Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Apr 2014 16:11 UTC
Google

The Verge (I'd quote the original source but it's stuck behind a paywall):

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 already offer 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.

Music to my ears. This is exactly what Google needs to do in order to clean up the Android ecosystem and make a clear distinction between crap (TouchWiz, Sense, and so forth) and Android-proper. Hopefully, with Google pushing these devices in traditional venues (carriers), they'll see more widespread success than the Nexus program.

And please sell them worldwide. Please.

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mcking
Member since:
2010-06-03

Why would anyone pay $600 for an "Android Silver" phone instead of $350 for an unlocked Nexus phone?

This makes no sense to me at all, unless they continue the Nexus program as well.

Reply Score: 7

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Because its advertised.

I'm kind of shocked of recent events. Why didn't the Moto X or Moto G sell better? Why on earth does anyone buy a Samsung Galaxy phone ( excluding the 1% of people that really need sd cards or removable batteries) ?

I think I may have overlooked the power of advertising. In retail carrier owned stores, most people really can't tell if phone A is better than phone B. They've historically used price to indicate quality. Can't really say I can blame them, avoiding cheap androids made a lot of sense for years. And there are still terrible phones available.

If I were in charge of a carrier, I would either only carry good phones, or create my own rating system to let consumers know the relative goodness of each phone.

Reply Score: 6

meme Member since:
2006-04-03

The Moto G/X are not as available, as they should be.

Being in the "wrong" EU country, they are not for sale here. Amazon won't ship them there, for some reason, so I would have to use some mail forwarding service.

On the other hand, for the same price as Moto G, I can have SGS 4 mini or Xperia SP. Just go to store, buy it, no hassle.

It is no wonder that Moto didn't sell as well as it could.

One of the factors of Samsung's success is distribution network and availability (or "place" of 4P, in the classic marketing speak).

Reply Score: 7

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Yeah, that makes sense. Also, I think that in many ways Europe might have been a better place to launch the phone. From what I understand, its more typical to pay the full price up front for phones.

Reply Score: 3

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

The Moto G/X are not as available, as they should be.


And, when they are available, it's usually only the lower-end 16 GB version of the X. For example, you can't buy a 32 GB Moto X in Canada. That's limited to AT&T in the US. It's also only available through Rogers in Canada.

And the Moto G is a Telus (or maybe Bell?) exclusive.

If the 32 GB version of the Moto X was available in Canada, and on all of the major carriers, it would have sold a lot better.

Same if the Moto G was available on all the carriers.

Reply Score: 6

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

I'm kind of shocked of recent events. Why didn't the Moto X or Moto G sell better?


I have a Moto X, and it's really not all that impressive. They had some neat ideas, but executed them poorly:

- When the phone is docked on my desk, any SLIGHT movement of the desk causes the clock to show up on the active display. I always catch it out of the corner of my eye, and it makes me take a second look to see if I missed a notification that came in earlier. It is extremely annoying, and there's no way to turn off the clock without shutting off active notifications entirely.

- The 'do not disturb' mode can't be set up to white list anyone but favorite contacts. It also can't be programmed to work only on week days or weekends.

- The 'hands free' feature is only about half as useful as it could be, since you can't toggle most functions on the phone on and off just using your voice.

- I can't get Google Maps to read me turn-by-turn instructions over bluetooth. Probably has something to do with the driving mode feature, which doesn't work right half the time anyway.

Maybe they'll do better with the Moto X2 ....

Reply Score: 3

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Ok, I understand if it was the same price as the Samsung Galaxy S 4, or HTC One google play editions, then the whiz bang features wouldn't be enough to put it on top. But, Its so much cheaper, who cares if they don't work perferctly, as long as they don't interfere with the basic functionality?

Fair disclosure: I didn't buy one because a co-worker wanted to unload his Nexus 5. But otherwise, it was really a toss up between the two.

Reply Score: 2

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

But, Its so much cheaper, who cares if they don't work perferctly, as long as they don't interfere with the basic functionality?


But if they only work half-assed, then what's the point in having them at all? Same thing with the S5's finger scanner and heart rate monitor; I hear those things are a little 'iffy'.

Reply Score: 3

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Oh, there isn't any purpose in having useless features, but almost everyone has them. If they don't get in the way of useful features, then they aren't too bad.

Reply Score: 4

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Oh, there isn't any purpose in having useless features, but almost everyone has them. If they don't get in the way of useful features, then they aren't too bad.


