hit like the Nexus 7 before it.

ASUS has no ties or commitments to carriers

Unlike any other Nexus phone OEM, ASUS hasn't really struck many distribution deals with carriers and really don't seem to have any intention of abiding to their rules. Now this of course could hurt potential sales of the next Nexus phone as carrier subsidy is the preferred method of buying a smartphone for most north Americans.

While the subsidies aren't exactly a bad thing for people who can't stomach the upfront cost of buying a phone off contract, there are certain aspects of the carrier/OEM relationship that hinders Android devices. For one bloatware is a concern but since this is a Nexus device it isn't really founded. But the most pressing concern is that of updates. 

Being a Nexus device means that it will be entitled to getting updates straight from Google. In Canada however, a Galaxy Nexus purchased through carriers has its updates controlled by Samsung (yakjuux). While I don't have evidence to prove this theory, I can't help but think that this has something to do with carriers making a deal with Samsung. For several people, yakjuux handset aren't even on Android 4.0.4 the latest version of ICS.

A low priced ASUS-made Nexus device would disrupt that chain of "command" and would give control of updates  completely back to Google and would would take away customer's dependency on carrier subsidies. At the $300 price point and sans-contract, people will be more inclined to take a chance on ordering a device they never held physically, like the Nexus 7.

We've heard rumors of multiple Nexus OEM but they aren't the ones I'm looking for

I've always enjoyed the Nexus line of phone but they all had some big flaws the prevented them from being successful. The Nexus One was the closest to my ideal vision of a Nexus phone but was too expensive to be a viable game changing alternative for the mass market drunk on hardware subsidies.

The Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus were more widely accepted as mass market devices but really were distributed at the cost of what makes the Nexus line so great, the timely updates (at least in Canada). Not to mention, the fact that their industrial design and internal hardware weren't cutting edge once they were unveiled.

I wouldn't hate the idea of multiple Nexus deviced made by Samsung, LG and Sony but I believe the Nexus 7 should be Google's blue print for what the next Nexus Phone should be; well built, fast, cutting edge and if possible ridiculously affordable. 


  1. I would have said Asus... but they have the worst build quality. I did not buy nexus 7 cos of the same reason.

    1. Some of thier designs are flawed but the build quality is excellent. May be you are confusing asus with acer