There's a difference between useless features and useful features that aren't nearly as useful as they could be because they either don't work properly or are missing a few options that make them more annoying to use than not.

Reply Score: 3

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

It depends on the feature, obviously.

Some people I know are "annoyed" by things like plastic dashboards, and won't buy a car that has one. They'll spend thousands more for a dashboard that doesn't look as plastic-y.

Reply Score: 2

meme Member since:
2006-04-03

What BT profiles does your car support?

I have a Nexus 5, but it should be the same: the voice calls go through HFP (mono, both direction, call controls, can preempt any other audio source), but the media playback goes through A2DP (stereo, one direction, playback controls, you must switch to bluetooth input). If your car does not support A2DP, or you didn't switch to BT input, you will not hear the directions. Or music, for that matter.

Reply Score: 3

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

What BT profiles does your car support?


I don't know, but it works perfectly with my Nexus 4.

Reply Score: 3

tkeith Member since:
2010-09-01

Moto X user here, couldn't disagree with you more.

[q]

- When the phone is docked on my desk, any SLIGHT movement of the desk causes the clock to show up on the active display. I always catch it out of the corner of my eye, and it makes me take a second look to see if I missed a notification that came in earlier. It is extremely annoying, and there's no way to turn off the clock without shutting off active notifications entirely.


Maybe you don't like it, but this is my favorite feature of the phone. I can bump it on my desk or pull it out of my pocket and check for notifications or the time. If you don't like it, turn it off.


- The 'do not disturb' mode can't be set up to white list anyone but favorite contacts. It also can't be programmed to work only on week days or weekends.

Sounds like your asking for a lot of options, from what is a very basic feature. It's not unreasonable, but I think for most people it works fine.


- The 'hands free' feature is only about half as useful as it could be, since you can't toggle most functions on the phone on and off just using your voice.


Again, not unreasonable, but without changing the core OS(another main "feature" of the motoX) this is not possible.

- I can't get Google Maps to read me turn-by-turn instructions over bluetooth. Probably has something to do with the driving mode feature, which doesn't work right half the time anyway.


Driving mode works great for me. There is a setting for bluetooth that they added for some tricky bluetooth head sets.

Edited 2014-04-29 20:34 UTC

Reply Score: 5

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Maybe you don't like it, but this is my favorite feature of the phone. I can bump it on my desk or pull it out of my pocket and check for notifications or the time. If you don't like it, turn it off.


Oh, I like the active display feature for showing notifications, I just don't like the CLOCK, and how it comes on every time a mouse farts in my house. You can't turn off the clock without turning off active display entirely (AFAIK).

Sounds like your asking for a lot of options, from what is a very basic feature.


You mean features that every other phone with a 'do not disturb mode' has?

Reply Score: 3

daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

My phone doesn't have a "Do not disturb" mode at all, and I can't say I'd ever list that as any sort of problem or limitation. When I don't want to be disturbed, I turn off my phone. If there's something urgent, I'll return the call when my phone's back on. If it's *really* urgent, the important people in my life have my landline number so they can use that to get me.

Reply Score: 3

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

If your phone is off, the alarms won't ring. That's one of my pet peeves with smartphones. But, the "Quiet Hours" setting makes up for this. You leave the phone powered on, but it won't make any sounds, or vibrate, or flash the LED during the "Quiet Hours". But, the alarms will still ring.

Newer versions of Android, and some custom versions, inlude a whitelist where calls or texts from specific numbers will make the phone ring/vibrate as per normal, even during the "Quiet Hours".

I believe that's what the OP means when talking about "Do not disturb" mode. It's actually a very handy feature.

Reply Score: 3

daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

I guess you don't own a Nokia then? My N9 turns itself on in a special minimal mode when the alarm rings. You can then snooze it, cancel it, or fully boot the phone. And that's always been the way with Nokia - i guess people just forgot how good some of these simple features are when they switched to iOS or Android...

Edit: I must add, I don't know if this still holds true for Windows phones by Nokia, only that it's true for Meego on the N9, and for Symbian phones...

Edited 2014-04-30 20:47 UTC

Reply Score: 2

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

If it's *really* urgent, the important people in my life have my landline number so they can use that to get me.

That explains why you don't care about a do not disturb mode on your phone ;) If you don't have a landline but still want to allow certain people to reach you while you sleep, a DND mode is indispensable, and should've been included in Android since v1.0, but is STILL not in the stock ROM.

Reply Score: 3

MadRat Member since:
2006-02-17

I personally have found SD cards a must have, and phones lacking the option are a deal breaker. My kids have 16gb iPhone 4S and they are maxxed out with videos. Apple shot themselves in the foot by not offering expansion. Missed sales IMHO.

And removable batteries are handy. The fact its so hard to remove them is more an issue than anything.

I could get by without the 5" screen if the asshats at Verizon didn't make tethering a fucking unaffordable mess of addons. I'd much rather have a microsized phone that allowed me to tether a 6" to 10" display for browsing that also allowed me to dock the phone for a recharge. I spend zooming in on every webpage with the phone as it is. I shouldn't need every device to have its own 4G set.

Reply Score: 5

henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

SD cards are not suited to the use case most people seem to want - expand general storage. Google doesn't support them either - and any Android phone that does support them is using a non-stock Android. If they were restricted to media, or could be locked in place till the device was powered down, it would probably work - but because they are frequently in a FAT based format. and users want to eject them and access them on other devices, they really aren't suited to expanding the general file system.

Reply Score: 3

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Patents.

Reply Score: 1

henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Yes, and no.

Yes patents on FAT prevent things somewhat, but even is the file system was non-FAT, you have exactly the same issues - they really aren't suited to expanding a general file system. If I move all my apps to an SD card, run a bunch then remove the SD card, the OS will have no way to recover. Period. Users don't appreciate this.

User's also don't appreciate corruption because they removed their card during a write operation. Something that's pretty much impossible to prevent. Half the reason a lot of phones used to put the SD card under the battery was that you had to turn off the phone to access the card.. problem "solved".

Going back to FAT, mounting a FAT partition as part of another file system it technically possible, but it's really not a simple thing to achieve with 100% success. Requiring another file system is not a good option as users really bitch if you ask them to use something they don't fully understand and that they can't just pop in to their camera/windows laptop and use, etc - you only need to look at the fuss the media made when Microsoft provisioned SD cards in the early version of Windows Phone to act a part of the phone's internal file system, to know that this is true.

Patents are the catalyst, but like USB Mass Storage, it's not something Google or Apple will ever support, because removable storage is so problematic.

Reply Score: 4

phoenix Member since:
2005-07-11

Patents.


Only applies to SDXC (larger than 64 GB) support.

FAT32 long-filenames implementation is patented, but the Linux driver works around that. So you can support SDHC without paying anything extra to Microsoft. You just pay whatever the normal fees are for SDHC certification.

But, to support SDXC, you have to support exFAT (it's part of the SDXC standard), and exFAT is patented out the wazoo by MS, so you have to pay them fees on top of the normal fees for SDXC certification.

Which is why you won't find any Android devices that officially support SDXC; they all just advertise SDHC support. Several devices do (unofficially) support 128 GB SD cards, though. And several custom ROMs illegally include exFAT support, so it's possible to use them in some phones. But you won't see any official support from Samsung and company for awhile yet.

Reply Score: 4

daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

I personally have found SD cards a must have, and phones lacking the option are a deal breaker. My kids have 16gb iPhone 4S and they are maxxed out with videos. Apple shot themselves in the foot by not offering expansion. Missed sales IMHO.

They didn't miss a sale in your case - your kids have them! Apple aren't in the business of selling memory cards so they wouldn't profit from your case there.

I do find a removable SD card handy, but with most phones available in 64GB versions and supporting USB mass storage, it's really not an issue as chances are you'll just be using a USB adaptor to read the card on your PC - probably no benefit there. You just have to buy a phone with enough memory for your needs.

And removable batteries are handy. The fact its so hard to remove them is more an issue than anything.

In the iPhone 4 and 4S, replacing the pattery is a piece of cake. Granted, it voids your warranty if they find out, but once you have the special screwdriver for taking the back off, it's on a par with almost any phone with a replaceable battery.

I could get by without the 5" screen if the asshats at Verizon didn't make tethering a fucking unaffordable mess of addons. I'd much rather have a microsized phone that allowed me to tether a 6" to 10" display for browsing that also allowed me to dock the phone for a recharge.

Agreed. I find the idea that phone companies charge more for tethering pretty shocking. Some do it in Ireland, but only on certain popular phones which helps when you have a more unusual phone. I've used my Nokia 6233 for 3G tethering via Bluetooth for I don't know, 8 years now? Still works and still don't get charged for it any more than my normal data charge. Same for my E52 when I had it and my N9, both via Wifi. Yet my sister, with the same company, has to pay an extra fee to tether, simply because she has an iPhone. Madness! Data is data IMHO.

Reply Score: 3

MadRat Member since:
2006-02-17

I agree that data is data. My old phone had no special service for 3G tethering, so it cost nothing. Unfortunately Verizon must have learnt their lesson. My Galaxy Nexus has to be unlocked to use, paying a subscription. I'm leaning towards cm11 to get kitkat, so that might solve it.

As far as iTunes, we no longer buy movies from it. Their terms suck compared to the competition and can be used on most apple products without iTunes. I'm not even a fan of iTunes songs being a flat fee. I can buy used music CDs and rip them much cheaper for little hassle.

The removable media is very handy. I can store quite a bit on a 64gb micro and any space the phone already has is bonus. It's a cinch to share my cards across devices that support it.

Reply Score: 3

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Why should I pay an extra $100-200 for increased internal storage? A 64GB SD card costs less than $50.

In Australia the Moto G come with a trivial 8GB of internal storage and no expansion option. This makes the phone almost completely useless due to the massive cost and poor reliability of network data in Australia.

Reply Score: 2

andrewclunn Member since:
2012-11-05

It's the difference between company owned stores and franchising. Basically they can provide Android updates for 3rd party phones and help them with marketing, in exchange for more control over what is considered standard Android. If they tried to do this while still promoting a first party device, then carriers wouldn't take it because the Nexus would still dominate the market for people who wanted this. Also, the Android updates will give these phones lasting power over 3rd party carriers that don't have "Silver" phones. This means that even those who might at first be resistant will eventually adopt the practice (see Samsung). This is a really good strategic move by Google.

Reply Score: 2

01Michael10 Member since:
2013-05-07

Good point and... Thom, I think you missed one huge issue with the Android Silver phones vs Nexus phones. I can almost guarantee they will NOT be carrier unlocked and will have no easy/documented way to unlock the bootloader. This will be the further locking down of all Android phones. :-(

Reply Score: 5

Comment by ddc_
by ddc_ on Tue 29th Apr 2014 17:50 UTC
ddc_
Member since:
2006-12-05

In the ideal world every vendor phone would come with pure ASOP ROM and QR-code that would allow to download vendor's customization packages. And – if we speed of really ideal world – a one click tool for completely unlocking the phone with ability to flash whatever one wants at the cost of lost warrenty. Probably another button for hard reset would be required.

This change is a step forward (if Google really plans to subsidize "unbranded" models), but it is still much less then needed.

Reply Score: 6

Play a Apple, Atari, Commodore .... one
by moondevil on Tue 29th Apr 2014 18:54 UTC
moondevil
Member since:
2005-07-08

The problem with branding is that the PC created an industry where OS vendor != hardware vendor.

As such, all PC hardware vendors customize their offerings to make them "better" in the eyes of the customer, or so do they think. That behaviour followed into the mobile world as well.

Symbian and feature phone proprietary OSs also suffered the same issues, mostly with operators firmware customizations.

The only way to recover the clean state of affairs is to reduce hardware vendors to suppliers of OS vendors, which they most likely won't play ball with.

Lets see how it goes.

Reply Score: 5

Who'll do the drivers for the Silvers?
by torp on Tue 29th Apr 2014 19:58 UTC
torp
Member since:
2010-08-10

As an Android dev doing non trivial stuff, this is a bit scary. Lately I could rely on the Nexus series to actually have all the APIs described by Google available, and mostly working. I'm sure having the software on the Nexus devices done by Google had something to do with it.
If the Silver devices will be done by the vendor, I will be out of a reference platform for the more funny APIs.
I'm talking here about non glamorous stuff like bluetooth-serial communication that randomly works or has problems on various devices because the BT stack is different from Android phone to Android phone.
Hmm, kind of like on Windows.

Reply Score: 1

moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

Hmm, kind of like on Windows.


Like Symbian, J2ME feature phones, POSIX systems, ...

Reply Score: 5

I like Sense
by thesunnyk on Wed 30th Apr 2014 06:47 UTC
thesunnyk
Member since:
2010-05-21

I can see TouchWiz being a behemoth and really quite unsanitary, but I actually quite like Sense UI, to the extent that it's the Google stuff that feels like crapware.

The problem with the Google behemoth is that its tentacles are everywhere. When you get an Android phone, you're pretty much forced to go in and embrace the beast. Woe betide you if you lose your phone, because now your entire account is well and truly compromised, along with whatever wads of cash are now tied to it.

With Sense UI, you almost feel free from it, like you could escape (you can't, but it feels like it). You can use apps from a whole bunch of companies on BlinkFeed, which makes it feel like an ecosystem. Their messaging, phone, mail, photo, all the apps are great. They're not perfect but the imperfections are endearing. Whenever a Google app comes up on Sense I get this feeling of dread: the all seeing eye of Sauron is back.

I actually want things to go completely the opposite way to this Google Silver thing. Remove all the Google apps, including Google Play and Google Maps. Go straight to AOSP with Sense on it. HTC should put their own "free" appstore up which you don't need an account to access, and stick some high profile apps like Twitter and facebook on it, as well as a nice OpenStreetMaps and some FOSS.

[EDIT] If anyone's interested, I talk more about Sense and my phone (the One Mini) here: http://blog.quaddmg.com/2013/9/22/review-htc-one-mini/

Edited 2014-04-30 06:47 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: I like Sense
by unclefester on Wed 30th Apr 2014 08:48 UTC in reply to "I like Sense"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

HTC have just released the Desire 310 - QUAD CORE, 4.5". It uses vanilla Android 4.2 with Blinkfeed. Only AUD149 (USD135) prepaid on Vodafone Australia. It certainly gives "entry level" a whole new meaning.

Edited 2014-04-30 08:53 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: I like Sense
by thesunnyk on Thu 1st May 2014 02:15 UTC in reply to "RE: I like Sense"
thesunnyk Member since:
2010-05-21

Unfortunately, I cannot upvote you, but thanks that's really cool. Surprising as well, because I thought that in order to use GApps you couldn't use AOSP at all in your entire company.

Reply Score: 1

RE: I like Sense
by rklrkl on Wed 30th Apr 2014 10:09 UTC in reply to "I like Sense"
rklrkl Member since:
2005-07-06

It sounds like you're an ideal candidate for CyanogenMod 11 *without* the Google apps separate install. Yes, CM have their own user account system, but you can skip that during the first-time install.

If you too lazy/scared to install CM, then the new OnePlus One phone comes with it pre-installed, though I believe it *does* come with Google apps (no idea if they are uninstallable or not).

Reply Score: 3

too late
by unclefester on Wed 30th Apr 2014 10:58 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

The problem for Google (and every other manufacturer) is phones are now commodities. The latest "entry level" quad core models can effortlessly handle most tasks despite costing less than $200. Within 12 months even $100 models will be sporting powerful quad core CPUs, 1GB RAM and KitKat. They will easily be able to handle the needs of >95% of consumers making flagship models largely redundant (unless you're a poseur).

The other problems is that there is almost no room for the hardware to improve in flagship models. Screen resolution is already higher than our eyes can detect. CPUs and RAM probably can't increase much without severely affecting battery life and causing heat problems.

The only real improvement will be in software. However Android is now quite mature with most of the bugs sorted. Successive builds since Jelly Bean have mostly been about polishing the experience rather than adding major features. Soon Android will be good enough hat users will only update when their phones die (just like most PC users).

In five years time mobile phones will probably be sold alongside light bulbs in the supermarket or available from vending machines for $20.

Post script:

March 2012: $129 Samsung Galaxy Mini:

600mHz, 160MB RAM, 384MB storage, 320x240 3.1 inch screen. Antutu score around 2000.


April 2014 $149 HTC Desire 310:

4x1.2GhZ, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage. 800x480. 4.5" screen. Antutu score ~19,000

Essentially 9x the performance for roughly the same price.

Edited 2014-04-30 11:01 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE: too late
by moondevil on Thu 1st May 2014 11:22 UTC in reply to "too late"
moondevil Member since:
2005-07-08

They could still improve the developer experience, instead of using a forked Java implementation and a dumbed down NDK.

But that is something that won't help sell more devices anyway.

Reply Score: 3

chenxiaolong
Member since:
2011-12-05

I wonder what will happen to AOSP with this move. Does this mean that there will no longer be any devices (other than current Nexii) that are supported by AOSP upstream? Without reference device code, is it going to be harder to port to other devices?

Reply Score: 2